CES 2013 is officially concluded. With over 150,000 people in attendance and almost 2 million square feet of exhibit space, the CEA has stated that it was their largest convention since its founding over 45 years ago.
“The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced today that the 2013 International CES is the largest in the show’s 45+ year history, with 1.92 million net square feet of exhibit space. The previous record was 1.86 million net square feet of space at the 2012 International CES. More than 3,250 exhibitors unveiled some 20,000 new products at the 2013 CES, drawing more than 150,000 attendees, including more than 35,000 from more than 170 countries outside the United States. Owned and produced by CEA, the 2013 International CES is the world’s largest annual innovation event and concluded today.”
I journeyed to Sin City to get an up-close look at the Ultra HD offerings from some of the biggest display manufacturers in the world, including Sharp, LG, Samsung, ViewSonic, Toshiba, Sony, Westinghouse, and Vizio. I will share my impressions of each in a few moments.
There appears to be plenty of cynicism regarding the future of Ultra High Definition technology. Many believe that price, lack of content, insufficient bandwidth, and enormous screen size will inevitably lead to its failure. While some of these limitations are apparent, one cannot simply dismiss the adoption of new technology because it sounds impossible or impractical. Technology is always evolving, and sometimes rapid changes in infrastructure allow for further adoption of new technology. Remember the incredible doubt when flat panel TV’s first debuted? These display companies know that their Ultra HD products are very expensive, and many of them intend to bring manufacturing costs down over the next few years. So why should we doubt progression? Ok, moving on to the summary…
The World’s First 8K Ultra HD TV
I want to talk about Sharp first because they clearly demonstrate authority in the Ultra HD space. They were the only company to exhibit both 4K and 8K prototypes. The 85-inch 8K panel is many years away from reaching consumers, but it’s obvious that they’re developing this into a stunning product from the beginning.
Viewing the 8K TV was like gazing through a window, the clarity was absolutely astonishing. Upon close inspection, I struggled to see individual pixels. The native 8K content playing on the screen was life-like and mesmerizing. I’m sure we’ll hear more about this technology as it evolves.
ICC Purios 4K Ultra HD TV
The Sharp ICC Purios — developed jointly with I-cubed Research Center Inc. — had its own darkened room with a fancy velvet rope outside. Only a few viewers at a time were allowed into the room at one time. Once I got a chance to see it, I was dazzled by the unique ICC (integrated cognitive creation) processor, an up-conversion technology which reproduces the process by which the human brain interprets light stimuli.
Inside the room, they had two equal sized televisions side-by-side; the left was playing standard Blu-ray content, while the right was playing ICC enhanced up-converted content from the same Blu-ray source. The resulting difference was so impressive, that the other journalists in the room actually thought it was native 4K content playing on the right screen, until the Sharp representative corrected them (with a big smile). The ICC Purios is the first display to pass the 400 tests necessary to receive THX 4K Display certification, confirming that the display not only meets industry 4K performance guidelines, but that it maintains content accuracy true to the original Ultra HD image. The premium ICC Purios display will come to market this Summer, with no price specified.
AQUOS Ultra HD TV
Sharp also showcased a prototype of the AQUOS Ultra HD TV. In addition to boasting Ultra HD resolution, this prototype features a new screen technology, introduced as Moth Eye that virtually eliminates glare while preserving color vibrancy. The AQUOS will be the more mainstream model, while the ICC Purios will be the premium, high-end model.
Sharp announced IGZO, an innovative compound that replaces the industry standard amorphous silicon material used for the active layer in thin-film transistors (TFTs). IGZO’s transistors are much smaller than traditional LCDs thanks to significantly higher electron mobility. Therefore, more data can be shown in a single display, creating a stunningly detailed image – up to four times that of conventional full-HD or 1080p LCDs.
IGZO also provides ultra low power consumption: IGZO can maintain the onscreen data for a certain period of time without refreshing the data, even when the current is off. This helps cut back the power consumption to achieve longer battery life for mobile displays.
Compared to conventional LCDs, IGZO displays have drastically minimized the noise caused during touch input. This allows for quick, easy, more natural-feeling writing and smooth lines.
Sharp is implementing IGZO technology in its displays, tablet PCs, monitors and smartphones.
The LG showcase was nothing short of amazing. Walking into the area, we were greeted with a huge TV wall with baskets of 3D glasses for spectators. Walking beyond the wall, we entered the “Ultra HD Gallery” of LG’s Ultra HD TV’s, demonstrating various uses of Ultra HD technology, including 3D Ultra HD TV, touch screen Ultra HD TV, gaming in Ultra HD, and terrestrial broadcast examples. The picture quality was noticeably sharper than a standard Full HD (1080p) TV. Observers were constantly walking right up to the 84-inch screen and searching for individual pixels. Although LG did not showcase an Ultra HD OLED TV, like Sony and Panasonic, they did have impressive Full HD OLED TV’s, including curved 3D OLED TV’s.
55-, and 65-inch models
Notably, LG has added two 55-inch and 65-inch (appx. 80.69 ppi) screen sizes to its existing 84-inch Ultra HD line-up (appx. 52.43 ppi). Each of these models was showing 3D content, which had people gasping in awe as objects almost hit them in their passive 3D glasses.
Touch Screen Ultra HD
Off to the side, another group was huddled around a screen which was embedded into the wall (perhaps hiding the underlying technology, or screen thickness). Walking closer, a reporter from the BBC was showing the touch functionality by pinch zooming a high resolution photograph of The Mona Lisa, while drawing her a less-than-feminine goatee; Leonardo da Vinci would be proud. Nonetheless, the five-point multi-touch technology was impressive; I wouldn’t be surprised to see this used by museums, schools, and architects — to name a few. The touch application was created by French company, Intuiface.
Terrestrial Ultra HD Broadcast Demonstration
Finally, we took a look at LG’s terrestrial 4K-UHD broadcast demonstration in association with Korean Broadcasting System (KBS). The broadcast featured 35Mbps HEVC encoding, 3840 x 2160 resolution, 60p frame rate, and the DVB-T2 transmission standard on a 6MHz channel. The results were impressive and indistinguishable from the other Ultra HD content that we had previously seen. (Read more about Ultra HD terrestrial broadcasts).
Bigger is Better
Samsung put on an impressive display, complete with robotic vacuum cleaners, Microsoft Pixel Sense, dancing TV’s, a celebrity appearance from will.i.am, and of course — Ultra HD TV’s. As with LG, Samsung meticulously set up a complete Ultra HD gallery, largely focusing on built-in features, such as Quad Detail Enhancement Technology (up-conversion from 1080p), and Precision Black Pro, which provides a 3-step contrast, color, and detail enhancement — ultimately controlling the LED backlight to provide sharp images.
The previously rumored humongous 110-inch Ultra HD TV was placed front and center at the entrance of the showcase, along with its 85-inch little sister, available this summer. The display was difficult to ignore, with its hypnotizing clarity and unique frame. I might add that Samsung took full advantage of the human hypothalamus by showing 4K video of delicious food and desserts in vivid detail — smart move Samsung, smart move.
Netflix Streaming Ultra HD Content
Interestingly, there was a demo showcasing an Ultra HD TV with the Netflix logo. It appeared to show the same content as the TV’s at the front of the Samsung booth. I asked one of the Samsung guys what the scoop was, he said that the demo was not streaming content from Netflix, rather it was just an expression of what they’d like to bring to consumers, and that they are currently working with Netflix to make streaming 4K content a reality.
Sony never fails to impress with its excellence in design. Their “booth” (more like a football field) was a joy to explore. Sony is no amateur in the 4K realm, in-fact, they unveiled the first commercial 4K projector for movie theaters, with over 13,000 4K projectors installed worldwide. Adding several products to the 4K Ultra HD family, Sony caught my attention with their impressive line-up.
Sony BRAVIA X900A 4K Ultra HD TV
Available this Spring, the 55-, and 65-inch X900A Ultra HD TV will feature 4K Ultra HD picture quality with Edge LED backlight; triluminous display for color clarity and detail; passive 3D, with 4 pairs of glasses included; built-in Wi-Fi for streaming connectivity, including the Sony Entertainment Network; screen mirroring via Wi-Fi, NFC remote included; MHL-ready capability (ready for mirroring second screens); and USB playback.
4K Ultra HD concept cameras
Sony showed off several early concept models of 4K cameras that is supposedly designed for the mainstream and professional markets. Sony representatives were unwilling to talk about details surrounding the concept cameras, which were protected under a plastic display case. Hopefully we’ll get more details about this concept in the near future if the demand is strong enough.
56-inch OLED 4K Ultra HD TV
Unsurprisingly, Sony showed us something pretty awesome. They impressed crowds by combining the best of both OLED and 4K Ultra HD into a single 56-inch masterpiece, a first in the industry.
“Mastered in 4K”
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment announced a variety of “Mastered in 4K” Blu-ray titles to complement its 4K Ultra HD TV catalog. The “Mastered in 4K” offering will take the already impeccable quality Blu-ray titles to a new level of Ultra HD quality. Titles will include The Amazing Spider-Man, Total Recall, The Karate Kid, Battle: Los Angeles and The Other Guys—sourced from pristine 4K masters and presented at high-bitrate 1080p resolution, with expanded color showcasing more of the wide range of rich color contained in the original source.
When upscaled via the Sony 4K Ultra HD TVs, these discs serve as an ideal way for consumers to experience near-4K picture quality. “Mastered in 4K” Blu-ray Discs can be played on all existing Blu-ray Disc players. Sony will release this initial wave of more than 10 “Mastered in 4K” titles starting in Spring 2013, with rollout to select international territories soon thereafter.
Ultra HD 4K OLED TV
One day after Sony introduced its 4K OLED TV, Panasonic unveiled its own 56-inch prototype. The display is nothing short of spectacular, the level of detail is absolutely incredible. The Ultra High Definition OLED TV was created using the RGB all-printing method. The company did not announce a release date, nor did they mention a price range — although we’re pretty sure that it’s well into the upper five figures range, if not more.
20-inch Ultra HD tablet
Panasonic caused quite a ruckus at CES with the announcement of their 20-inch 3840 x 2560 Ultra HD Windows 8 tablet. The 230ppi tablet is driven by a powerful Nvidia GPU — mere pixels away from the iPad’s 264ppi resolution. It contains a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3427U processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. Lets not forget the bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n connectivity. Not surprisingly, the battery lasts just 2 hours, so looks like there’s some work to be done before it hits mainstream later this year.
Next up was ViewSonic, true pioneers in the Ultra HD space. They had several computer monitors on display, but one monitor easily stood out among the others. When I asked the ViewSonic representative what was so special about this monitor, he told me that this was their 32-inch 4K Ultra HD prototype, the VP3280. Truly a breathtaking display, I stared at the images for a solid 10 minutes, not a pixel in sight.
Featuring professional grade IPS technology, 450 brightness, and 1.07 billion colors. The representative told me that the company has no plans to make this available to consumers at this time, since very little Ultra HD content exists. No price range was available, although he did tell me it would likely be at least five figures. The panel requires 2 DVI inputs, and is designed for cinematographers, photographers, graphics designers, artists, and other industries requiring Ultra High Resolution computer monitors.
Toshiba had a small line-up of 65-, and 84-inch Ultra HD TV’s, nowhere near as elaborate as Samsung, LG, or Sony — but impressive nonetheless, so I stopped to take a look. A couple Ultra HD TV’s showed upscaled Blu-ray content, while other TV’s showed native 4K content. The images were crisp and clear, but I didn’t feel the same attraction as I did with the Ultra HD displays from the other manufacturers.
I think that the line-up shows a lot of promise, but needs some adjustments before they bring it mainstream. Perhaps it was difficult to gauge the quality because the sample content was flashing by so quickly that I hardly had a moment to see each 2-second clip, and I noticed a considerable amount of glare on the screen glass, making it hard to see the image with all the lights behind me. Likely some good technology, but a poor showcase in comparison, sorry Toshiba. Looking forward to a strong comeback!
I did not have the opportunity to see the Westinghouse suite, however there are several reviews on YouTube. Several of which discuss the absurdly expensive $300,000 (!!!) custom order 110-inch Ultra HD TV. As we mentioned before, Westinghouse will be offering Roku Ready Ultra HD TV’s.
I was not able to view the Vizio line-up, but again there are a few good video reviews of this brand. Vizio intends to bring their Ultra HD products during the second half of the year, with no mention of price — however, they do emphasize that the offering will be affordable.
All-in-all, it was a very eventful CES with many new announcements in the Ultra HD space. I think we’ll see this technology evolve rapidly, despite the current limitations. Codecs, transistors, bandwidth, and content are all in the pipeline, inevitably bringing 4K Ultra HD TV to your living room in 2013.
Andrew Michael is the Founder of Ultra HDTV Magazine. His interest in the technology began in 2008, before the term "Ultra HD" became mainstream. Andrew has contributed numerous articles, and continues to evolve Ultra HDTV into the ultimate Ultra High Definition resource.