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CES 2018 Day 2: Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

I’ve attended the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for roughly 15 years, and something happened yesterday that has never happened before. It is one of those experiences that people will forever be, “Oh, yeah. I can remember exactly where I was when that happened.” Yesterday was the day that the power went out at CES. (For the record, I was walking through the Bosch booth when *click* PHUMP! the power when out.)

For almost two hours, the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center was plunged into semi-blackness. I say “semi” because there was quite a bit of ambient lighting from battery powered devices, people with cell phone lights on, natural lights through the glass windows at the edges of the building, and the random booth that retained power. For that time, the show just…stopped. People wandered around, or sat on the floor, or they actually talked to each other.

Here’s a picture of Sony’s booth, which is normally bustling with hundreds of people. In a show that is normally so hectic, with time the most precious commodity, it was nice to take a forced break and connect with those around you. I was lucky enough to stumble across a few old friends, including Sue Toscano who handles PR for MQA; MQA’s Ken Forsythe (previously with Meridian); and Mike Mettler, former editor in chief of Sound and Vision, now with Digital Trends.

Oddly, Canon’s booth seemed to be unaffected by the outage, and the booth shown like a beacon in the convention center. Illuminating for rows all around it, people came to Canon, drawn to the light like moths to flame.

The Las Vegas Visitor and Convention Authority, NV Energy and Consumer Technology Association later issued this statement regarding the limited power outage in the Las Vegas Convention Center:

“Today at approximately 11:15 AM, the Central Hall and South Hall bridge meeting rooms at the Las Vegas Convention Center lost power. Power in the South Hall was restored within minutes, and power has now been fully restored to all areas. A preliminary assessment indicates that condensation from heavy rainfall caused a flashover on one of the facility’s transformers. We are grateful to NV Energy for their swift assistance, to our customers and their clients for their patience and to the staff for ensuring the safety and security of all attendees and exhibitors.”

Eventually the power returned, and—like any great spectacle—the show went on.

I had planned to hit all the big video booths, but the two-hour hiatus—and previously scheduled appointments—really put a crimp in that plan. As it was, I was able to spend some quality time checking out Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, and LG.

Samsung now doesn’t even try to sugarcoat it. Their booth is so massive that they have just gone ahead and accepted the fact that it is indeed a “city.” Fortunately, the booth layout was terrific this year with lots of organized lines and queues to help manage the throngs of people that visit Samsung city.

The Wall is one of those experimental, proof-of-idea technologies that Samsung likes to bring to the show, and it looked frickin’ awesome! The Wall is made of modular tile-like LCD blocks that connect together to scale up to sizes however large you need. I couldn’t discern any seams in the panel, and the picture had incredible brightness and color detail.

Remember when people got excited over native 4K? Isn’t that cute. At CES we’ve moved on. Now it’s all about 8K. Sure, it doesn’t matter that TV broadcasters haven’t even figured out how to deliver 4K yet… I said we’re moving on, dammit! The fact is that native 8K looks absolutely stunning, especially on micro-details like fine print and text.

Sony’s booth is no slouch either, but it feels very open and easy to navigate, especially when you arrive just after the power comes back on and people have yet to fully populate the convention center.

Several things impressed me in the Sony booth, but two really stood out. The first was the company’s new LSPX-A1 ultra-short throw 4K laser projector. This is an all-in-one, just-add-source design that conceals into a cabinet that houses not only the projector capable of producing a 120-inch 4K image but also a full 6.1 speaker audio system. The tech behind the audio includes Sony’s Glass Sound Speaker which delivers a 360-degree sound field that doesn’t produce a true surround image, does provide room filling sound. For the family that wants a lot of performance in décor friendly package, this is amazing.

At every tradeshow you come across that one item. You know the one. The one that you’d be willing to punch your best friend’s mama in the face for if you could have it. For me, that item is this Sony Full-Spec HDR 8K TV. Forget about the resolution. I mean, sure, 8K is great and all, but forget about that. What makes this TV sicker-than-sick is that it was able to produce 10,000 nits! Consider than an OLED struggles to deliver around 650 or so and a flagship LED can hit maybe 1,500, and you can start to imagine the feat that producing 10,000 nits is. The result is stunning images that deliver leap off the screen brightness while still delivering ultra-deep blacks and insane levels of detail. If there is a better looking TV at CES, I have yet to see it.

For the past few years Panasonic has seemed less focused on the CE market and more focused on the B2B category. This year didn’t seem much different, with many of the displays and demos geared toward future ideas and concepts that made smart living and smart cities a reality.

They did have this one demo called, “Advanced AV Solutions” that was both interesting and totally bizarre as it followed the evolution of this robot named Sofie through the years as it improved and upgraded its AI and skin. The robot started out as a dog-like thing and then ended up in a near robot love doll type situation that finally morphed into a real robot person that led us into an augmented reality demonstration of a concert. It was all bizarre in that watching-a-Japanese-game-show way where you don’t understand why people are eating bowls of squid ink and wasabi but yet it looks so beautiful that you can’t look away.

Once again, the entrance to LG’s booth was a fantastic, beautiful array of OLED panels that carried you through this amazing landscape and made you just excited to enter the booth and see what they had to offer.LGBooth Crowds

Unfortunately, once you got inside, you were thrown into a Thunderdome type arena, where it was immediate fight-or-flight as you were surrounded by people crushing in from all sides. It was impossible to get up near to any display as there were literally three people fighting for every square-inch of floor space.

One of the big things LG was touting in its new line-up of OLED sets was a greatly improved A9 processor. The company seems to have realized that they have a real winner on their hands with OLED, but that the processing is equally important for picture quality, and the A9 is a leap ahead of what drove previous models. The processor does a better job of handling motion, noise reduction, sharpness, and depth enhancement, and the images all looked terrific. Unfortunately the two big technologies that LG touted at its press event—the roll-up OLED and native 8K panel—were not being exhibited at the company’s booth. Boo!

If you missed my summary of my Day 1 activities at CES, click here.