When Google TV first launched a little more than a year ago, it had few hardware partners and failed to resonate with a wide consumer market. But the technology was back at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, with major tech companies promoting the software and saying its time had come.
"You've got to reorient customers to look at TVs as an actual smart device, as a device just like a tablet or a PC or a phone," said Matthew McRae, chief technology officer at Vizio, during an interview with The Times. "It takes a little bit of time, but I think that bridge has been crossed."
At CES in Las Vegas this week, Vizio was showcasing its 65-inch, 55-inch and 47-inch V.I.A. Plus HDTVs with Theater 3D; the VBR430 Blu-ray player; and the VAP430 stream player — all of which incorporate Google TV's 2.0 platform. V.I.A. stands for Vizio Internet Apps.
The V.I.A. Plus experience features an app-centric interface on every device, "making it easy for consumers to understand and navigate as they move between devices," the company said in a news release. Users can also access thousands of apps from the Android Market.
McRae said the company was encouraged by the advances in the second generation of Google TV, saying the earlier version of the software "missed on the simplicity front."
"When people sit down at a TV, it's got to be intuitive, it's got to be a few button clicks to whatever you're looking for," McRae said. "If you make it any more complex than that, they'll just give up…. So the user interface I think is actually more challenging to get right on a TV than it is on a tablet or PC."
The prospects for Google TV — which combines traditional television, the Internet, apps and search capabilities — are growing rapidly among developers, who are rolling out thousands of apps built specifically for televisions.
Vizio was especially excited to show off its new VAP430 stream player with Google TV, a media player that turns any HDTV into an enhanced V.I.A. Plus smart TV. Vizio's stream player, a small black box about the size of a wallet, features built-in HDMI ports that let users connect existing components like gaming consoles or set-top boxes for unified access to all media sources through the V.I.A. Plus touchpad remote. It also supports 3-D content and 3-D streaming.
Vizio officials said the stream player was expected to be released in the first half of the year, but declined to say how much the device would cost. Sales of stream players are poised to pass Blu-ray players in unit volume sales by 2013, Vizio said, making the devices the "perfect solution" for media multitaskers.
LG is also showing off sets with Google TV software that will launch in the U.S. in the first half of 2012 and later for the rest of the world. Among LG's Google TV offerings will be a 55-inch model, and each Google TV set from LG will include a "magic remote" with a built-in keyboard.
Google TV will run on LG's TVs alongside its Smart TV platform unveiled last year. Since last year's CES, LG said it had added more than 1,200 apps to its Smart TV offerings.
Sony too heavily hyped its Google TV products at CES and said it was expanding its line of devices that included the software.
The tech giant said it was rolling out two new set-top boxes powered by Google TV — one connected Blu-ray disc player and one Network Media Player. Enhanced features include access to the Android Market as well as a redesigned remote control for improved functionality, new linkage with the Sony Entertainment Network platform and a new mobile device interface that allows consumers to use smartphones and tablets as a content source.
"As a result more consumers will be able to enjoy multiple content sources from broadcast to streaming video and various apps through one easy-to-use seamless interface by connecting to any HDTV," Sony executive Kaz Hirai said during the company's CES news conference.
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
Upper photo: A Vizio HDTV shows off Google TV software, with live television and a panel of apps sharing space on the screen. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
Lower photo: Vizio's VAP430 stream player with Google TV, a media player that turns any HDTV into an enhanced smart TV. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we saw a bit of a scramble by TV makers such as Samsung and LG to show off what they working on or releasing in the coming year that would allow us to control our TVs using voice, gesture and facial recognition.
Many technology pundits and analysts have said these sorts of announcements, which also took place at last year's CES, are in response to rumors that Apple is working on an "iTV" that will offer a new way of controlling a TV and maybe even how we pay for or watch channels and TV shows.
But as many video-game lovers out there know, TV voice recognition, gesture controls and facial recognition are already here in the form of Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing camera, which is an accessory to the Xbox 360 home gaming console.
However, Kinect is just getting started, and currently has a small number of apps. And it's still a device that sells for about $150 and requires an Xbox 360, which starts at $200. Make no mistake, there will be a cost of entry to the future of TV.
At CES 2012, Microsoft showed off a bit of what the future may hold for Kinect, the Xbox and TV with demonstrations of its latest Kinect-enabled app for the Xbox, called Sesame Street Kinect (you can see our demonstration of the app in a video atop this article).
Sesame Street Kinect is what it sounds like, episodes of the long-running children's program tailored to use the Kinect camera. And what Kinect can do is really impressive.
Since 1969, children around the world have sat in front of TVs repeating back the alphabet, colors, words and numbers to characters on Sesame Street (I did it when I was a child). Until Sesame Street Kinect, which is set to release later this year at an unannounced price, the characters on the screen couldn't respond to the viewer's actions. Now, to a limited extent, they can.
The demonstration we saw featured the Grover, Elmo and Cookie Monster characters prompting viewers to interact by either saying certain words or moving in certain ways.
For example, we took part in a demonstration in which Grover drops a box of coconuts and asks that the viewer pick them up and throw them back to him.
I f the viewer stands up and moves in the way that they would throw an imaginary coconut (don't throw a real coconut unless your trying to break your TV) then Grover catches each one in his box, even reacting to how hard the Kinect interprets the viewer's throw to be.
The experience was a lot of fun for a room of four adults, and I imagine kids will enjoy this sort of thing too. Jose Pinero, am Xbox spokesman, said a similarly interactive app from National Geographic is coming this year as well.
Although Microsoft has sold more than 66 million Xbox consoles and more than 18 million Kinect cameras, the tech giant realizes it has something bigger than just video games on its hands with Kinect.
Both Kinect and Xbox Live are headed to Windows 8 later this year. Hopefully, that will mean more interactive "two-way TV" apps like Sesame Street Kinect, and more apps related to media outlets such as ESPN and National Geographic.
There are also rumors that the company is working to get Kinect built directly into TVs, which would very likely place Xbox Live and Kinect in direct competition with Google TV and Apple's expected entry into the TV market. That's a living-room showdown I'd like to see.
Photos: Sesame Street Kinect in action. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it's something of a rebuilding year. There have been no jaw-droppingly new consumer technologies unveiled, or obvious must-have new devices like in years past.
But that's not stopping near-record crowds from descending on Sin City, slurping up all its beer and bandwidth, and filling convention halls up and down The Strip.
The show's organizer, the Consumer Electronic Assn., has said that close to 150,000 attendants filled the city's hotel rooms this year, coming to check out exhibits from a record 3,100 companies.
The booths at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday, the show's official opening day, ranged from tiny stalls hung with bejeweled iPhone cases to city-block size mega-booths from global electronics makers, many paying millions to erect giant walls of high-definition screens that showcase their latest TV technology.
After attendants handed out 3D glasses at the booth of South Korea's LG Corp., a movie started on a massive IMAX-size screen showing a meteor shower shooting toward the audience. More than a few "whoas" where audible from the crowd below.
At the Samsung booth, representatives gave demonstrations of the company's new Smart TVs, showing onlookers how to change channels or search the Web with simple voice commands, or to "click" on-screen buttons and links with a hand gesture. A model of the company's latest ultra-high-def TV hung on another wall, with pictures of waterfalls and forests that were so clear that one visitor said, "Wow, is that in 3D?"
And more laughs were had Monday night at Microsoft Corp.'s final keynote (the software giant has said it will no longer give the show's main speech, or maintain a booth at CES.) The company did its best to mark the semi-somber occasion by hiring American Idol host Ryan Seacrest to be the master of ceremonies.
Seacrest and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer enjoyed some amusing back-and-forth banter, such as when Ballmer explained the new, tile-based look of Windows 8, which is called Metro and is an improvement on the company's earlier phone operating system.
"The Metro user interface — you’ve seen it being pioneered in recent years, but now it’s all coming together."
"Why did you look at me funny when you said Metro?" Seacrest asked, feigning hurt feelings.
Ballmer laughed, and Seacrest said, "I guess I'm going to be your mascot now."
More stunts lay in store for the show, too — on Thursday, ESPN will stage a live boxing match at the convention center that will be broadcast in 3D on the network.
– David Sarno
Image: Ryan Seacrest and Steve Ballmer at the Microsoft keynote at CES. Credit: David Sarno / Los Angeles Times
As always, the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has been filled with new TVs and home entertainment product announcements.
In fact, there have been so many announcements that it might be tough to keep up with them all if you're actually looking to CES to help you decide what your next TV set will be.
No worry, we're here to help sift through the noise. We'll have more on TVs and Google TV products coming, but here are some of the highlights from LG, Vizio and Sony thus far.
As we reported ahead of CES, LG had big-screen plans for this year's Vegas show with a new 55-inch OLED TV that is just 4 millimeters thick and an 84-inch LED-backlit LCD TV with 4K-display resolution.
For those who don't know, 4K resolution is what many in the TV industry believe will be the next bump up in high-definition standards for TVs and Web video. Current top-of-the-line HD TV sets available to consumers now are either 1080p or 720p — each number indicating the number of vertical pixel lines of resolution the HD sets can handle. The term 4K resolution identifies displays with about 4,000 horizontal lines of resolution. There isn't a ton of 4K video content out yet (most HD TV channels are 720p), but many filmmakers are moving toward shooting in 4K with newer digital cameras.
As promised, LG unveiled both the 55-inch and 84-inch sets at CES this year, each set falling into what LG is calling its Cinema 3D series of TVs, which will range in size between 55 and 84 inches and feature a super-thin bezel when they hit the market later this year. I saw both sets in person here at CES and they looked big, bright and clear.
Of course, how a TV looks on the showroom floor and how it looks in the living room can vary. But LG, as well as many other TV makers, seems to be producing thinner and lighter TVs with increasingly more detailed and accurate pictures displayed on screen.
Another announcement from LG this year was wider implementation of its Magic Remote, which was shown off at CES in 2011 too. As my colleague David Sarno noted in his reporting on CES, the Magic Remote acts much like the Wii remote used by Nintendo's Wii video game console.
With the motion-sensing Magic Remote in hand, a user can navigate on-screen TV menus, settings and even channel changes with a combination of gestures and button presses.
LG is also showing off Google TV sets that will launch in the U.S. in the first half of 2012 and later for the rest of the world. Among LG's Google TV offerings will be a 55-inch model, and each Google TV set from LG will come with a Magic Remote with a built-in keyboard.
Google TV will run on LG's TVs alongside its Smart TV platform unveiled last year. Since 2011's CES, LG said it has added more than 1,200 apps to its Smart TV offerings.
Just as it was last year, 3-D is a major theme at CES this year, and LG also said that about 50% of its 2012 TV line would be made up of 3-D TVs. But like Vizio, and unlike many other TV rivals, LG's 3-D TVs won't use active-shutter 3-D glasses. Instead, LG's and Vizio's 3-D TVs will work with passive 3-D glasses that are more like the glasses often found in movie theaters.
Irvine-based Vizio also showed off a newer, wider vision for home TVs. Dubbed Cinema Wide, Vizio is releasing a line of new TVs with a 21:9 aspect ratio. Nearly all TVs currently being sold have a 16:9 aspect ratio.
However, if you're watching TV on a Cinema Wide set, you're almost guaranteed to see black bars running to the left and right of the screen, since most TV shows and sporting events nowadays are broadcast in a 16:9 aspect ratio.
Vizio says it will release its Cinema Wide sets (which will also be 3-D TVs) in both 50-inch and 58-inch sizes in the first six months of the year, with a 71-inch size to follow later.
The bargain-priced TV maker is also releasing a lineup of Google TV products including TVs running the Google TV software, Google TV Blu-Ray player and a set-top box called the Stream Player that will enable Google TV to run on any HD TV.
In 2012, Sony's Bravia line of TVs will be divided into three series — BX for entry-level models, EX at the mid range and HX at the top.
The high-end HX line will be made up of LED-backlit LCDs with 3-D and built-in Wi-Fi for Skype and Sony apps. The even higher-end HX850 series will also feature screens made of Coring's Gorilla Glass, which is easy to clean and scratch resistant, as well as thin and light. The HX series will be available in 46-inch and 55-inch sizes, each with a 1080p resolution.
The EX line won't have Gorilla Glass or 3-D, but these TVs will have built-in Wi-Fi and Sony apps and will be available in 40-inch, 46-inch and 55-inch sizes, each with a 1080p resolution.
The entry-level BX line from Sony will be made up of some pretty basic TVs. The BX450 series,will offer 1080p resolution in 46-inch and 40-inch sizes while the BX330 series will consist of one 31.5-inch set with a resolution of 720p, the lowest resolution that can still be classified as high definition.
Top photo: LG's press conference at CES 2012 in Las Vegas on Jan. 9. Credit: LG
Second image from top: LG's Google TV Smart TV set. Credit: LG
Third image from top: Vizio's Cinema Wide TV. Credit: Vizio
Bottom image: Sony's HX850 TV at an angle. Credit: Sony
At the Consumer Electronics Show, models carried around wireless flat-screen TVs playing vivid nature films, executives waved next generation “magic” remote controls and audiences were treated to demonstrations of massive, wall-size TVs.
Also, Apple’s stock hit a record high.
Though the Cupertino, Calif., iPhone giant doesn’t attend the show, rumors are spreading that it has its own TV in the works, and analysts say established TV companies like Samsung Electronics, LG and Sony are struggling to make their TVs more user-friendly and better able to find music, movies and online video from across the Internet.
“The TV hasn’t gone quite through the big revolutionary change that we’ve seen on those other screens,” said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee. “These other players are trying to jockey for position ahead of Apple.”
But with industry observers expecting an “iTV” from Apple that will turn the industry on its head, not all observers were impressed with the latest TV improvements.
“They’re just throwing spaghetti up against the wall right now,” said Peter Misek, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. “I think Apple’s going to force a big change in the industry — and it’s hard for the companies to respond when they don’t know what iTV looks like yet.”
At the CES on Monday, LG showed off its “Magic Remote,” a device with few buttons that resembles a Nintendo Wii controller –- enabling the viewer to point at and select different images and buttons on the screen.
Sharp’s Aquos Freestyle flat-screens get their signal wirelessly, and as the models demonstrated by parading them down the showroom runway, they are light enough to be carried around the home, whether to the balcony, the kitchen or the powder room.
Samsung showed off a new line of smarter televisions with a suite of games and Web applications built in. The company, a major rival of Apple's in both the smartphone and tablet sectors, did hint at a gesture and voice control system for its upcoming TVs, but did not show those features in action.
Vizio Inc. unveiled three new high-definition sets that feature Google TV, the search-giant’s TV navigation software that will also run on TVs from Samsung Electronics and LG, and which comes with dozens of built-in apps that users can use on-screen to fetch sports scores, watch movies and play games.
Meanwhile, Google has had trouble getting its Google TV software to take off. Launched on a small number of devices last year, the product was coolly received by reviewers and failed to gain wide traction with consumers.
Logitech Inc., which made one of the original Google TV set-top boxes, discontinued the device in November, calling it a “big mistake.”
Still, Google has recruited a new cast of the biggest TV makers — Samsung, LG and Vizio — to test the waters with a suite of Google–powered TV sets.
“The manufacturers have no choice but to turn to Google because there’s no one else,” Misek said. But until Google can make its phones, tablets, and personal computers all talk to each other, the way Apple’s do, Google and its TV partners “won’t be able to catch up.”
– David Sarno in Las Vegas
Photo: LG Electronics televisions on display at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Credit: Frederic J. Brown / AFP/Getty Images
LG introduced the Spectrum, a new high-end smartphone coming this month to Verizon, at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday morning.
The new handset checks nearly all (but not all) the boxes a consumer might want from a current top-of-the-line smartphone.
The Spectrum features a 4.5-inch scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels (yes, that's a high-definition display) and a pixel density of 329 pixels per inch.
That pixel density is important because it could offer something similar in look to Apple's retina display on the iPhone 4 and 4S, which both feature a pixel density of more than 300 per inch. Any display with a ppi of 300 or greater is said be so dense that pixels are indistinguishable from one another to the human eye at a distance of 10 to 12 inches.
Inside, the Spectrum will come with 16 gigabytes of storage on a microSD card, and run on a 1.5-gigahertz dual core processor from Qualcomm.
The Spectrum will run Google's Android Gingerbread operating system which is, for now, the one area on paper where the Spectrum is a bit behind as it's not running the newer Android Ice Cream Sandwich software out of the box. But LG did say on Monday that an upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich would arrive sometime after the Spectrum's release Jan. 19.
For $199.99 on a two-year contract, the Spectrum will also offer up an 8-megapixel camera that can shoot up to 1080p video, paired with a single LED flash. Up front is a 1.3-megapixel camera for video chatting.
ESPN will also provide high-definition streaming video to its Score Center app, which will come preloaded on the Spectrum, so sports fans can take advantage of the phones' HD display.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles in Las Vegas
Images: The LG Spectrum smartphone. Credit: LG
The lineup is mostly familiar, with LG, Samsung, Sony and Vizio producing Google TV products. Sony has released Google TV television sets and set-top boxes, and Samsung and Vizio both showed off prototype Google TV products at CES last year that never made it to market.
Absent from the Google TV hardware lineup this year is Logitech, which gave up on the Internet-connected TV software after its Google TV products failed to catch on with consumers, resulting in more returns than sales in the second quarter of 2011.
LG "will showcase a new line of TVs powered by Google TV running on their own L9 chipset at CES," Google said, also noting that Samsung and Sony will have new Google TV devices on the market this year. LG said in its own statement that some of its Google TV sets will be 3-D.
Vizio will hold "private demos at CES showcasing their new line of Google TV-powered products," Google said.
The Technology blog will be at CES next week looking at Google TV products and other new gadgets, games and technologies, so stay tuned.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Sony's first-generation Internet-connected LCD television powered by Google's Android-based Google TV platform. Credit: Kiyoshi Ota / Bloomberg
LG Electronics offered a few more details of its new 55-inch Organic-LED TV set ahead of its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week.
The new display will be the world's largest OLED TV, LG said, and will feature a minimally-small bezel on the edges, a thickness of 4 millimeters (which is thinner than most smartphones) and a weight of about 16.5 pounds.
The massive set, which hasn't been officially announced as coming to the consumer market, was manufactured using new technologies that enabled LG to bring down production costs, the company said in a blog post.
"We have a product which not only delivers on all the advantages of OLED over LCD but at a significantly lower cost than what could be achieved using existing OLED manufacturing technologies," said Havis Kwon, president and chief executive of LG's home entertainment division.
Among the advantages that OLED promises over the current LCD displays on the market are truer colors and deeper black levels, as well as lower power consumption.
Just what is this new lower-cost production technology? LG didn't say in its blog post and company officials weren't available for comment Tuesday, but we'll make sure to ask next week when we're at CES in person.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: A model shows off LG Electronics' new 55-inch Organic-LED TV set. Credit: LG Electronics
LG Electronics is set to debut an 84-inch "ultra definition" 4K television at next month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
And yes, the new TV set will be a 3-D TV as well. LG is calling the new 4K display "ultra definition" or "UD," to signal that this set can output a higher resolution image than current high-definition televisions.
So what is 4K exactly? It's the resolution that many believe will be the next step in high-definition standards for TVs and Web video. Today's current HD TV sets are either 1080p or 720p — each number indicating the amount of vertical pixel lines of resolution the HD sets can handle.
As the name suggests, 4K resolution images have 4,000 lines of resolution, but this time the name refrences horizontal resolution. Many of today's top digital cameras used by filmmakers are shooting in 4K.
"LG is pushing the limits of home entertainment innovation with this 3D UD TV," said Havis Kwon, the president and CEO of LG's home entertainment division, in a statement.
LG 84-inch 3-D TV will actually offer a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, which by some standards is considered worthy of being called 4K.
The huge TV will also run apps using LG's Smart TV software, which offers more than 1,200 apps, such as Netflix, Hulu and Major League Baseball, and it will make use of LG's motion-sensing TV Magic Remote, which allows users to operate the TV using voice recognition or motion gestures.
The so-called UD TV will debut alongside two other massive LG sets at CES: a 55-inch organic-LED TV and a 72-inch LED-backlit 3-D TV. LG hasn't yet offered prices or details on when these TV will make it to store shelves.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: A model next to LG Electronic's 84-inch "ultra definition" 4K television. Credit: LG Electronics
LG is bringing some big TVs to January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Specifically, the world's largest Organic-LED TV, at 55 inches, and the world's largest 3D LED TV with a screen size of 72 inches.
The new television sets may or may not be considered affordable, but they surely will be large and probably will attract attention at the show to Korea's second-largest electronics maker, behind rival Samsung.
"Our objective has always been to actively define and lead emerging display technology markets," Sang Beom Han, chief executive and executive vice president of LG Display, told the Times of India newspaper about the massive new Organic-LED, or OLED, TV set that will debut at CES.
"Although OLED technology is seen as the future of TV display, the technology has been limited to smaller display sizes and by high costs, until now. LG Display's 55-inch OLED TV panel has overcome these barriers," Han told the newspaper.
The website Engadget reported that a prototype of LG's new OLED set came in at just 5-millimeters thick. LG hasn't yet said how much its new large-screen TVs will cost, but big screens don't come cheap, especially when they make use of OLED technology. As noted by the website Gizmodo, in 2009, LG introduced a a 15-inch OLED TV priced at $3,000.
Sony is also currently selling a wearable TV headset that contains two OLED displays that are just 0.7 inch big for $800.
[Updated, Dec. 28, 8:59 a.m.: An earlier version of this post incorecctly stated that LG released a 15-inch OLED TV for $2,500. That TV was priced at 3,000, as reported by the website Gizmodo. This post has been updated to correct this error.]
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: LG's 72-inch LZ9700 3D LED-backlit television. Credit: LG
The two phones could be mistaken for twins, sitting side-by-side with 4.5-inch touchscreens, and similarly designed plastic backs with 8-megapixel cameras sitting rear-center.
However, aside from the outside looks, the overall experience of using the two phones is quite different and it’s on the software side where LG comes up short with the Nitro HD.
The Nitro HD is one of a new wave of smartphones (along with handsets like the HTC Rezound and upcoming Samsung Galaxy Nexus) that is upping the ante for screen resolution into high-definition territory, with a 1,280 x 720 screen resolution.
The Nitro HD’s display is one of the nicest I’ve seen on any smartphone so far. Streaming video, websites, apps all looked detailed and worthy of being called high definition. Colors came though balanced and accurate. Images looked smooth, with pixelation hard to find due to a density of 326-pixels-per-inch, which is the same pixel density as the iPhone 4 and 4S.
The display also features edges that are curved to roll into the sides of the phone’s body, so running your finger across the device for any swiping motion on-screen is extra satisfying. It’s such a small detail, but not having a hard edge to run into makes using the touchscreen a thoughtlessly pleasant experience. Nokia has taken a similar approach with its Lumia 800 and this is a design touch I wouldn’t mind seeing on more phones.
The internals of the Nitro HD are top-notch as well, with a 1.5-gigahertz dual-core processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM and 4 gigabytes of built-in storage pared with an included 16-gigabyte microSD storage card.
Photos from the rear camera looked good, but colors came out a bit oversaturated for my taste; 1080p video shot by the camera was impressive.
But all this goodness felt a bit held back by LG’s modifications to Google’s Android operating system and a few other gripes.
Every handset maker out there adds their own “skin” over the top of Android in an effort to stand out in the crowd. But LG’s version of Android adds app icons, widgets and even fonts used in the operating system that all feel a bit too big, as if LG is failing to take advantage of all the screen real estate the Nitro HD’s display has delivered.
Battery life was poor, as is pretty much standard for just about any 4G smartphone nowadays, especially phones with 4.5-inch screens requiring so much power. In a week of testing, I found that I needed to charge the Nitro HD before my work day was done, after charging the phone each night as well — so keep spare chargers around at home, work and in the car if you’re considering buying the Nitro HD.
The Nitro HD also has a quiet, flat sounding speaker that wasn’t good for talking to a friend on speakerphone, much less for video watching or music listening — so a nice set of headphones would be a good accessory as well.
At $249.99 on a 2-year data plan from AT&T, the Nitro HD is fairly priced (though it’d be a lot nicer at about $200), but the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and HTC Vivid are worth a look if you’re looking for big-screens and 4G speeds from AT&T.
Like the Vivid and the Galaxy S II Skyrocket, the Nitro HD runs on AT&T’s 4G LTE network if that network is available wherever you are, which so far isn’t very many places.
AT&T’s 4G LTE network is up and running in Atlanta and Athens, Ga.; Baltimore; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas-Fort Worth; Houston; Indianapolis; Kansas City, Mo.; Las Vegas; Oklahoma City; Washington D.C.; San Antonio; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, with more markets planned to launch next year. If you’re outside of those markets, the Nitro HD (and other AT&T 4G LTE phones) run on the carrier’s HSPA+ 4G network or its 3G network, each of which are speedy in their own right, whenever you have a strong signal.
So, taking a look at the good and the bad of the Nitro HD, the new phone sits among the nicer phones available from AT&T at this time, but there is one major hurdle I see that would make me hesitant to purchase this device: the question of Ice Cream Sandwich.
The Nitro HD runs on Android Gingerbread and LG hasn’t yet said whether or not its flagship AT&T phone will be upgraded to the latest version of Android, known as Ice Cream Sandwich. It seems a no-brainer that LG would make the move to Ice Cream Sandwich eventually, but many hardware manufacturers have made a habit of leaving devices stagnant when it comes to Android.
As great as the Nitro HD’s hardware is, it’s the software, both in its current form and its undefined future, that holds this phone back from living up to its potential.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The LG Nitro HD from AT&T. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
Smartphone screens keep getting bigger and thankfully, the resolution on displays is finally starting to grow too.
The latest example: the LG Nitro HD, which features a 4.5-inch screen with a 1,280 x 720 screen resolution. That'd be 720p, the lowest possible resolution that can be considered high definition.
As such, this will be AT&T's first HD-screen phone when it goes on sale Dec. 4 at a price of $249.99 with a two-year contract, the carrier said in a statement.
But the promising touch screen isn't all the Nitro HD has going for it. The new LG handset features a 1.5-gigahertz dual-core processor (that's the same clock speed as some laptops), an 8-megapixel and 1080p camera on the back with an LED flash, and a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera.
Verizon has a 720p screen phone of its own in the $300 HTC Rezound, which I'm currently testing for an upcoming review. Both of the competing handsets run Google's Android Gingerbread operating system.
The Rezound, which has a 4.3-inch touch screen, runs on Verizon's 4G LTE network and the Nitro HD will run on AT&T's 4G LTE network. The Nitro HD will also offer 20 gigabytes of storage with 4 gigabytes built in and an additional 16 gigabytes on an included microSD card.
Stay tuned — we'll have a review of the Nitro HD soon as well.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: The LG Nitro HD, from AT&T, front and back. Credit: AT&T