TVs were bigger, brighter and more detailed than ever before at CES 2013
If it’s electronic, and there’s even a small possibility someone would be interested in buying it, chances are that it was at CES 2013. From intelligent refrigerators to furry cat ears that read your brainwaves, you could find it all under one large roof in Las Vegas. But for all the crazy conceptual gadgets, the real stars of CES 2013 were the TVS. And this year, TVs at CES pushed the limits of technology like never before.
The big story at CES was 4K resolution, aka Ultra High Definition TV. Since the beginnings of High Definition video, the ultimate in picture quality for a home user was 1080P Full HD. Well, several manufacturers are aiming to change that, with the introduction of 4K TVs. Sony and LG have kicked off the race early, with each already offering a commercially-available 84-inch 4K TV. Sony used CES to debut both 55-inch and 65-inch, more “affordable” versions of their flagship 4K TV. LG also unveiled a 65-inch unit, while Toshiba matched both companies’ large offerings with an 84-inch 4K TV of their own, the L9300.
Samsung, meanwhile, bested all three of the 84-inch models by debuting their 85″ 4K TV, which is larger than the competitors by a single inch. That’s not much relative to the size of the TVs themselves, but it does make the Samsung the World’s Largest 4K TV, among production models. That’s important to note, because Westinghouse, traditionally a lower-tier electronics brand, offered up plans for a custom-built 110-inch 4K TV. The behemoth will only set you back $300K, which may seem preposterous, but shows like CES are always about one-upping the competitors. And that’s exactly what Sharp did to every manufacturer showing a 4K TV, by showcasing their 8K Super Hi-Vision TV, which offers four times the resolution of the UHDTVs on display. Don’t get the checkbook out just yet, though; Sharp says the 8K TV won’t hit the market for four or five years.
As screen size and resolution grew in one direction, it shrank in another: depth. Thanks to OLED technology, the other feature we saw touted in TVs at CES 2013 was extreme thinness, and even flexibility.
A traditional LCD display involves a colored LCD screen (which creates the image) and a backlight (which makes the image visible). LED TVs replace bulky florescent backlights with tiny LED lights, reducing TV depth. Organinc Light Emitting Diodes, however, produce both color and light, eliminating the need for all backlighting whatsoever. As a result, nearly all of the bulk of a flat-panel display is eliminated, creating TVs literally a few millimeters thick, and possibly even curved or flexible displays. A byproduct of the OLED technology is a dramatic improvement in contrast and color of picture, due to the ability to control brightness at the individual pixel-level, instead of via a shared backlight. The lack of backlight also contributes to less energy consumption. So the consumer ends up with a TV that looks better, is lighter and more compact, and more energy efficient. While most of the TVs were still at the conceptual stage, at least two should be available for purchase this year:
The 55EM960V 55-inch LG OLED TV and the KNF559500 Samsung 55-inch OLED TV. Neither TV has been priced, but don’t expect them to be cheap.
Of course, lack of availability didn’t keep us from enjoying the rest of the offerings, like Samsung’s experimental curved OLED TV, which is designed to replicate the IMAX experience in a size that will fit in your family room.
While there were plenty of other innovative TV technologies at CES 2013, like LG’s Laser TV Projector or their Google TV with Magic Remote, we found the developments in 4K resolution and and OLED TV technology to be the most exciting. These two technologies together will deliver the largest leap in picture quality since the dawn of the DVD ushered in the digital age. Like most technologies, the adoption will start slowly, but once these sets become commonplace, people will wonder how they ever watched anything else.