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CES 2013-Full Coverage

ARTICLE INDEX

Scott Wilkinson Press Conferences

Sony 4K/UHD LED-LCD and OLED

Last year, Sony was first out of the 4K/UHD gate with the XBR-84X900, which comes with an Xperia tablet for control and a computer-based server that provides native UHD content. New at CES are two new members of the X900 line, seen here, with screens measuring 55 and 65 inches and scheduled to be available in the spring.

Even more important, Sony announced the world's first 4K distribution service that, starting this summer, will make native UHD content available via downloading. Also announced was a prototype UHD consumer camcorder that joins Sony's lineup of professional 4K video cameras, reflecting the company's commitment to facilitating the creation of 4K content.

The biggest surprise of the day was Sony's unveiling of a 56-inch UHD OLED TV prototype, seen here. Unfortunately, it arrived on stage and immediately stopped working! Engineers scrambled to fix it, which they were able to do after the press conference ended.

One interesting announcement was a new LCD illumination technology called Triluminos, which will be implemented on Sony's 2013 1080p and UHD TVs. The light from white LEDs mounted along the screen's edges is split into red, green, and blue components by tiny prisms, resulting is a much wider color gamut. This is a bad idea in my book—a display should reproduce the color gamut used to create the content.

After the press conference, I took a look at a demo of Sony's 4K upscaling next to a 1080p display of the same size. I saw very little difference between them—the upscaled image was slightly sharper, and I was no scaling artifacts, but the difference was not dramatic overall.

Samsung 4K/UHD, LED-LCD

Naturally, Samsung announced a 4K/UHD LED-LCD flat panel—this one measuring 85 inches, one inch more than the LG, Sony, Toshiba, and other 84-inchers. And unlike virtually all the others, it employs full-array LED backlighting, not edge-lighting, though no one at the press conference could verify if it implements local dimming. As you can see in this photo with Joe Stinziano, Executive VP of Samsung Electronics America, the panel is mounted in an easel-like frame, and it can tilt and slide up and down. Also incorporated into this frame is an enhanced sound system.

Other announcements included the F8000 flagship 1080p LED-LCD seen here, with screen sizes up to 75 inches. It's the first Samsung TV with a quad-core video processor that enables advanced Smart Hub functionality, including a feature called S-Recommendation, which recommends content based on viewing habits, and natural-language voice control. The recently announced Evolution Kit adds all the new features to 2012 Samsung TVs.

Of course, Samsung's big announcement last year was a 55-inch OLED TV, which was nowhere to be seen at today's press conference. It was mentioned in conjunction with a new feature called MultiView that lets two people wearing special glasses see different images at full HD resolution thanks to OLED's super-fast switching speed. However, nothing was said about ship dates or pricing.

Panasonic Plasma, LED-LCD, No 4K/UHD

Interestingly, Panasonic did not announce a 4K/UHD flat panel, though it was hinted that such an announcement might be made at President Kazuhiro Tsuga's keynote address Tuesday morning. During the press conference, the company announced its 2013 lineup of 16 plasmas and 16 LED-LCDs, both with screen sizes up to 65 inches.

The flagship plasma is now the ZT60 (on the right in the photo above), lowering the VT60 to the number two spot, followed by the ST60. Among the LED-LCDs, the WT60 (on the left above) is the flagship, followed by the DT60, both of which use IPS+ LCD panels and 2x backlight scanning to improve motion blur.

Like most companies, Panasonic touted its advanced smart TV functionality, including My Home Screen, which integrates content sources and makes recommendations based on viewing habits for each member of a household. A built-in camera recognizes each user and automatically calls up their home screen.

Also announced was Panasonic's latest Blu-ray player, the DMP-BDT230, which provides access to online content and Miracast wireless transmission from smartphones to the TV. Another interesting source device is the DMP-MST60 streaming video player with a web browser and Miracast capabilities.

Sharp LED-LCD, 4K/UHD

Sharp specializes in very large-screen LED-LCD TVs, including several measuring 90 inches, making them the largest mainstream flat panels sold today. At the company's press conference, 21 new models of 1080p LED-LCD TVs were announced with screen sizes of 60, 70, 80, and 90 inches, as seen here, and ranging in price from $1000 to $10,000.

New features this year include the next generation of Quattron technology, which adds a yellow subpixel to red, green, and blue. The new version is available in the top 10 models and implements some sort of subpixel processing that is said to increase the apparent resolution, though I didn't quite understand how this works; more research is clearly indicated. Also announced was a feature called Super Bright that combines hardware and software to detect bright parts of the image and boost the contrast—a difficult trick with LED edge-lighting, which is used by all but the 90-inchers. (Interestingly, the 90-inch models have full-array LED backlighting, but they do not implement local dimming.)

As with most TV manufacturers, Sharp announced an upgrade to its "smart TV" functionality—dubbed Smart Central in this case—with a new dual-core processor and a web browser with Flash and HTML5, which lets the TV split the screen to display both TV and web images simultaneously. Also available is a control app for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets as well as a "beam" app that lets the mobile device become a wireless source. A new Wallpaper mode displays pre-installed artwork using very little power, and the built-in sound system now includes an integrated subwoofer and Yamaha DSP.

Not to be left out of the 4K/UHD frenzy, Sharp introduced two different types of such displays with screen sizes of 60, 70, and 85 inches. Seen here is the ICC Purious model, so named after its Integrated Cognitive Creation image processor, developed by I-cubed Research, that is said to reproduce the cognitive process by which the brain interprets visual images. (Where "Purious" came from, I have no idea.) It's also the first UHD flat panel to be THX certified. The ICC Purious will be available this summer.

The other UHD panel, seen here, bears the Aquos moniker. This one incorporates a new screen technology called Moth Eye, a nanoscale cone structure on the screen's surface that mimics a moth's eye and is said to virtually eliminate glare while preserving color brightness. The Aquos UHD will be available in the second half of 2013.

As if that weren't enough, Sharp also announced—but didn't show at the press conference—an 85-inch 8K (7680x4320) prototype panel. That's 33 megapixels, folks! It's in the Sharp booth displaying native 8K content, so I'll definitely be taking a close look.

LG OLED, 4K/UHD

Monday was press day at CES, and as always, it started bright and early with LG's press conference. A big deal was made of the fact that LG has started selling its 55-inch OLED TV, seen here, this month in the "global market" (though not in the US until March). The price has risen from the previously announced $10,000 to $12,000.

Would you pay that much for a 55-inch OLED when you could get an 84-inch UHD LED-LCD for $20,000? That's the price tag for LG's 84-inch 84LM9600, seen here, which was joined at the press conference by smaller versions at 55 and 65 inches. The company made a point of mentioning that it's working with content providers and broadcasters such as Disney, Activision, and Google to make sure that UHD content becomes available sooner than later.

Speaking of Google, LG announced the third generation of its Google TVs, which includes seven models in five screen sizes. And plasma was not forsaken, with three series in three sizes for 2013. A new "magic remote" offers voice and gestural control, a distinct trend this year.

All of LG's new Blu-ray players are 3D capable and come with the new magic remote. They also offer full web browsers and a private-sound mode that sends the audio to a smartphone via Bluetooth.

Finally, a new laser-illuminated, ultra-short-throw projector was announced but not shown. It can be placed only 22 inches from a screen measuring up to 100 inches diagonally. I hope to see it in LG's booth later in the week.

Toshiba 4K/UHD LED-LCD TV

Toshiba got a head start on press day at CES by hosting a cocktail party Sunday evening at Mix restaurant on the 64th floor of THEhotel at Mandalay Bay. In addition to yummy hors d'oeuvres and free-flowing booze, the Toshiba's latest products were on hand, and guests were given an update on the company's marketing strategy for 2013, including a shift from the term "smart TV" to "cloud TV," wireless capabilities, a new user interface, a recommendation engine based on what you watch, and lots of mobile apps.

This year, Toshiba is offering five 1080p LED-LCD TV models, each available in a variety of screen sizes up to 65 inches, as well as three sizes (58, 65, and 84 inches) of its 4K/UltraHD L9300, seen above. As you may already know, UltraHD is the moniker given to the consumer-oriented "4K" resolution of 3840x2160 to distinguish it from commercial-cinema 4K (4096x2160).

Toshiba claims its 4K upscaling processor is one generation ahead of most other manufacturers with a quad-core chip, though many companies touted similar power in Monday's press conferences. Also announced were four new Blu-ray players, including the flagship BDX6400 that upscales 1080p to UHD using the same processor.

It's CES Time!

Now that the holiday lights are put away and the new-year celebration is just a dim, hung-over memory, it's time to head to Las Vegas for the annual geekfest known as CES (aka the Consumer Electronics Show). I'll be there with 150,000 of my closest friends, drooling over all the new home-theater products that manufacturers hope consumers will buy in 2013.

This year, I'm very happy to be covering press day for Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity. Starting at 8:00 AM (ouch!), hundreds of journalists and bloggers will squeeze into one huge ballroom after another to listen to boring speeches about each company's exalted position in the market, often delivered by execs for whom English is definitely not their native tongue. Then, we finally get what we came for—flashy product unveilings accompanied by cute girls doing their best Vanna White impression.

Unlike years past, the press conferences are being held at the Mandalay Bay hotel. I have no idea why the show organizers moved them from the Venetian, which has become very familiar to all of us in the press corps over the last several years. Perhaps the ballrooms are even bigger, which would be a good thing, since the recent blitz of bloggers has made it almost impossible for long-time journalists to even get into these events.

I'll be attending the press conferences presented by LG, Sharp, Panasonic, HDMI Licensing, Samsung, and Sony, the last of which is held in Sony's humongous booth at the Las Vegas Convention Center. I'm sure there'll be shuttles from the Mandalay Bay, but I'll have my car, making it easier to get over there and back to my hotel afterward. That evening, I'll write up what I learned and post it here in the Secrets Cave, so stay tuned for all the geeky goodness to come!