Greg Tarr On Jan 8 2013 - 12:00am
CES Gets Glimpse Of Advanced TV's Future
LAS VEGAS – Once again, next-generation television displays including Ultra High-Definition (a.k.a. 4K), OLED and glasses-free 3DTVs will take center stage at International CES as manufacturers plant the seeds for a new crop of big-screen money makers in the decade to come.
As it happens, it will be more unusual for a TV manufacturer to not have announced a so-called 4K Ultra HD television than to stick solely with the continued volume producer at 1080p.
Companies including LG, Sony, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba and Vizio are all making Ultra HD announcements this week. In fact, LG, Sony and JVC Professional already have Ultra HD LED LCD TVs on the market.
While those early entrants look to expand their advanced TV SKU offerings in 2013, a legion of new set makers is jumping into the fray.
Companies including Hisense, TCL and Westinghouse Digital are not only adding Ultra HD LCD TVs at the show, they are announcing the largest screen sizes for the segment to date, at 110 inches.
As this went to press, no one had released pricing on any of the new models. Sony and LG’s current 84- inch LCD TVs sell for $20,000 and $25,000, respectively, but expect those starting prices to start coming down significantly, and soon.
“4K should be dubbed the sport resolution, as we think that is the strongest value proposition a 4K set offers consumers right now,” said Tamaryn Pratt, Quixel Research principal. “An ultra-large screen with multiple 1080p windows for sports will be a hit with the wealthy sports fan right out of the gate. That is a niche market, but could generate a significant buzz with creative advertising. Additionally, with multiple 4K manufacturers (vs. OLED) as well as the business to business market, the 4K segment will generate more robust volume to offset the higher consumer prices. If the price can come down significantly in the shorter term, the 4K models could indeed supplant adoption of OLED sets.”
Westinghouse and TCL will have a range of Ultra HD screen sizes in 2013. The Westinghouse sets, like many of the 4K sets being announced this week, feature 3,840 by 2,160 resolution – roughly four times FullHD 1080p. Westinghouse Digital’s 4K models will include the 50-, 55-, 65- and 110-inch screen sizes and will include native 120Hz refresh rates. All will be available in the first quarter – the 110-incher as a custom order,said Rey Roque, Westinghouse Digital marketing senior VP.
“Our new UHDTV lineup, and the value that it offers to consumers, will change expectations across the entire TV marketplace,” said Roque. “Westinghouse Digital was at the forefront of providing 1080p TVs to consumers and now is positioned to provide Ultra High-Definition TVs to a broader market. We believe that consumers will be amazed by the experience they can expect from these displays and delighted with the affordability.”
Hisense tipped its hand before the show when it announced three new 4K edge-lit LED LCD TVs in a line it calls the XT-880 series. Screen sizes will include 50 inches, 58 inches and 65 inches. All offer 3D capability, come with Internet access (built-in Wi-Fi), are equipped with an ARM dual-core microprocessor running on Android’s 4.0 OS, and support gesture recognition and voice control.
Hisense will also show its XT900-series Ultra HD TVs in the 84- and 110-inch screen sizes. Toshiba will introduce an 84-inch Ultra HD 4K LED edgelit LCD TV with IPS glass.
“4K is a chance for Toshiba to showcase picture quality and chassis technology again, after not having done that for the past couple of years,” Scott Ramirez, Toshiba TV marketing VP, told TWICE.
Meanwhile, THX will announce a new certification standard it has developed for Ultra High-Definition, and Sharp’s new 60-inch LC-60HQ10 4K LCD TV will be unveiled as “the world’s first THX 4K Certified Display” at the show. The 60-inch model features Integrative Cognitive Creation (ICC) image reconstruction technology to convert standard HD content into a 4K by 2K picture.
THX 4K Certification is said to ensure that image quality and consistency maintains content accuracy of the original HD image.
THX said displays seeking certification need to pass more than 400 tests and measurements to ensure HD and Ultra HD images are presented accurately. For example, THX said its certification evaluates color precision and lucidity, and analyzes image detail to make certain essential film elements such as grain and texture do not disappear.
Samsung will show an 85-inch Ultra HD LCD TV (model N85S9000) with a 3.2-channel, 120-watt sound system, and a new Smart Hub employing five onscreen panels with an OnTV program guide; available movies, TV shows and photos; videos and music; and social and smart-TV apps. The set will also embed its S-Recommendation lists, and will offer improved Voice Interaction technology. Sony will introduce 55- and 65-inch 4K Ultra HD sets to join its 84-inch model this year.
Sony has been supplying customers who purchased its current set with a native 4K server (hard drive) to show select movies and trailers in full resolution. The company is also expected to make announcements about forthcoming 4K content options to enhance that offering. Although OLED was all the buzz at 2012 International CES after LG and Samsung unveiled 55-inch models, the energy has since settled to a mere mumble this year as manufacturers failed to get a product to market in the United States by the end of the year.
As CES approached, LG was still gearing up to bring its first OLED TV to the U.S. market, and was planning to show two models at this week’s CES, both of which offer 55-inch screen size. Models include the EX9900 and the EA8800. The latter features an all-in-one panel, while the EX9900 has a separate outboard box for most of the electronics in order to produce the thinnest screen possible.
“OLED is stunning and so is the price tag,” noted Quix-el’s Pratt. “Much of the delay is due to the limited supply chain and the challenges in commercializing large screen OLED. It will take a significant investment for several of the key component makers to really make this a mass market product in the short term. Even with a large investment, consumers have to decide if OLED is really worth paying extra. This is not a switch from analog to digital or standard TV to flat TV. It is, however, an incremental change in technology that luckily will coincide with the coming replacement of the first flat TVs that shipped to the masses.”
“OLED is the future of TV. Unfortunately, it’s the future of TV and not the present,” said Toshiba’s Ramirez. “From a picture quality and form factor point of view it has a huge number of benefits, but the problem is that it’s just not ready. We’re going to wait, and, best case, we don’t think that’s going to be until at least 2014.”
Tim Alessi, LG product development director, noted there have been production challenges to getting the company’s first 55-inch OLED ready for a U.S. market entry, and “getting mass production up and running on OLED technology has been the first priority.”
In the meantime, LG continues to see strong results from its 84-inch Ultra HD LED LCD TV. As for the future of both 4K and OLED, Alessi told TWICE: “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect 4K and OLED to merge at some point, but we’re still at the first step. For now, we’ve been taking the approach that 4K gives the most benefit in the larger screen sizes. At 55 inches, 1080p is probably sufficient for a great viewing experience. As we start to get into the 65-, 70- and 84-inch screen sizes, that’s where 4K probably derives the most benefit.”
LG will show new Ultra HD LCD TV models in the 55- and 65-inch sizes at the show, to join its current 84-inch monster. As a prominent supplier of 4K panels to the industry, LG Display said it is “poised to dominate the emerging UHD premium display market.”
The UHD displays also integrate the company’s Film Patterned Retarder (FPR) passive glasses 3D technology.