A HWZ PlayTest Event - Smart AV for Your Home

HardwareZone Smart Home AV PlayTest

 

The Smart Home AV PlayTest Event

Setting up a respectable home entertainment system requires lots of research and technical know-how. There are many components to consider, such as the television set, the amplifier and speakers. And with the rise of smart home entertainment devices that are able to access the web and the ability to go wireless, the decision-making process is that much harder.

That’s not all; there’s also the concern of home décor and how your equipment will fit into your home. So there's the issue of the equipment you need to select as well as whether it will look good with in your home. Seems like a lot to think about isn't it? With these practical concerns in mind, HardwareZone and Home & Decor publications decided to conduct a PlayTest event aiming to help our readers boost their knowledge of planning and setting up their own home entertainment system area. 

Held on a Saturday morning of 4th of May at Mudian, a custom home furniture design specialist, HardwareZone teamed up with ASUS, Panasonic, Yamaha and One Touch Systems to provide attendees with a generous dose of home AV setup assistance and hands-on of their coolest home entertainment gear. Crucially, our Smart Home AV PlayTest was designed to touch upon five key areas of home entertainment aspects - display, audio, networking, automation and home design elementsFor those who didn't manage to get join our event (registration was full within two days!), we've got a rundown of what took place at the event in this article. To kick start, here are the video highlights of what went on at our event:-

The AV equipment was set up well ahead of the event's starting time.

Despite being held on an early Saturday morning, the turnout was great and the attendees looked very eager to find out more about home design, Smart AV and what we had in store for them.

Ideas on Sprucing Up Your Home 

HardwareZone.com editor, Vijay Anand, got the ball rolling with an introduction of what Smart AV meant, the various considerations that's needed to design a great home entertainment area in a home as well as a rundown of what the rest of the event segments will cover. Rebeckka Wong, editor for Home & Decor magazine, followed up to introduce why our event partnered with Mudian and the décor aspects that our event attendees can keep an eye upon while checking around the Mudian showroom. While some of the attendees were looking for tips on how to incorporate new AV equipment into their existing home layout, we're sure others were hoping to spruce up or renovate their existing home décor. That's where Calsia Lee, Mudian's sales and marketing director, provided more insight into Mudian's custom services for those looking for tailor-made furniture and home decor.

HardwareZone Editor, Vijay, kicks off the event with an introduction to home AV requirements and getting everyone acquainted with the event plan for the rest of the day.

Rebeckka Wong, editor for Home & Decor magazine, followed up to introduce Mudian and home decor elements and current trends.

Calsia Lee, sales and marketing director of Mudian, shows the audience one of the many custom projects Mudian has worked on.

This looks like an ordinary cabinet doesn't it?

Calsia Lee showed off to the audience that it's actually a custom-made cabinet that stows away a TV set. Activated from a remote, the TV set pops out from the top of the cabinet with the help of a motorized bracket.

TV Buying Trends, Tips and Demos

After we touched upon home design aspects, next up was HardwareZone Associate Editor, Ng Chong Seng, who got started on the TV segment by giving audience insights into the current trends as well as buying tips. Of course what presentation would be complete without an actual product demo? The attendees moved into another section of Mudian to get a demo on Panasonic's latest 2013 AV line-up that's just starting to appear in our market. In fact, the Panasonic products were so new, we don't even know the suggested retail prices yet! That's one of the perks of joining our PlayTest event to check out the latest and greatest gear and trends. For the TV demos, Panasonic brought in their top of the line 55-inch VT60 plasma screen (TH-P55VT60) and a LED-backlit DT60 55-inch LCD screen (TH-L55DT60). For more information of these new TV models, head to our Panasonic 2013 TV launch summary article.

HardwareZone Associate Editor, Ng Chong Seng giving some tips to the audience on buying the latest HD TV sets.

After our session on trends and buying tips of the latest HD TV sets, the attendees were ushered to Panasonic's demonstration area, where they were treated to a sample of Panasonic's home AV line-up for 2013 and their smart interaction features.

In-line with the latest media sharing trends at home,  the Panasonic TV sets allows you to view your media on your tablet or smartphone on the big screen. But that's not all...

You can even proceed to doodle on it with an electronic touch pen! Pretty cool, isn't it? The altered image can be saved with further sharing options. This cool feature is only possible on the high-end plasma models (VT60 and ST60 series).

 After the interesting smart TV demos from Panasonic, it was time for lunch and interaction with the various vendors and their demos.

Don't Forget the Audio in AV

HardwareZone tech writer, Hurrairah Bin Sohail, began the after-lunch session by giving the attendees something to think about regarding the choice of audio systems and differentiating home audio system capabilities. And to further expand on his points, both Panasonic and Yamaha provided the audience with a taste of their latest audio systems through demonstrations.

Panasonic showcased their top-end Blu-ray home theatre system, the SC-BTT430, which has Panasonic's Cinema Surround technology, to give viewers a clear direction on where the sound is coming and hence a more accurate surround sound effect. For more updates on what else Panasonic has for your personal and group entertainment needs, we've got that summarized from their recent launch event here.

HardwareZone tech writer, Hurrairah, gives the attendees a primer on home audio and how to determine which audio system is more suitable.

Following that, it was Panasonic's turn to showcase their home audio systems. Our attendees had the pleasure to experience the surround sound of the Panasonic SC-BTT430, which is seen on the left side of this photo. On the screen, you can glimpse some of the demos that John Tan from Panasonic Singapore had lined up to showcase the audio system's capabilities.

Also demoed were a few new Panasonic wireless docking speakers to augment mobile gadgets. On the left is the SC-NE5 wireless speaker system and on the right is the SC-NP10 wireless speaker system for tablets.

Next up, Yamaha provided a demo on their AV equipment's multi-zone capability, where you can channel different audio into different areas of your home. Yamaha's top-end AV receiver can support up to three zone where users can control the equipment in the zones through an iOS app. They can adjust volume, stop playback and even power down the equipment in each zone with the app. It's an advanced control option for those with high expectations and requirements from their audio setup. The physical setup to ready the zones within your home requires good planning, but the actual control by means of the iOS app is straightforward and that's what Alex Low, assistant manager for Yamaha Music was showing off to our attendees. For more highlights of Yamaha's current AV receiver and speaker line-up, check out what we reported from the International Sight & Sound Exhibition from end of last year.

Here's the full list of gear that Yamaha used for their demonstrations:-

  • AV Receiver: RX-A1020 BL
  • Blu-ray Player: BD-A1020
  • 5.2-channel Speaker Setup
    • Floorstand Speakers - NS-F500 BL
    • Center Speaker - NS-C500 BL
    • Surround Speakers - NS-B500 BL
    • Subwoofers - NS-SW500 x 2
  • 2-channel Stereo Speakers: Soavo-2 BRN (for Zone-2 demo)

 Yamaha demonstrates the convenience of splitting your home into specific zones for your audio equipment and how they can all be controlled with a single app.

Here's the handsome Yamaha Soavo-2, two-way bass-reflex bookshelf speakers that were set on table distanced from the main presentation area that pretended to be an audio setup for a secondary zone. With an iPad and Yamaha's iOS app, it's a cinch to control what you want it to output.

Of course it goes without saying, the audience was also treated to a movie clip that showcased the home theater equipment's full capability! Can you guess which movie is this scene from?

Yamaha also showed off what it's recently available YSP-3300 sound bar is capable of in an adjacent cozy room in Mudian's store.

Putting the Smart into Your Home AV Equipment

The last session of the day involved home networking and home automation. HardwareZone.com associate editor Chong Seng came back to highlight home networking aspects and measures to overcome commonly encountered issues. Following that, Michelle Lim from Asus, touched on setting up a home network where your files can either be stored in the cloud or in a central location. This allows for all residents to access all the files regardless of where they are in the house. This was facilitated by their current top-of-the-line ASUS RT-AC66U Wireless AC dual-band router supporting the ASUS Open Cloud Computing (AOCC) strategy via the AiCloud feature supported in their latest mobility devices. Integrating the networking and mobility aspects seamlessly with the flexibility of a traditional desk-bound system, Michelle also took this opportunity to demo their latest in their AIO and Transformer line of products with the ASUS Transformer AIO that brought about the best in all these aspects and is probably one of the most versatile of products we've seen for the home. As the star of their demo session, the Transformer AIO drew plenty of curious looks from the attendees due to its ability to function as both a desktop and tablet computer - simultaneously.

Michelle from ASUS gave a demonstration of the capabilities of their various personal entertainment and networking products and how they converge to offer a connected AV set-up.

A curious attendee finds out more about the various ASUS products on display and they can work together. The left product is the ASUS Transformer AIO system and the other to its right is the ASUS ET2220 AIO PC.

So we've touched upon several major aspects for setting up a great home or personal entertainment area, but ever thought of how convenient it would be if you could control the various devices, gadgets and even services in your home with a single touch in a coordinated manner? For example, you could engage one preset through an app on your mobile device that will draw down the shades, shut your curtains, power up your air conditioning system and cool your home to your preferred 22 degrees Celsius temperature. But that's not all. After a built-in pre-programmed delay that you can set in advance, your TV or projector can power up, followed by your AV receiver, switch to the right AV channel with the preferred movie audio presets, turn on the Blu-ray player and finally ensure your lighting levels are optimum for your movie watching experience.

While it may have seemed far-fetched years ago, home automation is now within one's means these days to achieve just that. To enlighten what our attendees can expect from home automation, we invited One Touch Systems to give a quick run through on some of their past projects and customer requirements. So imagine you're on your way home and you want to watch Marvel's The Avengers movie as soon as you're back, you could actually get your home ready well in advance if you've integrated a good home automation system without wasting time on managing all these devices separately in your home. It's not a lot of hassle to do control them in the traditional manner, but for some, the convenience and cool factor might be worth the extra investment.

Adam Tan, the Sales Manager of One Touch Systems, gives a very convincing talk on how a single (virtual) remote can "rule" your home devices and appliances. You could even manage your heater and oven if you so wish to!

At the door and getting ready to leave before you realised that you forgot to switch off the air-conditioner in your room? Keep your shoes on with a universal remote management system which allows you to switch off the various appliances and gadgets in your home even while you're not at home. Shown here is a physical control pod that can be used in your automated home.

All in all, it was a fruitful day for this PlayTest's attendees with so many major topics covered from home design to home entertainment and even automation along with the supporting partners showcasing their latest gadgets and smart controls/services. With the help of HardwareZone, the attendees can now make informed decisions on setting up their Smart AV system at home and we hope to see you guys at our next PlayTest event! Meanwhile, here's a glimpse of some of our other past PlayTest events.