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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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. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.