While a lot of the news out of CES might be about the Internet of Things, the biggest news from the cavernous Central Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center is all about video. Bigger screens, blacker blacks, brighter colors, higher dynamic range, and a resolution cover charge starting at a minimum of 8 million pixels.
I spent the majority of my second day at CES browsing the five major display vendors in attendance: LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, and Sony. After spending hours staring at video that would have made even the most jaded videophile weep a few years ago, it was clear that we are now at a point where Ultra High Definition (UHD) displays are practically ubiquitous and that picture qualities are about to take a leap forward.
The first booth on my tour was Panasonic and I have to say, it seems like this video giant has lost its focus a bit. The booth was far more devoted to health items and digital photography, with only a small section showing displays. Gone is the venerable ZT Plasma – and all Plasma sets for that matter – replaced with a variety of LED displays. There was a demo showing the energy usage of its new 4K panels, saving roughly 40% compared to last year’s models, while being brighter.
There was a closed-room, no photos allowed, demo of a new 55-inch 8K LCD display that had 7680x4320 resolution at 120Hz. While the picture has razor detail of micro-sized objects like newspaper print, I found the black levels to be milky grey and more like an LCD from several years ago. This – and other demonstrations of high dynamic range throughout the day – continued to impress upon me that resolution is just a small, almost unimportant factor in display quality.
The most exciting TV visually in Panasonic’s booth was a prototype 4K OLED and it was stunning. This technology definitely lives up to the hype and will hopefully reach a point where it becomes affordable. Unfortunately there was no information on this set.
Panasonic 4K Blu-ray
Also of note in the Panasonic booth was a prototype 4K Blu-ray. Again, there was little information on this player other than it will be 4K at 60p and will feature HDCP 2.2.
Samsung TV Wall
Samsung’s booth was, once again, a feast for the senses, packed with displays at every turn. The big news in the Samsung booth is the launch of its new flagship SUHD series. These sets all utilize nano-crystal technology, Samsung’s nomenclature for Quantum Dots.
I spoke to Samsung’s Director AV Product Brand Power, Michael Wood, and asked him to give me a dumbed down explanation of how nano-crystal technology works. After about 15 minutes of talking, my takeaway is that the size of the nano-crystal determines the wavelength of light it emits when being hit by the blue LED. The technology also seems far more than just another buzzword and is significantly more efficient, able to produce brighter images with better blacks and a wider color gamut.
All of Samsung’s 2015 SUHDTV sets will feature this technology and it certainly looked gorgeous. Samsung had a display comparing an SUHDTV set to a variety of other technologies and it certainly reigned supreme. Expect Samsung’s trend of curved sets to continue through 2015, as roughly half of the sets displayed were curved.
Samsung 8K Glasses-free
Not content to rest on its 4K laurels, Samsung displayed an 8K set that also employed glasses-free 3D technology. The 110-inch set looked gorgeous when displaying 8K content, but the 3D effect looked blurry and unconvincing to me, and actually had me utter a groan and a, “Why won’t they let this die?!” before I realized I was actually talking out loud.
The Sony booth
Sony’s booth just had a cool, party atmosphere vibe to it, with a huge screen encircling the top of the booth that constantly displayed alternating video and image content. Entering the Sony booth, you are greeted by a razor-thin line of TVs measuring a mere 4.9mm (about 1/5-inch) at their thinnest point.
Sony Ultra Thin
These displays are so thin, it was like trying to take a picture of a knife’s edge, but it made for a very impressive technological display.
One of the features Sony is touting in its new line-up is the X1 processor. This professor is 3-4 times faster and three times more powerful than previous processors and improves video upscaling and color reproduction.
Sony HRA TV
Sony was also continuing its aggressive push for high-resolution audio, having several demo areas where you could listen to high-res music via headphones, portable speakers and the company’s flagship floorstanding speakers. Sony also touted the audio capabilities of some of its new TVs that can decode high-res FLAC files up to 24/192 resolution with speaker drivers capable of reaching up to 48kHz.
Sharp Largest 4K
Sharp also aggressively showed off its UHD product offerings, including this 120-inch monster said to be the world’s largest commercial display. (I couldn’t get a good answer as to what made it commercial, so I’m assuming it could also be used for an awesome home theater.) Sharp was unique in being the only company that I saw displaying 1080p TVs, touting their large size offerings.
Sharp Quantum Dot
Not to be left out of the Dot game, Sharp had a display showing off its use of Quantum Dot technology compared to a traditional LED set. While not evident in the photo, the colors were much more vibrant and brighter and the blacks deeper and inkier with the new QD technology.
Sharp 4K Ultra HD
Just when you got used to UHD being the next great thing, Sharp is already looking ahead beyond 4K, with technologies that over 167% greater resolution than standard UHD, 66 million subpixels (42 million more than standard UHD), and achieving 100% of the DCI color gamut.
Sharp 85 8K
As in years past, Sharp displayed an 8K TV which gathered quite a crowd of people trying to get as close to the screen as possible searching for an elusive pixel. This year’s 8K set was an 85-inch that was said to be the world’s first to offer 120Hz refresh, a 12-bit panel, and capable of achieving 85% of the BT2020 color gamut. Also impressive was the set’s audio credentials, featuring 1000 watts and 22.2 channels via a wave front synthesis 60 channel speaker array.
LG Booth Wall
Once again, LG lured visitors into its booth with a massive display of synchronized video on gigantic panels. The display drew a constant crowd and a steady stream of traffic into the company’s mammoth booth.
LG OLED Wall
LG is investing a fortune into OLED production and the results are definitely paying off. While Panasonic was only displaying a prototype OLED with now production announcement, LG will have nine OLED models in 2015, ranging from 55 – 77-inches. The technology looks absolutely gorgeous and was definitely the best looking video I saw at the show. All of the 2015 OLED sets will be UHD, but there was no word on pricing.
LG Quantum Dot
LG is also throwing its hat into the Quantum Dot game, calling it “ColorPrime Nano Spectrum.” They say the technology “allows for a wider color spectrum, making it possible to reproduce deeper and more dynamic colors such as ocean blue, emerald green, and richer red.” As at other booths, the pictures did look stunning, though still falling short of the OLED-licious displays the company is promoting at the high-end.
LG 8K Color Prime
Also looking ahead to the future when our eyes are no longer satisfied with a mere 8 million pixels, LG showed this 98-inch 8K monster, calling it the “World’s First 98-inch 8K ColorPrime Ultra HDTV.” The set was huge and gorgeous to look at, but no word on pricing or availability.
John Sciacca is principal of Custom Theater and Audio in Myrtle Beach, SC.