While 3D still will play an important role in all the major TV makers’ 2012 plans, all of them also will be focusing strongly on smart TV features that go beyond just a screen full of apps for Netflix and Pandora.
At the opening “press day” at the Consumer Electronics Show, LG spoke a lot about the company’s new line of Google TVs. The new models will include the Google TV platform built into a CINEMA3D TV that uses LG’s FPR passive glasses technology. Also included will be a Magic Remote Qwerty—a remote that combines the features of LG’s Wii-like remote and a QWERTY keyboard to make use of social media and other web features easier. The system allows for multitasking, so users can tweet or browser the web while watching TV.
LG’s Magic Remote also adds voice recognition this year to allow voice-controlled commands to access TV features.
Not all LG smart TVs will include Google TV. For the non-Google models, the company’s Netcast system will provide access to about 1,200 apps and include smart search functions to make it easier for users to search for content over a variety of apps at the same time.
• Other CES news from LG included the expansion of the company’s FPR passive glasses CINEMA3D TV line, including a 4K 3D LED model, an 84-inch LED TV and a 55-inch OLED 3D TV that’s only 4mm thick.
Sony, one of the original product partners with Google TV, will also launch new products featuring that platform, including a line of TVs, a set-top-box and a connected Blu-ray player.
• Sony also demonstrated a 4K Crystal LED TV that does not require any backlighting and two prototype glasses-free 3D TVs
Sharp’s biggest news was about their new largest screen size (an 80-inch LED 3D TV), but the company also has developed a new smart TV system called Smart Central. Smart Central combines the TVs content apps into a system that’s categorized into areas such as video, games, photos, social and more. Also included is Sharp’s Aquos Live feature that allows users to get help with their TVs live directly through the online connection. New feature called Beamzit lets you play content from wirelessly-connected PC—it sounds like a DLNA variation, which we’ll check on later at the show. Smart Central will be available on 60-inch and larger TVs
• Sharp also showed a new Freestyle line of lightweight TVs that have built-in wireless audio/video receivers so they can easily be moved around the home. A 4K LED TVs was also shown as was an 8K 85-inch LED TV. Yes, that said 8K. Enough pixels to feed a family of five for a year.
Samsung, which was the first company to include an app store on an internet-connected TV, added a number of new features to its smart TV platform. First will be the ability to easily toggle back and forth between TV shows and online apps without having to exit the app each time.
The new flagship TV, the ES8000 LED model, includes a dual core processor and an integrated camera. The camera will allow video chats, but also gesture control and face recognition. The face recognition feature will allow individual users to easily access their own user profile which can be customized with favorite apps and settings. For gesture control, uses will be able to point at items to select or scroll—gesture control will likely be somewhat dependent on the content or application, but we plan to get a closer look later this week.
• Other Samsung news included the addition of more 3D streaming content (including Battlestar Galactica)
Panasonic spent a lot of time during its press conference talking about IT and business applications, but on the smart TV front, the company announced a new feature with MySpace and even brought out Justin Timberlake to talk up the news. With MySpace integrated on new Panasonic TVs, users will be able to share music, invite friends to watch TV programs with them, discover new music and chat about it via MySpace.
Viera Connect TVs are also getting a new web browser plus movie service Flixter. A new feature of Skype will let users watch a TV program while conducting a Skype video chat simultaneously.
• A big shift for Panasonic is the introduction of new passive glasses LCD 3D TVs. More on this later.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.