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CES 2020 Preview: What to expect

8K TV battlelines drawn?

by Andy Bassett

Just as the sun rises each day, so the dawning New Year brings the world’s largest consumer technology show to Las Vegas in the first weeks of January. We take a look at what might be gracing the exhibition stands for CES 2020.

As we prepare to enter the third decade of the 21st Century, many of the technical innovations dreamt up by forward-thinking scientists, futurologists, pioneers and writers might now seem to be part of everyday life. Just look at how the tech that featured in Minority Report is edging its way into society. Where can invention and foresight go from here you may wonder - well CES 2020 is the place that can potentially answer that question.

Now into its 50th year, CES (which appears to have dropped the Consumer Electronics Show epithet and is happy to move forward with the famous three-letter acronym and attendant year) will run from Tuesday January 7th - 10th 2020 with press days on Sun 5th and Mon 6th.

Organised by the Consumer Technology Association, the exhibition garners worldwide coverage in the mainstream media and attracts over 175,000 attendees and 4,500 exhibitors as it takes over nearly 3 million square feet of Las Vegas real estate.

The breadth and depth of the technology on display is enormous and this year the CTA has indicated trending tech topics will include transportation, smart cities and tourism, data analytics and privacy, digital health, the global race for 5G and the consumerization of AI.

Of particular interest to AVForums followers though will be the home entertainment segment and this year it looks like the 8K TV revolution may well take centre stage as TV manufacturers try and push the new format into the mainstream.

What are we expecting at CES 2020?

TVs

Over the next few years, the TV landscape will go through some fundamental changes as the move away from LCD TV screens gathers apace. LG and Samsung have both indicated that they will be concentrating more and more on their own technologies - OLED in the case of LG and self-emitting QLEDs in the case of Samsung - as they try and restimulate a stagnating TV market.

We expect to see this OLED vs QLED rivalry go up a notch at CES 2020 with more 8K QLED TVs from Samsung and OLED models from LG. It’s not known whether there will be new model ranges announced (for example LG’s next OLED TVs may well be dubbed the ‘10’ series if it follows recent naming conventions) or merely additional new TVs that slot into the existing ranges.

8K - The Tokyo Effect

Having introduced 8K TVs to CES a couple of years ago and officially launched the 8K Q900R at IFA 2018, it’s now known that Samsung is keen to establish the 7680 × 4320 resolution as the UHD standard for the TV market. Last year Samsung introduced the Quantum 8K processor for its 8K TVs which uses AI and a database of images in order to produce effective upscaling of non 8K content, something that will continue to be important until natively produced 8K content and services become more widely available.

The benefits of 8K are more apparent in the larger TV screen sizes and Samsung’s Q950R range (Q900RB in the US) has some wall-filling, wallet-busting screens at 75-, 85- and 98-inches. However, IFA 2019 saw Samsung unveil a more European lounge friendly 55-inch Q950R to go with the 65-inch version, so perhaps CES 2020 will see further models at these more consumer-friendly sizes.

And it’s not just Samsung that will be pushing 8K TV at the consumer level. The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will be broadcast by Japan’s national broadcasting organisation NHK in 8K and TV manufacturers will want to use this opportunity to capitalise on early 8K TV adopters. It’s rumoured that Panasonic will add its first 8K TV into the mix at CES, possibly as a successor to their GZ2000 flagship 4K OLED and Sony, who already has its 8K ZG9 Master series LED LCDs, might look to introduce smaller screen sizes to encourage 8K TV uptake for the Olympics.

Sony KD-85ZG9 8K Master Series LCD
As far as other manufacturers are concerned, the 8K space is certainly worth their involvement and with the likes of LG, Sony, TCL, Hisense and Sharp all having 8K models available during 2019, it’s reasonable to assume that further 8K models will be revealed at CES. Indeed for any company that is showing a new top of the line, flagship TV, the expectation is that it will be of the 8K flavour. As the range and variety of 8K TVs increases, the consumer is bound to benefit as prices are driven down by competition.

After announcing the 88Z9, the world’s first 8K OLED, at CES 2019, LG is rumoured to be readying a more affordable 65-inch 8K OLED for this year, so we may see that unveiled as a key player in the OLED vs QLED tussle, though it could still be at the steep end of the price slope.

There’s a noticeable increase in the number of manufacturers launching their own OLED models, with LG Display (the world’s main OLED panel manufacturer) revealing it is now supplying panels to 15 TV makers, so this means that we could see OLED models on show from the likes of China’s Skyworth as well as the expected players.

Long requested by OLED fans on limited budgets or with restricted space is a smaller OLED TV under the 55- or 65-inch size. Plans to manufacture panels at 48-inches were confirmed by LG Display as part of their latest manufacturing strategy at the newly opened plant in Guangzhou, China and word has it that an OLED TV of this size will be on display.

Hisense launched their first OLED (H5508BUK) in the UK during 2019 which came in at the affordable end of the market and we suspect that their second OLED model might be on demonstration come January. The company also has its quantum dot based H8F and H9F ULED models available in the US and we may see new 8K and 4K models being readied.

Hisense recently showed off a range of Laser TVs and we may see these appear at CES 2020. The 100L5 Sonic Screen and L9 TriChroma Laser TVs use projector-based technology as their basis but incorporate a TV tuner to enable access to live TV along with a high brightness performance so they can be watched in the more normal ambient lighting conditions of a living room rather than in a darkened home cinema environment. The 100L5 Sonic Screen also incorporates a Distributed Mode Loudspeaker (DML) housed in the screen itself to create the audio experience.

Hisense 100L5 Sonic Screen
TCL revealed its 75-inch Mini LED-based 8K quantum dot TV at CES last year which they also went on to show at IFA 2019, so we could see further models on display which feature this backlighting approach. And since the company has joined the HDR10+ initiative, any new TVs they show could add HDR10+ dynamic metadata HDR to the already supported Dolby Vision.

Concept TVs

Since the two South Korean TV giants normally unveil some eye-catching concept TVs it’s likely there will something to set the tech media pages chattering. 

Over the last few years, Samsung has bought its modular Micro LED technology - where each pixel contains a red, blue and green self-emitting inorganic LED - to CES in the form of the ever-expanding Wall. In 2018, it was 146-inches, in 2019 it was 219-inches and we’d expect to see it back again in 2020. The Wall went on sale during 2019 as a bespoke custom installation for business and enterprises so we’d hope that Samsung might now have turned their attention to making it more suited to the consumer market. There was a 75-inch model on show last year but this is still rather large for the average consumer and, as with all cutting edge technologies, out of reach of most people’s pockets. The technology is part of Samsung’s TV roadmap so a 55 or 65-inch concept version might be around the corner.

Samsung has also been busy getting several trademarks registered which might give a clue as to its newest developments. One such trademark is for ‘Zero Bezel’ which could mean new QLED TVs with even more expansive displays.

LG managed to grab headlines last year with its Signature OLED65R9 rollable OLED. This was due on sale at the end of 2019 in Korea but has yet to appear. Perhaps it will make a crowd-pleasing re-appearance at CES 2020 sporting new screen sizes.

LG Signature OLED65R9 CES 2019
Transparent OLED panels could be on display too. LG demonstrated its prototype behind closed doors last year but has since shown them off during 2019, so an official unveiling could be on the cards for CES 2020. Panasonic showed off its own version at IFA 2019 and may be ready for its own launch. If they do appear, they’re sure to be a talking point though likely to be initially aimed at businesses for display purposes at first.

Panasonic MegaCon Dual Layer LCD Display - IFA 2019
Dual-layer LCD panel TVs, which combine a monochrome LCD screen to modulate luminescence with a 4K colour panel, could make a re-appearance this year. Hisense already as its 8K 85U9E and 4K 65U9E dual-layer ULED XD models on sale in China and Panasonic demonstrated its MegaCon dual-layer prototype TV at IFA 2019. It could be that both companies have developments in this area that they are ready to show. Additionally, Samsung has trademarked the name ‘Dual-LED’ so might be looking to introduce their own version of this dual-panel approach.

One new technology that will be on at CES 2020 (by invite only) is Looking Glass’s 8K Immersive Display. This was revealed recently and, at 32-inches, is the largest holographic display on the market, requires no VR or AR headset and has a holographic depth measured in feet rather than inches. This display may have more initial value in medicine, education and museums but could the fact that the viewer needs no wearable extras rekindle interest in 3D as an entertainment format in the home? 

Looking Glass 8K Immersive Display

Home AV

Last year saw new soundbars unveiled at CES by a number of companies including LG's SL8YG, SL9YG and SL10YG models and we expect that this year will see more new models unveiled across the board for TV viewers who want a cinematic audio experience without the expense or technical hassle of an AV receiver and speaker package installation. Manufacturers may take the opportunity to show off models that have extra features such as voice assistants and virtual surround sound technologies such as DTS Virtual:X that have become popular throughout 2019.

Hi-Fi Audio

CES tends not to offer as much to tempt the pure audio fan as it does for the home cinema enthusiasts. However, last year saw Sony introduce their 360 Reality Audio format which produces a 3D sound field that can be experienced easily through headphones and also via Amazon's latest Echo Studio smart speaker. Sony has been building support throughout the music industry for Reality Audio with Amazon Music HD and Deezer now providing tracks in the format and more artists expected to release (or re-release) music mixed to support the immersive format. New hardware that supports 360 Reality Audio may surface at CES 2020 and this might perhaps include headphones that have been optimised for the format.

There's also rival immersive audio format, Dolby Atmos Music. Dolby Atmos is already well established as an object-based audio format in the movie and TV sector and now Dolby is encouraging it within the music industry too. Like Sony, it has built partnerships to help create and deliver  material recorded in the format but the music consumer is going to need hardware to experience this on, so perhaps CES will see a range of Atmos compatible speakers and headphones unveiled.

And don't forget possible new turntables from main players such as Technics along with headphones from the likes of Sony and Audio Technica taking advantage of a burgeoning personal music market that is seeing plenty of new devices sporting Active Noice Cancelling and True Wireless independence.

Stay tuned to AVForums from Jan 6th onwards and we'll keep you informed of announcements and developments as they happen and you can check just how close our predictions actually were.
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