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Monday, January 12, 2009

CES 09 Overview - Part 2

I guess the number one product in terms of consumer electronics industry attention the last few years has been the television and this year was no exception. Aside from sleeping, watching TV is the one thing we consumers spend more time doing at home than anything else. So if you're going to spend that much time with a TV, you might as well get the best one that you can, and CES had plenty to choose from (as always).

As with my other overviews, I'm looking at the broad trends here so I won't necessarily mention specific products unless there's something unusual about them. Let's get started.
  • Last year when it came to TV monitors, the theme was "How big can you get?", but this year it shifted in a different direction to "How thin can you get it?" Just about every major manufacturer at the show exhibited a thin TV that ranged from 1 inch thick, to Panasonic's amazing 1/3 inch ultra-thin plasma (see below). Of course, the big problem here is with a TV that thin, the cables become a problem as they're thicker than the screen itself. Let's see who steps up with a solution for that.

1/3 Inch Plasma TV
The arrow is pointing to the edge of the unit.
  • Panasonic also was the star with the largest TV as well with their giant 150 inch plasma. I know every guy wants to run out and buy one right now but remember that this sucker will barely fit against a the wall of a normal room with a 10 foot ceiling. That being said, the picture looked great. But the fact of the matter is that every manufacturer had a 100+ inch TV available this year, and large size TVs weren't anything particularly special anymore.
150 Inches of Panasonic
The ultimate for the couch potato.
  • Every manufacturer had several models that were able to connect to the internet, and many already had content deals with Netflix, Yahoo, Flickr or YouTube in place. This is one trend I'm really looking forward to.
A Web-Connected Sharp Aquos
It looks like this is TV's future.
  • In general, TV monitor picture quality just seems to be getting better and better, and I thought it was already really good. Contrast ratios climb ever higher, with models as high as 2,000,000 to 1. But the biggest trend here was increased picture refresh rates that went as high as 480Hz. This gives the monitor the ability to eliminate the motion blur that sometimes happens during action shots in HD.
  • 3D TV was around, but not like I thought it would be. It was treated more like a science project by the major manufacturers. Prediction: Next year this will be the big trend. This year, still too early.
  • There were a lot of new players in the television monitor space this year, at least ones that had large exhibits that I'd never heard of like Haier (the official TV of the NBA!!??) and Hisense. From China I presume?

    Anyone ever heard of these guys?
  • LED and LCD were the predominant picture technology formats this year. An interesting new category revealed LCD picture with an LED backlight, resulting in a smaller, more energy efficient model. There were some plasma's around but the percentage was a lot smaller than last year. In a related note, there was not one CRT to be found in the entire show. That technology is now officially dead and buried.
  • An interesting trend that I liked a lot were micro-projectors so small that you could fit one in the palm of your hand, yet they could still produce a 50 inch projection. Several manufacturers had an entry in this category.
  • Another big trend is the "green TV" or "Eco-friendly TV". Again, every manufacturer had some model line built around this theme. Basically what it means is that the TV draws a lot less power when operating, and/or eliminates the traditional stand-by mode so it doesn't draw any power when turned off.
  • Blu-Ray players were everywhere, with many monitors having players built-in. "BD-Live", with the player connected to the internet, was pretty universal this year. That being said, the profile of the technology was not as high as expected.
  • Gaming was also a big feature, with many units designed specifically with gaming in mind. I didn't spend much time looking at these as I was mostly repulsed by the fact that the attendees were playing Rock Band or Guitar Hero.
  • And finally, Sony was back with it's OLED screen technology, which brings the monitor thickness down to the width of 2 or 3 credit cards. They even showed one that was flexible, nearly bent in half and still showing a pretty good picture. The actual screen size is getting larger, but basically OLED is still a science project. Prediction: 2 or 3 years down the line this will be the big technology trend of the show.Sony OLED Monitor
Notice how thin

That's all for now. Next post - audio and home theater overview.




1 comment:

Phil Lelyveld said...

Good overview. I saw 3D everywhere, but that was because I was specifically looking for it.

On the low end of 3D, I loved the Minoru 3D webcam. I picked one up for the USC ETC 3D Lab. Really cute form factor, but too low rez for "Hollywood."

I also liked the MIT dermal sensor in the bunny wristband for measuring children's responses to stimulii in a non-threatening way.

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