2014 Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show High­lights

Hottest Trends and Prod­ucts

NOVO - - PRODUCT NEWS - Jeremy Phan

The 2014 In­ter­na­tional Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show has wrapped up once again and while last year’s show saw the ef­fects of the eco­nomic down­turn, this year’s show saw a re­turn to grander times both in prod­ucts show­cased and an­nounce­ments made. So what were some of the hottest trends and prod­ucts at the 2014 CES?

Last year saw the push by tele­vi­sion man­u­fac­tur­ers to­wards Ul­tra HD (4K) and with the fi­nal­iza­tion of HDMI 2.0 in late Q3 last year, 2014 will see a raft of new, more eco­nom­i­cally ac­ces­si­ble 4K TVs. Specif­i­cally of note is Vizio’s aban­don­ment of 3D tech­nol­ogy al­to­gether in its 2014 lineup, in­stead push­ing for cheaper 4K tele­vi­sions. Vizio’s en­try-level P-Se­ries starts with a 50” set with an MSRP of only $999 USD and is slated to ship in the se­cond half of this year. Go­ing up from there, Vizio will of­fer 5” in­cre­ments up to its 70” 4K set that is still very ac­ces­si­ble at $2,599 USD. They also showed off a ‘Ref­er­ence’ 120” 4K TV but didn’t pro­vide pric­ing or avail­abil­ity. Pre­vi­ously a se­cond tier man­u­fac­turer, all of Vizio’s 2014 TVs now fea­ture full-ar­ray LED back­lights with 64-zone lo­cal dim­ming and ad­vanced colour man­age­ment which should give the likes of Sam­sung, LG, Sony, Pana­sonic, and Toshiba a run for their money. Vizio’s smart TVs also sup­port the new HEVC codec for 4K video stream­ing and come with the lat­est 802.11ac WiFi stan­dard built-in to han­dle the in­crease in band­width re­quired. For those that wish to create their own 4K con­tent, Sony an­nounced the FDR-AX100 com­pact 4K Handy­cam which car­ries an MSRP of $1,999 USD, bring­ing 4K,

which was once only avail­able to Hol­ly­wood stu­dios, into con­sumer hands. In ad­di­tion to this, many new smart phones will soon be ca­pa­ble of 4K video record­ing; in fact Sam­sung’s Gal­axy Note 3 al­ready of­fers this. An­other note­wor­thy de­vice that Sony show­cased was a 21” deep ul­tra­short-throw laser-pow­ered pro­jec­tor that sits on the floor and projects a 147” 4K im­age onto the wall from a mere 7” away.

To help ad­dress 4K’s chicken/egg con­tent/hard­ware prob­lem, ser­vices such as Net­flix and Ama­zon have an­nounced plans to start pro­duc­ing and stream­ing na­tive 4K con­tent, al­low­ing con­sumers to ac­cess a wide va­ri­ety of na­tive 4K con­tent for their new 4K TVs. Part­ner­ing to help push 4K, Ama­zon is team­ing up with Warner Bros., 20th Cen­tury Fox, Dis­cov­ery, Lion­s­gate En­ter­tain­ment and Sam­sung. Ca­ble providers in the US such as Com­cast and DirecTV are also set to start broad­cast­ing 4K con­tent. Un­for­tu­nately, Cana­dian providers have yet to an­nounce plans for 4K.

Sadly, while CES of­ten show­cases new tech­nolo­gies, the ab­sence of prod­ucts also sig­nals their demise, in this case: plasma tele­vi­sion. With Pana­sonic an­nounc­ing that it is ceas­ing pro­duc­tion of its muchloved Viera plasma sets, the fi­nal nail is in plasma’s cof­fin. LG did an­nounce a new plasma HDTV but didn’t bother bring­ing it to their booth. With LED-back­lit LCDs con­stantly im­prov­ing, the costs of man­u­fac­tur­ing plasma just isn’t jus­ti­fi­able any­more. How­ever, un­til OLEDs fi­nally come down in price – some­thing that Sam­sung’s VP of Vis­ual Dis­plays says will take three to four years due to dif­fi­cul­ties in man­u­fac­tur­ing and low yields – LCDs will be the only dis­play tech­nol­ogy in mass pro­duc­tion. The push for the next decade will be 4K and OLED. For Pana­sonic fans, all is not lost as Pana­sonic showed off a 4K LCD, side-by-side in a dark­ened room, with their flag­ship ZT60 (1080p) and last year’s WT600 (4K). Us­ing the ex­tremely dark hill­top scene from Harry Pot­ter: The Deathly Hal­lows Part II [Chapter 12], Pana­sonic’s new LED-back­lit LCD showed sim­i­lar stel­lar black-level per­for­mance as the ZT60 with the added bonus of im­age en­hance­ments that boosted the non-black ar­eas (such as faces) while pre­serv­ing the dark ar­eas. Pana­sonic claims they’ve trans­ferred im­age pro­cess­ing tech­nol­ogy from their plas­mas which an­a­lyzes the black-level con­tent to op­ti­mize shadow de­tail without di­min­ish­ing the bright­ness of sur­round­ing high­lights.

Back to new tech­nol­ogy, with 4K suf­fi­ciently pushed on con­sumers, tele­vi­sion man­u­fac­tur­ers have moved onto the next trick up their sleeves: curved tele­vi­sions. While the jury is still out on the ben­e­fits and short­com­ings of ever-so-slightly curved tele­vi­sions, hav­ing seen Sony’s 65” KDL-65S990A at Bay Bloor Ra­dio in Toronto, I can’t see curved tele­vi­sions gain­ing wide scale adop­tion. While there are ben­e­fits to the curve such as the re­duc­tion in re­flec­tions and a greater sense of im­mer­sion thanks to the equidis­tant view­ing an­gles, the lim­i­ta­tions and short­com­ings are just far too great: the sweet spot is too small and the dis­tor­tion is even greater when seated off-cen­tre. The premise be­hind curved TVs is to em­u­late mas­sive screens such as IMAX, com­pletely fill­ing a viewer’s vi­sion with im­agery. How­ever, to achieve this, IMAX screens are hu­mungous – some­thing that home tele­vi­sions will never be. As such, un­less TV view­ers want to all hud­dle closely to­gether to be in the vis­ual sweet spot and sit at a dis­tance close enough to fill their field of view, very few will be able to en­joy the in­ten­tion of curved TVs. To show that it’s not all smoke and pro­to­types, both Sam­sung (105U9500) and LG (105UC9) have re­vealed mas­sive 105” curved 4K TVs, with Sam­sung tak­ing or­ders for their be­he­moth $60,000 set for ship­ment later this year.

Mov­ing from the very large to the very small, 2014 is go­ing to see the re­lease of tech­nol­ogy meant to aug­ment ev­ery­day lives: wear­able tech­nol­ogy, home au­to­ma­tion, and con­nected ve­hi­cles. Peb­ble, the eink watch that put wear­ables and crowd-fund­ing on the map af­ter it gen­er­ated a record 10 mil­lion dol­lars on Kick­starter in May of 2012,

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