Quietly tucked away in demo room MP 25544 in the back of the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES 2011
was perhaps the biggest innovation to hit home theater in a while.
Chipmaker Silicon Image
showed off working prototypes of its new ViaPort Technology
that solves a major HDMI problem in basic home theater design.
As more consumers purchase thinner TVs, they are recognizing the internal speakers on the TV just don’t cut it, resulting in more home theaters with an A/V receiver (AVR) and external speakers.
One consistent problem technicians encounter is getting the AVR to complete the HDMI handshake in full 1080p between the Blu-ray player and the TV. Older AVRs are often a hindrance for the HDMI handshake to occur.
With ViaPort technology, an installer can move the AVR to the end of the lineup, enabling a direct connection between the source and up to five displays. This enables the source and sink to take advantage of the latest technologies (3D/Ethernet/4K over HDMI) without the need to replace older, incompatible AVRs, which can block the source/sink signals.
The new topology permitted by the embedded chip will make life a lot easier for integrators.
Enhanced audio and simplified system setup are additional benefits. The receiver only needs HDMI "in." The breakthrough is achieved by adding an HDMI "out" to the DTV and incorporating ViaPort technology in a DTV chip. The technology also allows an integrator to daisy-chain via HDMI up to eight TVs.
“This is a real innovation,” says Marshall Goldberg, senior product marketing manager. “This is not vaporware.”
How Soon Until Adoption?
Why was this big news so discrete at CES? Silicon Image is at CES primarily to show off the product directly to manufacturers in an attempt to get them to adopt the new chip in their displays.
Silicon Image currently has its Port Processor chip in flat panels made by nine of the top 10 manufacturers, already selling 70 million of those chips. The outlook for ViaPort is strong, according to Alex Chervet, director of marketing, who says Silicon Image’s manufacturer/customers "want the chips in Q1" to test. That translates into possibly seeing the technology in displays by later in 2011 without negligible cost to an individual display. (Existing chipsets from Silicon Image averaged $1.38 each in Q3 of 2010, but that includes more expensive units for components like RAID devices.)
For technicians having trouble with HDMI in the field, it sure wouldn’t hurt to press their preferred TV manufacturers to incorporate the new chip ASAP.