Steve's Blog - Best In Show

Steve Withers

Today is the final day of CES and as such the crowds had thinned out considerably which is something of a godsend as the heaving masses of the first two days made it incredibly difficult to navigate from stand to stand.

I've already mentioned how similar all the manufacturers seem to be this year but walking around the Samsung stand I was getting a distinct sense of déjà vu. Perhaps it is because they're both Korean companies but there were a lot of similarities between Samsung's new products and those of LG. In fact both call their internet platforms Smart TV and the interfaces and apps also look very similar. In addition both are offering LCD and plasma displays and they both even had panels that you can write on which are intended for the educational market.

Annoyingly Samsung continues to call their LCD TVs with LED edge lighting ‘LED TV' which causes a degree of confusion amongst consumers. Whilst these incredibly thin edge lit displays are attractive there is a trade off and even on the brightly lit showroom floor we could see the uneven backlighting. This could be a particular problem on their new 75” LCD display which is the world's largest LED edge lit display with of course 3D. The design follows the brushed aluminium look of last year and includes the unusual four pronged stand that reminds me of a Cylon basestar. Thankfully Samsung continues to support plasma and here the design did seem reminiscent of LG's look with gloss black bezels.

Of course Samsung also had their Galaxy tablet on display, which caused a great deal of excitement when it was released last year. I quite like the Galaxy as it is smaller than the iPad and thus seems more appropriate for a mobile device. In addition the screen is 16:9 which is better suited to watching video than the iPad's 14:9 screen.

The Sharp stand wasn't hard to spot with all its yellow backgrounds and demo material showing sunflowers, flames and sunsets. Of course the reason for this was obviously to promote their proprietary Quattron technology which adds a fourth sub-pixel of yellow in addition to the traditional red, blue and green. Sharp claim that this addition of a fourth sub-pixel results in a better image but I just think it gives everything a golden hue. The simple fact is that the colour gamut of Blu-rays are mastered to an industry standard called Rec709 and unless your display is calibrated to that standard you will not be seeing what the content creators intended you to see. I doubt Baz Luhrmann would be too happy to find out that after he had spent 1,000 hours colour timing Moulin Rouge Sharp had gone pushed the yellow. I understand that manufacturers need to find ways to differentiate their products in a competitive market place but if they must add these marketing gimmicks they must also offer the option to turn them off as well. The sad reality is that Sharp actually make some quite decent displays but the fact that you can't calibrate the image to industry standards means they are useless to anyone who is seeking image accuracy.

As with all the other manufacturers Sharp were also heavily pushing active shutter 3D and they also launched their 70” Quatrron display with full array LED backlighting and localized dimming. Of course there was an updated internet platform that offered easier connectivity, an improved interface and better content and apps. Sharp have also been developing LCD displays with minute bezels which they combined to create a mosaic of screens for their new iWall technology which is clearly designed for the commercial market.

So as not to be left out Sharp have also released a tablet and mobile device called rather strangely Galapagos but given their obsession with yellow I'm amazed it wasn't called Custard. It actually looked like an interesting device with a lenticular screen and the ability to take 3D photos. The Galapagos only has one camera built in so to create 3D images you take one photo and then move the camera to the right, at which point the device automatically takes another photo and combines the two to create the 3D image. This approach isn't new but it is one way of addressing only having one camera and you could use this approach to take 3D pictures of more distant objects.

At the risk of sounding repetitive Toshiba was also showing a range of larger LCD displays with LED edge lighting and active shutter 3D capability. They also of course had an improved internet platform that offered the usual improvements in interface, content, apps and content sharing. Whilst Sony and LG used a small part of their stands to demonstrate glasses free 3D prototypes as a possible future technology, Toshiba dedicated a large section of theirs to this type of display. This was somewhat disingenuous of Toshiba as it gave the impression that it was a new technology that was about to be launched as opposed to a 50 year old technology that didn't really work. As with the Sony and LG prototypes the resolution was much better than previous lenticular displays but also as with Sony and LG once you moved even slightly off axis the 3D effect was lost and it actually became uncomfortable to look at. This technology might one day be acceptable to a mass market audience but we aren't there yet.

Finally we took a look at the JVC stand and were pleasantly surprised to find some interesting new products there. First off there was JVC's new line of projectors that were previously announced at CES and have just started shipping. There are three models, the X3, X7 and X9 and all three are 3D capable using the full HD 3D active shutter system. Whilst I'm a big fan of passive 3D on TVs clearly with projectors on large screens you need the additional resolution provide by active shutter glasses. In addition the X7 and X9 include ISFccc calibration controls and both are THX Certified for 2D and 3D. In fact the X7 and X9 are the world's first THX certified projectors for 3D presentation and the X9 won a CES Innovation Award this year.

We took a look at a demonstration of the X9 and as you would expect from JVC the 2D performance was excellent with superb black levels achieved without resorting to a dynamic iris. In addition the 3D performance was also excellent with great motion handling and very little crosstalk. Obviously the 3D image was dimmer than with 2D but that's just the nature of the beast and the THX specs for 3D projectors are designed to replicate the 4 foot lamberts used in the theatres because that's what the content is colour timed for. By ensuring that THX certified 3D projectors are mirroring the industry standards for theatrical presentation you are watching exactly what the content creators wanted you to see. Phil will be reviewing the X7 once we get back to the UK, so I'm looking forward to reading that in a few weeks.

JVC also had a new 3D camcorder on display which uses a two lens system that records in full 1080p 3D using two separate chips and offers a lenticular screen to help you compose your 3D images. It is the world's first consumer grade full HD 3D camcorder and obviously it would work with whichever display you had, be it active or passive or projector. The camcorder is released worldwide in March and will be of particular interest to anyone wishing to create high quality 3D images.

There was a bit of a surprise on the JVC stand as we discovered they had a 21:9 passive 3D display on show. Now obviously Philips have been pioneering 21:9 displays for over a year but this is the first time that we've seen one from another manufacturer. As I mentioned previously JVC uses active shutter for their projectors because they feel that the larger screen sizes require the additional resolution but for TVs they feel that passive 3D is more appropriate. In fact much like LG, JVC are calling their passive 3D system ‘Cinema 3D' and to prove the point about passive's greater flexibility whilst we were there, a guy walked up and put on the glasses he'd been given at the LG stand to look at the TV. We were rather impressed with the display, the resolution looked good from our reasonably close viewing distance and there was absolutely no crosstalk. There was no indication of when this model will be released or even if it will be released in the UK but it was an interesting display.

So overall it has been an exciting four days here at CES but unfortunately there has been very little in the way of new innovation and the products from all the major manufacturers have become rather homogenized. Everyone is offering 3D of course but also larger LCD displays using LED edge lighting to create ultra thin chassis and very narrow bezels, not to mention upgraded internet platforms. All the manufacturers are offering tablets of one form or another and thankfully Panasonic, LG and Samsung are still committed to producing plasmas which remains our preferred technology for premium image quality. Having said that LCD displays are getting better all the time and we're particularly interested in seeing how well LG's new Nano technology performs when those displays are launched later in the year.

In fact if there is one manufacturer that really has raised its game over the last couple of years it is LG who not only offer attractively designed LCD and plasma displays with ISF calibration controls and THX certification but are also the only manufacturer to offer the consumer a choice of active or passive 3D. Going forward they will also be offering their new Nano technology as well as products that include technology from Gracenote and THX's Media Director and they appear to be the only manufacturer that is still developing OLED as a mass market display device.

Finally on a personal note I'd like to thank Phil for being a highly entertaining and supportive travelling companion, no matter what problems beset us he always kept me laughing. It hasn't been the easiest of trips and at the start Phil was suffering from a bad dose of flu which is why I ended up doing most of the interviewing because he wasn't able to speak. On top of that I put my back out before I even got to Heathrow which made walking around the show floor and dealing with all the crowds problematic. If that wasn't bad enough we had problems with our radio mics, our headphones, the internet connection at the hotel and to top it off the tripod broke which meant Phil had to shoot the last two days handheld.

Well that's it for CES 2011, I hope you've enjoyed the blog and found the accompanying videos useful and informative.


Well-known Member
Finally on a personal note I’d like to thank Phil for being a highly entertaining and supportive travelling companion, no matter what problems beset us he always kept me laughing. It hasn’t been the easiest of trips and at the start Phil was suffering from a bad dose of flu which is why I ended up doing most of the interviewing because he wasn’t able to speak. On top of that I put my back out before I even got to Heathrow which made walking around the show floor and dealing with all the crowds problematic. If that wasn’t bad enough we had problems with our radio mics, our headphones, the internet connection at the hotel and to top it off the tripod broke which meant Phil had to shoot the last two days handheld.

Couldn't you just have a crack at the blackjack table to win the money for a new one:devil:. Can't believe you've not mentioned gambling at all.:laugh:

Phil Hinton

Staff member
Is CES just about displays?

It is when you have a team of two, the largest show on the planet to cover in four days, and the busiest forums being displays ;)

Would love to cover other stuff but with the resources we have it is a case of picking the stuff that will appeal to the widest audience.

We would love to take a bigger team to cover audio, mobiles, tablets and other gadgets, and maybe it is something that I can make a business proposal for, but we have to be sure that any budget we spend drives traffic to the site or it becomes a nice to have feature which eats a large chunk of budget, rather than a traffic driver. Let's face it there is not a lot of absolute progression in audio at the moment. ;)

The show is massive and it really takes a lot out of you when trying to cover it - massive queues for everything, battling through crowds to get your shots and so on. Plus I was ill, Steve had a bad back, yet we somehow still managed to cover 28 videos and 5 Blogs, which were not all display stories to be fair. We have just had a weeks holiday to recover and fly back to the UK tomorrow, yet we are both still absolutely shattered almost a week later!

So, yes we would love to show you more of the show and cover more things, but at the moment it has to be focussed on the most popular areas and those where we can drive traffic to the site.

I am already planning next year and what we drop and what we do more off based now on four years of covering this show for the forums with Videos. So our coverage will be different next year - if we decide to cover the event for the forums.

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