Highs and lows of a decade in AV

The home entertainment winners and losers of the noughties


There has not been a more important decade for home entertainment technology than the noughties. Fact!

John Logie Baird may have unveiled the first basic design of a TV in the 1920s, but did he think of adding a HDMI socket? Visionary? Pah!

And the emergence of VHS in the 1970s may have introduced the dazzling new concept of cinema in the home, but did it allow you to play stuttering, partly broken Java games while communicating in three-letter street slang to a 65-year-old widower via on-screen chat? No it did not.

Okay, so some of the leaps forward in AV tech since the turn of the millennium have been more Eddie Kidd-esque than Evel Knievel, but the rate at which the industry has evolved in the last decade is extraordinary.

It certainly started well. DVD may have been launched in 1997, but its adoption as a household mainstay only came about in 2000, with the consumer release of the PlayStation 2.


Sony's games console was an unlikely AV hero, and certainly not the best movie spinner – exhibiting video motion issues and image fuzziness ­– but its uptake was so widespread that millions of homes suddenly had the technology to watch the new-fangled discs, whether they wanted to or not.

HD DVD vs Blu-ray

Seven years later, its successor repeated the trick. In similar fashion, the PS3 gave Blu-ray a boost after its UK launch in 2007.

Certainly, without it, the winner of the HD format war would have been less conclusive. Indeed, in 2006, it was HD DVD that looked to be the most convincing winner in the format skirmish.

HD dvd

Multi-region, internet-ready and able to run Java-like menus from the get-go, Toshiba's players were far more advanced than their rivals.

Initial Blu-ray decks lacked many of the basic features and functionality originally promised, and the Blu-ray Disc Association couldn't make its mind up on the final specifications for a good two years.

However, it turned out to be the content providers that decided the final outcome of the battle, not the kit manufacturers, and Warner Home Video's fateful decision to put its exclusive weight behind Blu-ray was a fatal one for HD DVD. The decision came in February 2008 – Toshiba withdrew from the battle in February. Game over!

LCD vs plasma

Throughout the decade, television tech has been raging its own format war, one that LCD is seemingly winning by a country mile. However, it was plasma that started the strongest – being the only technology stable enough for home cinema-centric screen sizes at the time.

In 2002, though, Samsung wowed the market with its LW40A13W 40in LCD TV and, despite the £7,000 price point, it proved to be a big success.

To start with, it didn't suffer from the dreaded screen burn issues associated with plasma, and its brightness levels were vastly superior. It proved to be the start of complete dominance in the TV sector for the tech and the brand.

Plasma made a brief comeback in 2007, mostly thanks to Pioneer's ill-fated Kuro HD Ready and Full HD panels. They offered such amazing black levels and sumptuous video performance the screens, despite being costly, became favourites for the true AV enthusiast – the Bugatti's of the industry. All seemed great.


KURO's SWANSONG: The KRP-500A was the last Kuro to be produced

The company, it transpired, couldn't compete on a global scale with cheaper LCD TVs coming from South Korea, or rival less-expensive plasma TVs from Panasonic in Japan, so withdrew from the TV market entirely.

AV-holics can still be heard mourning across forums worldwide, although had they bought Kuros at the time, things may have been different.

Enter OLED

Towards the back end of the decade, a third TV technology emerged, OLED.

Much was expected of the new technology, which promised thinner footprints for televisions and greater resolution, but the global recession deterred manufacturers from investing the billions of dollars required to make it a consumer proposition.


DEVELOPING: LG's 15-inch OLED TV shows that companies are still pressing ahead with the tech

Instead, a majority of them wisely poured the funds into LED backlighting, creating LCD TVs that rival OLED prototypes in depth and quality. The end of the decade has seen these new sets take the market by storm.

However, the most telling home entertainment legacy of the decade would have to be the explosive emergence of high definition.

In a few short years, the entire landscape of broadcasting, solid state and downloadable media, and television and projection technology has changed.

Ten years ago we were getting used to watching movies on a shiny new disc format, wowing at not having to rewind it before returning it to Blockbuster.

Now we complain if it's not encoded in 1080p at 24 frames per second. We've changed. For the better.

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