CES 2017: What to Expect?

This 50th Anniversary Event promises to be the biggest ever

by hodg100 Dec 15, 2016 at 10:27 AM - Updated: Dec 28, 2016 at 3:27 PM

  • It's nearly that time again. No, we don't mean that Christmas is just around the corner; as any serious AV fan will tell you, the important winter event takes place in Las Vegas early in January. It's CES time...
    CES 2017 is only weeks away. So whilst most are concerning themselves with matters Christmas related, at this time of year the AV world is already plotting on how to get you to part with your money the following holiday season. And this year’s event in Las Vegas marks a milestone, as it’s the 50th anniversary of, arguably, the world’s leading consumer electronics show.

    This year’s technology trends have included High Dynamic Range (HDR) TVs with 4K Ultra HD resolution and wider colour gamuts (WCG), multiroom audio products, drones, media streaming boxes, the smart home and the internet of things (IoT), more drones and the continued popularity of smartphones and mobile devices.

    Since its start in 1967, CES has showcased an estimated 700,000 products. These include world-changing innovations such as the VCR (1970), DVD (1996), digital radio (2000) and Blu-ray recording standards (released 2002), as well as more recent technologies – consumer 3D printers, tablets and 4K Ultra HD Television. CES has also played a part in driving (no pun intended) the market in autonomous cars and drones.

    The first CES, held in New York City, attracted roughly 17,500 attendees and featured 117 exhibitors demonstrating products such as transistor radios, stereos and small-screen black-and-white TVs, including the first solid-state TV. Top companies exhibiting at the first CES included: 3M, Memorex (now MEM-CE), Motorola with Lenovo, Panasonic – Matsushita, Philips, RCA (now a Technicolor brand), SANYO Fisher (now part of Panasonic), Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, Westinghouse and Zenith (now part of LG). Many prominent tech leaders have presented keynotes at CES, including Microsoft, Intel, Google, Apple, and Samsung.

    CES 2017 will feature more than 3,800 exhibitors covering 2.4 million net square feet of space and more than 165,000 attendees; so it’s grown, just a tad, but what can we expect in Las Vegas this year?

    LG will almost certainly be first out of the gates in terms of providing details of the products it will have on show. Expect a heavy focus on its premium, ‘Signature’ range which includes fridges, washing machines and OLED TVs. LG remains the dominant force in the OLED market but we expect the competition to hot up at CES 2017 with Sony set to enter the game. We also wouldn’t be surprised to see further competition from China and other SE Asian markets with some seriously competitively priced sets.

    Panasonic will follow LG, in holding a press event, and it will be no surprise, whatsoever, if their primary focus is ‘The Smart Home’ and the IoT; after all, they’ve been pushing the idea at every CES (and IFA) since at least 2013. You can’t blame them; their product catalogue does encompass many of the ingredients necessary for ‘smart’ living – so except a smartphone. We do expect they’ll be further extolling the virtues of 4K and HDR, however. There should be a successor to the excellent DX900/ 902 LED TV – probably the EX900/ EX902 but we’ll have to wait and see if they maintain the sequential product naming convention. We don’t necessarily expect a new OLED from Panasonic, as a follow on to the CZ950/ 952 as it’s not likely to be released in the US but it would be nice to get some indication that Panasonic is working on one.
    Closely following the Panasonic event will be the first of the major Chinese brands to show its hand, TCL. They promise to unveil a new product line-up featuring industry-leading TV and mobile technologies and, if last year’s showing is any indication, they’ll have some interesting product to look at. Their flagship TV in 2016 was termed QUHD (Quad Ultra HD) with HDR Dolby Vision and Quantum Dot technology on-board. It certainly ticked all the boxes but we’ll have to wait and see if TCL intend to further their reach into the UK and Europe.

    Hisense will be the next of the Chinese multinationals to deliver its message for 2017, although they tend to stage their TV releases later in the year than most, at least in the UK. At the low prices Hisense charges for cutting edge tech, they don’t need discounts to compete with the (near) end-of-line TVs that proliferate the Christmas/New Year market. We’ve just seen Hisense knock it out of the park with the recently released M7000 and K5510 but we should see a successor to the flagship H10, shown back in January.

    Samsung always put on a decent show at CES and 2017 will be no different. Last year’s entire Smart TV range were all IoT ready and able to interact with Samsung’s range of Smart Home products, imaginatively termed, SmartThings and we’d expect much more of this kind of thing from the Koreans. We don’t expect Samsung to change their SUHD TV branding anytime soon and it’s an odds-on bet that their top tier TVs will be capable of going very bright, indeed, to maximise the HDR effect. They’ll also possess very wide colour gamuts, thanks to enhanced nano crystal (Quantum Dot) technology. We don’t envisage Samsung being yet ready to re-enter the OLED market but rumours in the Korean press earlier in 2016 indicated that they might have ‘something new,’ to show, in terms of TV technology, for 2017; we’ll just have to wait and see. CES 2017 would probably a good time to introduce a new Ultra HD Blu-ray player, too, since the official unveiling of the UBD-K8500 was held at last year’s CES. Other than that, it will be more soundbars (some with Dolby Atmos and perhaps DTS:X) and the usual smattering of lifestyle audio products.

    The Ultra HD Alliance (UHDA), comprising just about all the major players in the market will be holding a press event soon after Samsung. The inter-industry group charged with fostering the Ultra HD ecosystem and promoting the benefits of Ultra HD entertainment technology, will host a press conference featuring leaders in home entertainment content, devices, content distribution and technology, all of whom will be no doubt banging the drum. Big areas for the UHDA, in 2017, will be deployment in mobile devices and broadcast TV.

    As far as the major big-boys in the AV world are concerned, Sony will be maintaining its traditional rear guard position. As we alluded to above, it seems nailed on that Sony will officially announce its entry to the OLED TV market, likely with 55-inch and 65-inch models with panels no doubt sourced from LG Display. There are also rumours of a 4K Xperia smartphone, which would make sense to tie-in with the rest of the Sony ecosystem. There will, of course, be some back-slapping and trumpeting of the PlayStation 4’s success, despite its lack of an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive. Speaking of which, CES 2017 will hopefully see Sony announce firm pricing details on its UBP-X1000ES dedicated Ultra HD Blu-ray player. There will be some new 4K LED TVs, of course, with expanded TriLuminous capabilities for WCG but Sony is now in the habit of saving its very best TV for later in the year. There’s a very slim chance that the company could revive its CLED TV tech, having released a display based on it for the commercial market, earlier in 2016; now that is something we’d love to see!

    As ever, we’ll be over in Las Vegas to cover all the big announcements and this year we’ll have our largest ever team to bring you all the news. In the meantime, we’d love to get your hopes, expectations and desires for CES 2017.

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