As surely as January follows December, the big Consumer Electronics Show (CES) follows the fresh-in-memory holiday shopping season with an overwhelming display of candidates for next year’s presents. What new things are expected at this year’s Extravaganza in Vegas, opening next week?
TV – The Next, Next Generation
Once again, TV makers will try to convince attendees that the high-definition sets they own and sell are so last year. Having pushed 3D TV in the last several shows, with no great wave of consumer interest to show for the effort, this year the Brand New Thing is super high-resolution TV which, as every great new technology generation does, comes in two competing versions.
First, Ultra High Def, or 4K, has four times the resolution of your current and obviously meager HD set. You don’t see pixels, so you can sit closer or get a bigger TV, but they’re edge-lit LED LCDs and, according to some observers, can be prone to the kinds of issues that LCDs have, like off-axis viewing.
The second type is OLED, a new type of TV technology with, reportedly, deeper blacks and a dynamic range greater than anything existing, plus lower power consumption than LCDs. The resolution is technically the same as existing HDTVs, so there’s lots of content -- unlike 4K sets -- and the image quality has led to a shortage of synonyms for the term “jaw-dropping.”
This year’s show is expected to demonstrate new sizes and features for these technologies, but, with prices starting at about US$ 10,000, the push is obviously more towards the press than the near-term sales.
All of which suggests that, while 4K and OLED will attract a lot of attention, practical TV products that lots of people may actually buy this year will include new versions of 3D and Internet-connected TVs, and such variations as an LG TV that syncs with your smartphone, a gesture-controlled TV from Samsung, a Google partnership with TV makers that turns an Android device into a remote control and new Google TVs from LG.
At least one manufacturer, Samsung, is expected to show the newest generation of TV's smaller and highly agile cousin, flexible displays. The technology has popped up in peeks here and there in previous years as indications of what’s coming, and now it looks like it may be here as small, plastic OLED HD displays in actual product lines. There are reports that Samsung will use flexible screens on the next major incarnation of its popular Galaxy S smartphone line, the IV. Reportedly, such screens are foldable and, in common use, unbreakable.