International CES: It's a Warp

No, that’s not a typo. But “It’s a Wrap” is such a “Consumer Electronics Show” cliche. Warp, however, actually sounds more appropriate, as it hints of the warp speed needed to cover an event attended by 160,000 of Sound & Vision’s biggest fans. And it also fits the Star Trekish nature of the event.

Even the name Consumer Electronics Show is so 1990s. As the Consumer Electronics Association (which runs the show) would have it, the event formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show is now officially just the International CES, with the term CES standing for nothing in particular. Sort of like KFC, where as we all know you can’t get fried chicken any more!

Nevertheless, everyone knows that CES is a candy land overflowing with consumer electronics. The show is so big that it’s impossible for a generalist to cover it from top to bottom in four days. It now showcases all manner of goodies in need of either an electrical outlet or a battery. By the time you’ve walked 10 minutes inside one of its many doors you’re blitzed by wearable electronics like health monitors, robots, drones, 3D printing, automotive electronics, washers and dryers (really)—even driverless cars. Yes, Mercedes featured one of those in its booth, but wasn’t quite ready to demonstrate it. By the time you (not me!) get to the 2050 International CES, however, you’ll likely be able to hop into a one- or two-person driverless car, ask for the Samsung booth, and be whisked there in a flash!

But audio and video remain the stars of the show, at least for us. Video certainly holds center stage with the biggest TV names like Sony, Samsung, LG, and Panasonic. JVC showed new sets as well, made by a company called Amtran that licenses the JVC name for flat screen sets. Chinese manufacturers TCL, Hisense, Changhong, and Haier were there as well, all trying to establish a presence in the U.S. market under their own names. (It’s no secret, however, that many of the LCD panels used by better-known TV makers are now made in China, perhaps by one or more of these companies).

The big video news at the show was the dominance of 4K. I don’t recall a single promotion for new 2K sets. Though there are still plenty of 2K designs available, they (like 3D!) are no longer news. LG led the 4K advance with seven OLED models and more LCD designs that I could mention. Samsung made its own news with its high-end, "SUHD" LCD models using nanocrystals (Samsung’s proprietary version of Quantum Dots). These models (at 65- and 88-inches) also feature High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology.

LG also showed a prototype of an OLED HDR set, but Samsung appears ready to market its nanocrystal SUHD sets as soon as next month. Of course you won’t be able to take advantage of many of the features of this set with current program sources, but it’s said to be fully ready for UltraHD Blu-ray discs and players we’re likely to see toward the end of the year. That’s more than can be said of most of the 4K UltraHD sets currently available.

Both the LG and the Samsung HDR sets looked fantastic, particularly the 88-inch (curved, natch!) Samsung SUHD model. But as with the term CES, there’s no stated meaning for the “S” in SUHD. Super? Special? Samsung? No one (outside of Samsung) knows.

It’s important to emphasize that nanocrystals and Quantum Dots are not new types of video displays. In their current form they’re merely a new type of backlighting for LCD sets. But they’re said to offer greater brightness, a potentially wider color gamut, draw less power, and (potentially, not immediately) be cheaper to produce than LEDs. They’re not a cure, however, for those performance areas where OLEDs (and until recently the now vanished plasmas) excel in ways that LCDs do not: great blacks (except in the best LED/LCD local dimmers), good off-axis performance, and motion blur.

There’s never much projector activity at CES (that’s were the September CEDIA EXPO dominates), but Sony did show a sub-$10,000 4K projector that should be in the shops as, or shortly after, I write this. In fact, it’s available at an $8,000 promotional price through February.

Most of the serious audio action was happening, as it always does, at the Venetian Hotel. For that I refer you to S&V’s show blogs elsewhere on this site, which covers audio (and video as well) in more detail than is possible here. Enjoy!

Traveler's picture

As soon as sets are available for review, would S&V please do a side by side comparison of QD and OLED in the 4k format?

HomeTeam's picture

So I guess no word on how energy efficient these things are going to be?