Ultra HD and New Smart Features Dominate New TVs
LG, Sharp, Sony, Samsung and Panasonic bring out their best for the 2013 CES.
Will this be the year that we talk about high resolution, smart integration or OLED? So far, it looks like all three. Among the major TV manufacturers showing at CES this year, those three themes dominated, but Ultra HD and OLED are still taking the spotlight.
We’ve already seen a couple of Ultra HD (4K) TVs from Sony and LG, and OLED TV demonstrations have been floating around for several years. Smart TVs also are nothing new, sort of, but they’re getting progressively smarter.
First, let’s look at the Ultra HD news. LG, Sharp, Sony and Toshiba (read Toshiba’s CES news here), as well as Westinghouse, Vizio and Hisense, all announced LED LCD TVs that put four times the resolution of HDTV on the screen.
LG started out the CES press conference marathon and showed the 84-inch Ultra HD TV that came out last fall—plus two new models in smaller sizes. The 55- and 65-inch LG 3D UHD TVs display the same resolution as their mammoth cousin. All three have LG’s Triple XD Engine to upscale 1080p content to 4K (3840x2160).
The TVs use LG’s updated Magic Remote to control the units with pointing, gesture and voice. The feature set offers a range of connectivity options, such as Wi-Fi and Intel’s Wireless Display (WiDi) for transferring data or content from phones and tablets to the TVs.
The company also mentioned that it is working with industry and content partners on 4K content creation and distribution, but would not elaborate on that when pressed.
Some models in LG’s new lineup will include cameras which enable gesture control via finger pointing without a remote. This wasn’t demonstrated at the press conference, but we’ll get a closer look at it during a follow-up visit at the company’s CES booth.
As expected, LG also announced that its 55-inch OLED TV will launch in the U.S. in March for $12,000.
LG’s OLED TV
Sharp pretty much dominated the very big TV market in 2012, with models in 70-, 80- and 90-inch sizes. The company promised more of the same this year, but will be adding a number of new interesting technologies to its TV line.
The first of the new technologies is a semiconductor solution called IZIO (indium gallium zinc oxide) for OLED displays. The company says it’s much faster than traditional LCD, allows for twice the resolution, and uses less power. The first IZIO-based product from Sharp will be a 33-inch, 4K OLED monitor for commercial use (sorry home users).
In Ultra HD, Sharp had some of the more intriguing announcements of the show. The company will launch two separate types of 4K TVs. The premier line is called ICC Purios, which was jointly developed with the I-Cubed Research Center. ICC Purios TVs is an ICC (integrated cognitive creation) image processor, which is supposed to copy the way the human brain perceives light. The company claims it emulates the sense of depth, texture and perspective of physical experience on a display. The first ICC Purios model is a THX-certified 60-inch TV that will come to market this summer.
Sharp’s ICC Purios 4K TV
The second line of Ultra HD sets falls under the Aquos moniker and incorporates a new screen technology called Moth Eye. Promising to eliminate screen glare, the Aquos Ultra HD TVs will come in 70- and 85-inch sizes and will include the Quattron technology found on many of the company’s other models. This tech adds an extra yellow subpixel to the standard red, blue and green pixel structure of an LCD TV.
While Panasonic hasn’t yet (extra emphasis on “yet”) announced any Ultra HD TVs, the company is expanding its smart TV capabilities by allowing users to personalize their TV with a main menu called “My Home Screen.” Each family member can create a separate home screen, which can be populated with that person’s favorite apps and services. In addition, some models will use a built-in web camera that will use facial recognition to automatically bring up the user’s home screen. The camera includes a microphone that can recognize voice commands and even read web text back to the listener.
Panasonic has updated last year’s Swipe and Share feature, to allow wireless viewing of smartphone photos on the TV. The company also demonstrated a pen input device, which can be used to write notes directly on digital photos on the TV. Then, users can send those doctored photos back to the user’s smartphone, as well as another phone or tablet.
Panasonic’s Swipe and Share feature.
An improved TV shopping feature with HSN was also demonstrated.
Samsung’s top TV lineup will include a 55-inch OLED TV and 4K models, plus an innovative update of its Smart Hub smart TV platform.
The OLED TV includes a neat feature to let two people watch two separate shows simultaneously. The feature is called Multiview. Users wear active 3D glasses with built-in speakers, so each viewer only hears his or her program.
Samsung’s Ultra HD introduction is an 85-inch model with an interesting easel-style stand. While the stand is striking, it also appears to take up a lot of room and doesn’t allow for any components to be placed on a table underneath. We expect buyers will mount the TV on a wall anyway. The Ultra HD set is complemented with a built-in 100-watt speaker system.
A 110-inch Ultra HD set is also being shown at the Samsung booth.
Possibly more interesting than Samsung’s massive 4K TVs is the overhaul the company did to its web-based Smart Hub platform. Instead of a main menu filled with apps organized into separate sections, the new Smart Hub is made up of five panels that you can scroll through by swiping through screens, similar to a smartphone or tablet. The panels are organized around main functions: TV programming, personal pictures and video, social media, movies and apps.
This is a rethinking of how people use TVs, because instead of turning on the TV and switching to the main TV input (usually an HDMI input for the cable box), the user can go to the Smart Hub to view all available options. The On TV panel actually imports all of the users’ cable subscription information. To watch a program, the user can select it from the Smart Hub. and the TV will automatically (via an included IR blaster) switch to the cable box input.
Sony ended my day of press conferences by showing off new 4K TVs in 55- and 65-inch sizes. There was also a prototype of a 56-inch 4K OLED TV. The 55- and 65-inch options will join the 84-inch model that hit the market last fall.
Sony’s prototype OLED TV
The two new 3D Ultra HD sets include magnetic fluid cooled speakers and a 4K XReality image processor.
Adding to its 4K news, Sony said it is working to produce significantly more 4K content to complement the new TVs and is also working on a 4K download distribution system. No additional information was available on that, but we’ll work on following up. A prototype of a 4K consumer camcorder was also announced.
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