CES 2010 - Phil Hinton Blog - Day One

Phil Hinton

Editor
Staff member
As the first day of CES draws to a close, it has turned out to be a frustrating and yet strangely satisfying day all-round.

The day started with the LG press conference and the announcement of a few really interesting technologies for their new TVs. The most interesting to me was the inclusion of Skype video calling, (which is also appearing on Panasonic's new line up for 2010.) This might appear to be odd, but the fact that I use Skype on a daily basis and when not tied to the laptop or desktop PCs, I find the idea of using the Skype service on the TV an interesting proposition. However, the demonstration given during the press conference also managed to give what is probably going to be a real life example of low bit rate call quality.

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LG may have dropped the Borderless logo and statement from the UK market, going with seamless instead, but in the US the company are pushing forward with Borderless. And towards the end of the day we happened to walk past the LG stand having its finishing touches made for tomorrows show floor opening, and this years sets could actually wear the Borderless name with some pride. From what we managed to get a look at (by dodging the security guard) this year's sets have a very small bezel that gives it a true picture frame look. Interesting stuff and we will be catching up with George Mead from LG UK tomorrow to discuss this further.

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And the new INFINIA line of LCD LED and PDP screens also continue the sleek design with some promised cutting edge technology. There will be the first THX Certified LED LCD TV as well as new Plasma screens boasting a ‘True Black Filter' for further improved black level response. This is one screen I will be hunting down to check out tomorrow on the show floor. And wrapping up the LG coverage was of course 3D technology. LG has promised at least one of the 3D capable sets will be released in the UK in 2010, but that is as much as we know at the moment. We will update you with all the relevant information tomorrow when we visit the LG stand.

So with everything starting out well, we had an hour to go and sort out the WiFi issue we had found in the conference room. No problem I thought. In years gone by it has been a short walk to the large Press Room, with high speed internet connection and ‘bobs yer uncle'. Only the press room wasn't in its usual place this year, instead moving to the first floor of the Sands Expo and into a room that could hold about 30 people. That would be fine if there were 30 members of the press, but the actual number is far closer to around 3,000 members. So how do you fit so many into such a small room? Well they all sit on the floor in the reams of corridors surrounding the press room. And to make matters worse the high speed WiFi didn't make any kind of appearance. Well, apart from about 10 hard line Ethernet connections, which unsurprisingly were captured by the big publishers and their large groups of staff, who appeared to work shifts keeping the Ethernet connections to themselves for the whole day. And of course, CES are not going to upset the big publishers, are they?
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In years gone by, it's been easy to get online and post quickly without much of an effort. But this year the press services have been terrible and, to be honest, downright insulting. Why should we have to resort to spending money on hotel connections, when the organisers should be providing the very people who keep the public interested in their industry, with the tools they need. Ok, so there is a recession and costs will be a concern, but isn't this the one time they would want the public to get the information quickly and accurately? Some might say that's why certain publishers seemed to have cart Blanche with the Ethernet hard lines, but well, we know why people might think that way but we are not supposed to say it. So, the organisers of CES and those responsible for keeping the press core happy fell flat on their faces, and when you take the time in travelling all this way and spending pretty large sums to do so, it can quickly sour what should be a celebration of a New Year and new technology for the industry. In the end a very kind IT guy bent over backwards to at least get us some internet time to upload our stories and conference coverage. It should be the CEA who provide the press with the tools they need and free of charge. So, come on CEA let's get some kind of system for fairness and of course, some bloody service to begin with for your most important assets, the people who report on these events! Isn't it ironic that we are at the world's largest Tech show, which is celebrating convergence and online networking services, yet we have no signal – ok rant over, so let's get back to what else was new.


So, next on the list were Toshiba US followed by a further press gathering for the European markets.
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The biggest story from Toshiba was for a TV we saw here last year, but which is finally coming to market. Cell TV. The main attraction of this new flagship TV is its onboard computing power that is 143 times faster than processors currently used. This opens up many avenues for picture processing algorithms for resolution plus, it can process 2D signals into 3D and will also offer upscaling of 1080 content to 4K2K resolutions when 4K versions finally appear in the future. There is also the capability to have the Cell TV provide networking capabilities and hard drive time shift recording of many separate channels as once. The full spec's for the UK version, due in the autumn have yet to be decided, it would be safe to assume that it should have multiple tuners (Freeview HD?) and at least a few TB of storage capabilities. It certainly looks like a promising new TV which will incorporate full LED backlighting with up to 512 clusters of local dimming light output married with a very high claimed contrast and deep black levels. We will have a closer look at the Cell TV in our future show coverage.

Moving from Toshiba and next in line were Sharp who provided those who arrived early enough (i.e. not us) with comfy seats and some lunch. The big push from Sharp was eco technology and why they want to save the world. Much of the coverage was focussed on their new LED Bulbs for industry (that's light bulbs, not TVs) and their solar panel tech. But one area of TV technology they did push was their new Quad Pixel technology. This had me scratching my head and asking the question…Why? Basically what they are touting here is a new way of producing the primary colours, Red, Green and Blue with the addition of a Yellow secondary channel. This they boast will increase the colour gamut performance of the new LE AQUOS and provide trillions of colour combinations. But again..why? All content that is viewed on TVs now and in the future, be that broadcast, DVD or Blu-ray is 8bit and its colour is set by the standards, i.e. Rec.709 for Blu-ray and the same for Pal.
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So having an ultra wide gamut is doing nothing but adding in over saturated colours that do not exist in the content being fed to the TV. So, unless Sharp are going to unleash a new standard for content production (even 3D is 8 bit) that increases the need to have such a wide gamut, we don't really get at what Sharp are pushing here. Of course we will put this technology to the test and see what kind of image it does produce in the real world later in the year.
And that rounded up the Press conferences for me this year. I spent the rest of the day fighting for an internet connection to update the pages here, while David attended the Samsung and Panasonic events (read his blog for his thoughts).

Finally before heading back to our hotel and getting the feet up, I met up with David again at the Sony conference, that wasn't really a press conference. The stand area in the LVCC was packed with live acts playing and a change to have a sneak look at the stand items. We will obviously do things in greater detail over the coming days, but the new cast LED backlit ranges of LCD TVs looked interesting with their new Sharp sourced panels, and with Sony adopting the shutter glass BD approach to 3D, some of the demos looked promising, especially the PS3 games.

And our last port of call was the Panasonic 3D Theater which was a special invite event and it turns out we were the only UK team to get the call. The event was a chance to see the new Panasonic 50inch Viera 3D panels and watch the latest 3D content produced by the company for CES. This was displayed on the 150 inch 4K display and it looked very impressive. The improvement in Phosphor decay time the new panel produces helps the 3D effect and I have to say it's the most impressive use of the technology I have seen so far (But still to be convinced). Plus this exclusive event gave David and myself the chance to have a conversation one on one with John Landu the producer of AVATAR. It was a short chat but I have to say the guy is down to earth and a real enthusiast for the 3D technology in the cinema and at home. It was also refreshing to hear him talk about film makers finding a style that suits the new 3D approach rather than going for the quick sell gimmick of things flying out of the screen at you. All in all today has been a good indicator that the next year is going to continue providing enthusiasts with interesting technology.

Stay tuned for the start of our video coverage and some more blogs in the coming days ahead!
 
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