It's all about Ultra HD and OLED from here on in folks
For fairly obvious reasons, televisions tend to play a starring role at the CES and 2014 has been no different.2014 will be a transitional year for the industry, with the true advent of 4K as a mainstream consumer product on the horizon and the tantalising prospect of OLED waiting in the wings.
In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find many 1080p panels on the showfloors in Vegas and there’s barely a plasma in sight, despite LG and Samsung confirming they would keep the technology on a while longer.
So it should come as little surprise that our list entirely compromises displays featuring what until recently were considered futuristic technologies that are making their marks in the here and now
2014 is an all-change year in the world of televsionsSamsung 8 Series
Samsung may have disappointed us slightly with their iterative approach to their TV ranges, this year, but since they’ve been blazing trails for so long, we can forgive them and what they did put in show looked excellent.
We were all really impressed with Samsung’s 2013 F9000 Ultra HD TV and the Korean’s looked to have made some worthwhile improvements with the new range. Even the curve works on the very large screens but we’ll stick with a flatty to open up our list.
The UH8500 comes in choices of 65 and 75-inch (at least in the States) and produces superb black levels and a new bit of processing that can improve perceived detail. There's also a Ultra HD calibration tool that Samsung will make available to professional calibrators, which should allow the most to be got from it.
It will also come with the latest version of the One Connect which now brings HDMI 2.0 connectivity, HEVC decoding, Prime Pass HDCP 2.2 and MHL 3.0 to the party and should standards evolve – and they will – it’s upgradable to keep up with the times.
More evolution than revolution from Samsung but they all looked very solid.Sony X9 Series
We could pick the 4K X9 based on the fact that Sony has had the balls to create a TV with a bit of girth. Manufacturers had been chasing the Size 0 1080p panel for years but UHD has added a bit of meat back on the bones and Sony has taken advantage by equipping the X9 with some really excellent magnetic fluid speakers in to the bottom of its wedge-shaped design.
Not only that, but the new X-tended Dynamic Range Pro processing really helps deliver some stunning contrast performance and the Reality Creation Pro scaling and triluminous edge-lighting look more than the equal of last year’s equivalents.
Sony has also been working the smart features too and the new Bravias have a much snappier user interface with which to marshal all of those Smart TV goodies. Not only that, but these TVs will able to take advantage of Sony’s new PlayStation Now, PS3 games streaming service which will allow you to play classic PS3 titles from the cloud.
The X9 will ship in the USA with 79-,65- and 55-inch versions and there’s also a monster, 84-inch X95 coming too. .Kudos to Sony for daring to be differentPanasonic 800 Series
We feared that the end of plasma might herald the eventual wind-down of Panasonic’s TV division altogether, unless they could produce an affordable OLED – and fast! Whilst they had nothing more than a prototype curved 55-inch OLED TV, they did certainly have a surprise up their sleeves with their 4K LED LCD AX800.
The AX800 employs some nifty backlighting and local dimming technology that saw it hold its own in a closed-doors, head-to-head with last year’s magnificent ZT60 plasma TV, delivering very deep blacks whilst still holding on to details in the darker areas.
Impressively, the demo model – still in prototype form – seemed almost totally free of the uniformity issues which dogged their first Ultra HD TV, the WT600, so the new Studio Master Panel looks to be doing the trick.
Panasonic gave us no indication on expected pricing for the 800 series but you can bet your bottom roulette chip that this is not going to be cheap. Panasonic needs to be conscious that the prices of 4K TVs are already dropping dramatically.
The 800 Series looks to be a quantum leap over the WT600Vizio P and R-Series
It’s a bit of a pity that Vizio doesn’t have a European arm of operations as what they have announced at CES 2013 is most certainly going to shake up the US market.
First, they brought out their entry-level P-Series of Ultra HD TVs, with prices starting below $1,000 for the 50-inch version, ranging up to $2,599.99 for the 70-inch model. The technical specs sound very good for the money, too, and include full array backlighting amongst the highlights but it’s more for what the Vizio P-Series means to the format, rather than the TVs themselves, as to our reasons for choosing.
Vizio are an enormous player in the US TV hardware market and carry a considerable amount of consumer trust. We’ve seen a number of Ultra HD TVs from Chinese brands that carry the same sort of pricing but none will bring 4K to the mainstream like the Vizio .With 4K adoption set to soar, the competition to get native content out there to watch on them should intensify, which is obviously good news for everyone.
The R-(Reference) Series was announced shortly after the budget range broke cover and whilst obviously not as cost-effective, it was a real statement. The spec sheet reads like that of a very high-end TV and Vizio laid out their intents clearly by announcing there would be a 120-inch model, the largest 4K TV in existence by some 10-inches.
It looks as though Vizio is looking at the idea of ‘premiumisation’ with the R-Series - who could blame them?- and the dawn of Ultra HD is looking like it will strengthen their position in the States only further.
Vizio will really ruffle some feathers with their Ultra HD pricing strategy.And Vizio, if you’re looking in, forget the rest of Europe with its peculiar languages, cutoms and awkward regionalisation issues, just knock out a few TVs with compatible tuners and the ability to display 50Hz for the UK. We won’t tell anyone.
LG 75-inch Flexible OLED TV
The idea of curved TV screens is a bit of a mixed bag, as far as we are concerned. We can see the sense and usefulness with truly large screens, where image distortion from off-axis viewing is not such a concern but on anything sub 60-inches, or so, we really can’t see the point.
But what if we had the choice of both bendy and flat? Why, that’s exactly what this slice of LG ingenuity delivers. Users can opt for a conventional flatscreen experience or inject a customisable degree of curvature using buttons on the remote.
This is no vapour-ware product - it's Science-Fact.(Please note, try as we might, we just couldn't get a photo without a pretty girl in shot, sorry)
What’s more, this isn’t just some vapour-ware product placed on the showfloor to bag headlines and hype but a future commercial reality for LG, later in 2014. Clearly, it won’t come cheap and it’s estimated to hit retail for around $20,000 but prices will come down as the technology and manufacturing processes mature. We’ve seen examples of that countless times in the AV world so there’s no reason to think this tech is any different.
The 75-inch OLED is also equipped with LG’s latest webOS platform, which takes Smart TV to the next level, making the display act something like a smartphone or tablet where everything is treated like an app. During our demo time with the webOS TVs, it was impossible not to be impressed with both the clean look of the interface and the incredibly snappy switching between the apps. The entire LG webOS range could really break the idea of the Smart TV as central to the living room entertainment experience like no others that have gone before.
Truly, LG’s 75-inch flexy OLED is science-fiction made science-fact and an undeniably ice-cool product which probably takes the mantle of our ‘TV of CES 2014’.
We’ve given you our televisual highlights of this year’s CES, why not share yours in the comments section below?
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