Tune In to TVs

At one time, buying TVs for hotel guestrooms and public areas was a fairly easy proposition. Screen size, cable readiness, energy efficiency and cost were the factors most often considered in the purchase decision. Today, that once-routine function has given way to a wide variety of considerations you need to weigh in selecting the right TV hardware for your property.

Advances in technology, improvements in manufacturing efficiencies and the force of regulation are moving both consumers and hotel owners toward advanced plasma and LCD TVs. Thanks to the Federal Communications Commission, all TV sets sold in the U.S. — including those marketed to hotels — will soon include digital tuners capable of receiving high-definition TV signals. By last June, according to the FCC mandate, all sets 35 inches or larger had to ship with integrated digital tuners. Smaller sets fall under the ruling this year, and by 2007 all TVs sold in the U.S. will be digital. HDTVs are available in both the increasingly popular flat-panel plasma and LCD displays as well as the more conventional tube-type television sets.

Some hoteliers become baffled at the array of television choices they have, and all want to purchase the right models for their properties and their customers. Here is a review of the latest TV hardware offerings from the leading television manufacturers and marketers serving the lodging industry:

Panasonic offers a wide range of plasma displays suited for either in-room uses or for professional applications such as meeting rooms, bars or as lobby signage. The company recommends that hoteliers first determine how a TV display will be used to decide on whether to select a plasma or LCD display. In guestrooms, the company recommends a 37- or 42-inch plasma as an alternative to a conventional TV set in an armoire. If a TV smaller than 37 inches makes more sense, Panasonic recommends an LCD unit.

For large applications, Panasonic's TH-50 PHDD7UX model is a 50-inch widescreen display with a 3000:1 contrast ratio. Features include SmartPlug and pay-per-view compatibility with dual-picture functionality. The set measures 28-by-47 inches with a mere 3.9 inches of thickness.

LG Electronics markets to the hotel industry a full line of plasma displays, LCDs and flat-screen televisions under both its LG and Zenith brands.

The company recently installed plasma displays in more than 500 guestrooms at the Hilton Millennium in New York City. These monitors can be complemented by LG's low-profile pay-per-view module designed for plasma displays. The modules enable the displays to serve as in-room entertainment centers that provide music, video and information on demand, as well as high-speed Internet access.

LG and Zenith also offer a line of LCD high-definition monitors in screen sizes ranging from 15 to 42 inches. Hallmark of these sets is LG's Super IPS technology, which the company says delivers horizontal and vertical viewing angles of 176 degrees to ensure clearer pictures from off-center seating positions.

Zenith says its 32-inch Truly Flat TV is the largest integrated pay-per-view flat-screen set in the industry. The same technology is also available in a 27-inch PPV model.

Last year, RCA introduced its new J36435 commercial monitor-receiver with front A/V jacks to ease connections to external audio or video components. Available in a dark silver cabinet, the company says the unit's outstanding picture performance and sound quality make it ideal for use in lobbies, lounges and conference rooms.

The set's Digital Serial Communications Interface makes it fully compatible with pay-per-view services and other third-party interactive systems. Other features: ClonePRO remote programming, one-button channel guide, eight-character channel labeling, non-volatile memory and Energy Star certification.

At the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show in November, Philips introduced several enhancements to its lines of plasma and LCD TV sets for the hospitality industry. Its most intriguing product is the MiraVision Mirror TV, which combines the aesthetics of wall art with the full functionality of an LCD TV set.

When turned on, MiraVision performs as a television; when turned off, the TV surface is reflective and provides the same design and functional elements to a room as a traditional mirror does. The product is now available in 23- and 30-inch sizes as well as landscape and portrait models.

Also at the Show, Philips introduced Xpress IO, which integrates the company's SmartPlug technology into its plasma and LCD displays, providing simple and seamless connections with pay-per-view systems. The Xpress IO technology is also available in the company's full line of traditional displays. All of the company's hospitality displays also feature TotalControl, a technology that enables hotels to offer each guest an identical viewing experience, including an automatic setting to a specified channel and volume level when the set is turned on.

Samsung Electronics, a long-time global leader in electronics and digital media, now offers video technology to the hotel industry. Samsung's line of LCD TVs features its proprietary DNle technology, which the company says can take any signal from conventional sources (HD, broadcast TV or PC) and turn it into a high-quality picture. Key features of DNle include a wide (170 degrees) viewing angle, high brightness levels and self-adjusting brightness, a high (600:1) contrast ratio, color weakness compensation and more. The company's sets also feature JBL speakers, the result of a partnership between Samsung and Harmon/Kardon.

Recent additions to Sony Electronics' PlasmaPro line of displays offer features well-suited to hotel applications. Its new EBS-SP10 external tuner allows users to add television functionality to the line of plasma displays. The tuner also enhances connectivity to video-on-demand systems.

Additions to the Sony collection of plasma displays include a 42-inch unit that has speaker capabilities, offers advanced technology for enhanced image retention protection and has a 60,000-hour panel life. The company says its 50-inch model has a significant increase in both brightness and contrast compared to earlier models. The unit also has optional speakers and a built-in digital amplifier.

Pioneer Electronics recently introduced two new high-definition plasma displays that the company says are ideal for digital signage, in boardrooms and in other similar applications. The new models are available in either 43- or 50-inch screen sizes. A key feature of the displays is the ability to insert a variety of expansion boards to change or enhance the capabilities of the display. The units each have two open architecture card slots — one for communication and one for visuals.

Another feature is Pioneer's PureDrive technology, which the company says maintains all signals in the digital domain, eliminating signal loss, reducing distortion and providing a greater degree of control of the signal.

For information on these TV manufacturers, circle the appropriate numbers on the reader service card in the back of the magazine: Panasonic, circle 65; LG Electronics/Zenith, circle 66; RCA, circle 67; Philips, circle 68; Samsung Electronics, circle 69; Sony Electronics, circle 70; Pioneer Electronics, circle 71.

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