The lights have been turned off at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show.
Okay, perhaps that’s not the best way to describe that this particular gadgetfest in Las Vegas has come to an end, considering that the lights went out this week before they were scheduled to.
So let’s just say the convention is over, and we’re here now to deliver the definitive recap of the biggest announcements in the categories of video and televisions, as seen by some of the nation’s top web sites on the former and latter. (We know this is the definitive recap because it’s 3,000 words long!)
* Journalists were generally in agreement over which new TVs and related products were the most impressive at CES.
At the end of each CES, publications traditionally select the best products their staffers witnessed during the show and this year was no exception.
Time Magazine published an article on the ’10 coolest gadgets we saw at CES 2018″ and the list included Samsung’s 146″ ‘Wall TV (pictured above),’ which is created by assembling rows of square Micro-LED blocks. It’s unlikely ‘the wall’ will ever get near a wall in someone’s living room, at least not anytime soon. But many journalists came away open-mouthed.
TechRadar.com also picked ‘The Wall’ as the best product of the show.
“At 146 inches diagonally, The Wall is a TV that engulfs your entire field of view with gorgeous, visually stunning images that rival what we’ve seen on OLED screens,” the site wrote.
Speaking of OLED, Engadget selected LG’s C-Series OLED TV as the ‘best TV product,’ saying its addition of ‘Google Assistant’ enables the set to “deliver a complete TV experience.” (It should be noted that since LG first introduced an OLED series in 2012, the ultra-thin set has been a annual consensus choice at CES for best picture and overall design.)
Engadget picked the Optoma 4K projector as the best ‘Home Theater product. Said veteran Engadget scribe Richard Lawler:
“Why don’t you already have a projector? Thanks to recent advances in DLP tech, we’re running out of excuses for sticking with smallish TVs. The Optoma HD51A combines quality and convenience — courtesy of its new link to Alexa voice commands — with a price that will fit many home-theater budgets.”
Reviewed.com, which publishes tech articles at its own site, as well as in USA Today, picked four winners in the ‘TV and Home Theater’ category: Samsung’s Wall TV; LG’s C8 OLED TV; Panasonic’s FZ950 OLED TV; and TCL’s 6 Series TV.
Writes Reviewed.com: “LG’s OLED TVs (pictured above) consistently dominate our ranking of the best TVs with jaw-dropping picture quality and the excellent WebOS smart platform. Though the C8 is the company’s entry-level model for CES 2018, it has the exact same picture quality as the top-end models for a fraction of the price. If you want the best TV on the market that will likely sell for a price you can actually afford, the LG C8 is the TV to target.”
* But journalists and other attendees touring the convention hall seemed most impressed with two products that may not find a place in your living room for years, if ever.
Based on articles, and social media posts, Samsung’s 146” ‘Wall’ TV and LG’s rollable OLED TV (pictured above) were the talk of the show, if not also the best of the show. (You can learn more about each product here. ) CNET’s David Katzmaier, an industry veteran who has seen it all, referred to the LG TV rolling up and down like a piece of paper as “insanity.”
You can see Katzmaier’s video of the LG TV here.
However, because of the technical complexity (the LG rollable set) and the size (the Samsung ‘Wall TV’), it’s likely that both products will remain convention showcases for sometime rather than retail lures.
Of course, it’s quite common at CES for products that may never actually be sold to generate so much interest.
While many ‘real-life’ products do make their debut at CES, the show (i;e – the media and PR executives) tends to overemphasize items that are merely window dressing. (Also see: LG’s OLED Canyon.)
* New Roku TVs were everywhere at CES, but where was Amazon’s Fire TV?
The Verge notes that new 2018 televisions (from Hisense, TCL) with Roku inside received considerable attention on the show floor. However, the site’s Chris Welch wonders why Amazon didn’t announce similar TV partnerships at CES for its Fire TV operating system.
“As far as I know, there’s not a single TV announced at this year’s show that comes with Fire TV OS as its software,” Welch writes.
Of course, Amazon has a history of doing things at a time of its choosing rather being dictated to by a mere convention attended by 180,000 people. But it is a bit surprising that the company isn’t pushing its Fire TV service more aggressively, at least not at CES. Amazon did heavily promote the Alexa digital voice assistant in Vegas, but not the Fire TV.
* Hulu unveiled a new interface for its live TV guide.
TechCrunch.com writes that Hulu unveiled a new look for the on-screen guide for its live TV service.
According to TechCrunch.com:
“The new interface includes features designed in response to user feedback, including a Live TV guide for quickly navigating through what’s currently airing, as well as more tools that will help Hulu to better suggest content you actually like, while removing items you don’t…A better Live TV experience is an important goal for Hulu because today’s users aren’t watching that much live TV via the current interface, as it turns out.”
The site says Hulu is targeting a spring 2018 for the new interface, but would not release photos because the page is still in development.
* TV executives expressed concern that consumers are overusing ‘free trial’ offers from streaming services.
Broadcasting & Cable reports that several network executives expressed alarm at the show that users of services such as DIRECTV Now, HBO Now, Showtime, Sling TV and PlayStation Vue are jumping from one ‘free trial’ to another.
The live streaming services usually offer a free trial period, ranging from one week to one month, to encourage people to try them. However, at a panel discussion entitled, ‘The Disruption of Internet TV: Programming Everywhere,’ some company officials said there’s evidence that many people never begin paying, not ever intend to. They are content with using the service for the free trial period, and then shifting to another one to take advantage of its free trial.
Considering that there are now so many streaming services, a savvy consumer could theoretically go months watching quality content without ever paying a dime.
“That phenomenon, sometimes termed ‘offer surfing,’ is creating a ‘tension there that needs to get solved over time, said Sherry Brennan, senior vice president for distribution at Fox Networks,” writes Broadcasting & Cable.
* Sony’s 2018 X900F LCD 4K TV series, which includes local dimming, will feature sizes from 49 inches to a whopping 85 inches.
Sony’s X900E series in 2017 stopped at 75 inches, but the company is expanding this year’s 4K line to include the bigger set. CNET reports that the 2018 models will also include Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range compatibility (via a firmware update sometime during the year) and as well as standard HDR10 support.
As is often the case with CES product announcement, no launch dates or pricing information was released.
(Note: Local dimming, which is included in the Sony X900F series, enhances a LCD’s picture by dimming the elements on the screen that should be dimmed while increasing the brightness where the brightness should be emphasized. The overall effect is a more realistic, accurate picture.)
* Sony introduces a $30,000 4K Short-Throw Projector
Sony introduced a new 4K short-throw projector that can display a 4K image up to 120 inches. Designed to be positioned roughly 10 feet away from the screen, the projector also comes with a ‘Glass Sound’ speaker system that pushes sound out in a 360 angle. Tweaktown.com writes that the sound is designed to ‘bounce’ off the wall the projector is facing.
The company is expected to launch the projector in the spring, in case you have that $30,000 handy.
* Sony unveils a new OLED TV to follow its 2017 model.
Sony, which was a pioneer in developing OLED display technology before bowing out for several years, last year finally introduced its first large-screen OLED set, called the A1. The TV generated strong reviews with some critics saying it matched LG’s OLEDs for both picture and feature-set. Considering that LG has been selling OLEDs now for six years, that’s high praise indeed.
Sony thisweek introduced its 2018 OLED model, called the A8F. TrustedReviews.com says the set is a dazzler, but the TV doesn’t seem to offer much new from the 2017 series.
“Aesthetics aside, there is virtually no change,” the site writes. “We’re looking at the same OLED panel as last year. The Acoustic Surface technology, which vibrates the screen to create sound and negates the need for speakers, remains a key feature. The Sony A8F/AF8 OLED will continue to use last year’s excellent 4K HDR Processor X1 Extreme, and Android TV makes a return.”
The new Sony OLED TV will be released in the spring, but no pricing information was released.
* Panasonic also unveils a new line of OLED TVs.
Panasonic also joined LG last year in embracing the ultra-thin OLED and now the company is promising a 2018 series with an even better picture.
The British online newspaper, The Independent, says it got a test spin of the new sets and came away impressed.
“The new screens promise to display exceptionally low levels of black on-screen, as little as 2.5 per cent or five per cent. In practical terms, this means the control over the shadows on the display and the level of detail within the shadows is extremely strong. Colours, too, have had an upgrade,” the newspaper writes.
* Intel promises new camera technology to capture every angle of play.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich gave a keynote speech in which he certainly captured the attention of sports fans by saying his company has developed a new technology that could record every angle of play in a sporting event.
CNET writes that Krzanich said Intel-powered cameras could be stationed in every conceivable viewpoint so fans could view, and review, every play in unprecedented detail.
“Krzanich showed a packed crowd at the Monte Carlo resort’s Park Theater how Intel uses dozens of high-definition cameras stationed all around a football field to capture just about every angle of a play, allowing broadcasters to provide recaps from the point of view of anyone on the field. Using this technology, viewers will be able to watch a game in VR from any vantage point they’d like, with fantasy stats overlaid on their displays. These 360-degree views are created using so-called volumetric data, populated by voxels, which are pixels in a 3D space,” CNET writes.
See this CNET article for more information.
* Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic unveil 8K TVs, but why?
The Hollywood Reporter notes that several TV makers unveiled new 8K TVs at the show, but adds that it may be years before they reach many homes. Despite 8K offering 16 times the resolution of an HD picture — compared to 4K, which is four times greater — the industry is still catching up with 4K.
It’s highly unlikely content companies will invest significant dollars in developing 8K programming in the near future when they are still working on creating 4K shows.
“Anything will look amazing on these ultra high-quality displays, but if you want to watch true 8K pictures on an 8K TV, don’t hold your breath. It’s not happening anytime soon — at least not in the U.S. and most of the world,” writes The Hollywood Reporter.
Of course, CES is often more of a showcase than a realistic view of what’s coming soon to your local TV store. The 8K sets will look fantastic in each company’s booth and, consequently, draw visitors. And that’s why they are there.
* Sony introduces a 4K Blu-ray player that supports two HDR formats.
Yes, more from Sony. The Verge writes that Sony’s new UBP-X700 Blu-ray player will support 4K Blu-ray discs with HDR10 or Dolby Vision HDR. The company is throwing in Dolby Atmos sound, too, so what’s not to like.
Sony said it would release the new player in the spring, but would not give pricing details.
* Samsung doubles-down on its proprietary picture technology, QLED (stands for, “Quantum Light Emitting Diote”) which the company says will offer a picture even better than LG’s OLED sets.
The electronics giant first introduced QLED in 2017, but says it has improved the technology in a number of ways.
“The company has completely redesigned the LCD panel to better block interior light leakage, an Achilles heel of LCD displays,” writes CNET. “It uses what Samsung calls a scattering pattern to control the beam form and widen viewing angles, addressing another LCD weakness. And it takes on OLED’s biggest advantage — perfectly dark black areas that create an infinite contrast — with a full-array local dimming LED backlight and an “antiblooming algorithm” aimed at illuminating only the parts of the image that need it.”
* Samsung unveils a 146-inch TV that the company likes to call, ‘the wall.’
(As noted above), the monster-sized set is created by assembling rows of square Micro-LED blocks. Due to the technical complexity involved, and the cost of mass production, it’s unlikely the TV will find a place in your home, or anyone else’s home, anytime soon. But it did generate a few oohs and aahs at the company’s press event.
“The so-called Micro-LED model with its 146-inch screen…is clearly – and unsurprisingly – the furthest away from becoming a consumer proposition,” Forbes writes. “However, despite rather prosaically being dubbed The Wall by the Samsung marketing folk, it really did provide Samsung with a stunning way to open its 2018 CES account – and showed that while a consumer micro-LED TV might not be quite ready yet, it may also be a lot closer than you think.”
*Samsung unveils an 85-inch 8K TV with artificial intelligence.
Talk about not quite ready yet: Samsung’s 85-inch set promises to use the built-in ‘AI’ to convert any video to 8K. Considering that some consumers are still struggling to discern the benefits of 4K, buying an 8K TV driving by artificial intelligence seems more likely the opening scene of a future Black Mirror episode.
CNET is one of several tech sites who’s expressing some doubt about whether the 8K set will do what it claims, not to mention if it will ever find a price and/or a place on a retail store’s shelf.
“With a futuristic form factor that resembles previous “easel” style high-end Samsung TVs, the Q9S’s claim to fame is more pixels than 4K TVs. Of course, more pixels doesn’t necessarily mean a better picture, especially since 4K at normal seating distances already approaches the limits of human visual acuity,” writes CNET.
* Consumer Technology Association says consumer spending on music and video streaming will rise by 35 percent this year.
The CTA, the trade group that runs the annual CEA, issued a new study predicting that spending on services such as DIRECTV Now, Hulu, Spotify and Pandora will jump to $19.5 billion in 2018.
The study also predicts that half of TVs sold in 2018 will be 4K sets.
* Haier says it has struck a deal with Google to offer the Android TV platform to 2018 sets.
Previously, the budget TV maker had focused on including built-in Google Chromecast service in its Smart TVs. The new Android TV sets will include 4K and be launched sometime in mid-2018.
*LG introduces a 65-inch OLED TV that rolls up like a piece of paper.
The concept of making displays that are so thin and flexible that they can roll up like a newspaper has been in the works for years. But LG took the idea to the max by introducing a 65-inch OLED model that, yes, rolls up like a paper.
BGR.com notes that LG seems a bit uncertain itself why someone would need a TV that rolls up like a paper. In its press release, it says the TV would save space and add portability to your TV design choices.
Of course, like most new CES products, we don’t have a launch date or price.
— Phillip Swann