The Best of CES 2014 Award Winners
2014 International CES is officially over, and we viewed a tremendous number of Ultra HD products and services at the show — significantly more than CES 2013. The development of Ultra High Definition over the past year has been extensive, and browsing the next generation technology on the show floors was truly astonishing.
We were blown away by the quality and efforts of nearly every Ultra HD company, but we were determined to find a winner for each Ultra HD category. After carefully reviewing the nominations for each of the Best of CES 2014 Awards categories, we are pleased to present the winners (after the sponsor below)… *drumroll*
Best Ultra HD Television
Sharp AQUOS 4K Ultra HD LED TV
There were dozens of Ultra HDTV’s at CES 2014, but the new Sharp Aquos 4K Ultra HDTV is taking home our 2014 Best Ultra HD Television Award — and with good reason. This 4K Ultra HDTV gives you super high-end picture quality at a reasonable price. While there were other fantastic Ultra HDTV’s at CES, we found that the Aquos 4K exceeded our expectations in picture quality, screen size, aesthetic design, sound quality, functionality, viewing angle, and price. It comes bundled with apps for Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, Pandora, Facebook, and more. A lot of love went into the making of this Ultra HDTV, which is obvious as soon as you step up to it, no shortcuts here.
The Sharp Aquos 4K line is also the first Ultra HDTV to have THX 4K Certification, meaning that it has passed 400 lab tests put together by Hollywood professionals. We found ourselves coming back to the Sharp booth to hypnotize ourselves in front of this gorgeous and affordable Ultra High Definition Television. While Sharp already offers a 2013 model (Model#: LC70UD1U), the updated 2014 models (Model#: TBA) will be available starting in Summer 2014 with a 60-inch model priced at $4,999.99 and a 70-inch model at $5,999.99. It may not be as cheap as the competition, but we felt that you’ll get the most bang for your buck with Sharp. Both 2014 models come with four HDMI 2.0 ports, two USB ports, and the updated SmartCentral 3 platform, which makes content recommendations to the viewer along with other new features.
Best Ultra HD Media Player
NanoTech Nuvola NP-1
The NanoTech Nuvola NP-1 wins our 2014 Best Ultra HD Media Player Award. The Nuvola is an affordable Ultra High Definition Media Player which fits comfortably in your hand, but don’t let the size fool you, it’s packed with all sorts of 4K Ultra HD features.
The Nuvola can play 4K content locally from USB, SATA, LAN, and MicroSD sources — but what really makes this device a winner is its ability to stream 4K from a channel without the need to download content before playback. Specifically, the Nuvola can stream 4K content from pre-installed apps including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube 4K, and ‘UltraFlix’ — a new 4K Ultra HD channel from NanoTech. The bundled UltraFlix channel app comes with access to 10 streaming Ultra HD movies, free of charge.
The Nuvola is a brilliant device for linking Ultra HD Content to any Ultra HDTV with an HDMI port. The Nuvola NP-1 costs $299, making it a great companion for budget minded consumers, and will be available in Q1 of 2014.
Best Ultra HD Monitor
ASUS 28-inch Ultra HD Monitor
The ASUS 28-inch Ultra HD Monitor wins our 2014 Best Ultra HD Monitor Award. This stunning and affordable Ultra High Definition Monitor really brings a joyous tear to the eye. Who knew that such clarity would ever be so affordable? Perfect for entry level and professional use, this budget friendly monitor will break barriers at just $799.
Best Ultra HD Tablet
Panasonic Toughpad 4K Tablet
The Panasonic Toughpad 4K Tablet (UT-MA6) wins our 2014 Best Ultra HD Tablet Award. This highly durable 20-inch Ultra High Definition Tablet comes with a gorgeous 3840 x 2560 display, Intel i7-3687U vPro processor, Nvidia Quadro K1000M GPU, Windows 8.1 Pro, 256GB SSD, 16GB RAM, 2GB VRAM, 5MP rear camera, 720p front camera, 2.5 hour battery life, and a 30-inch drop rating — all at only 5.6 pounds and 0.49 inch thickness.
The tablet is ideally suited for healthcare, video production, architecture & design, photography, and high-end retail. The Ultra HD Tablet will be available in Spring 2014 for a list price of $6,999.
Best Ultra HD Projector
Sony 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector
Sony is at it again — this time, they’ve created a laser-diode 4K ‘Short Throw’ Projector, which means that it can be placed close to a wall and project a 4K image with a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels (slightly more pixel width than ‘Ultra HD’) ranging between 66-inches and 147-inches, very impressive. Even though it’s a prototype and technically not ‘Ultra HD’, Sony gets to take home the 2014 Best Ultra HD Projector Award. The 4K Projector has the ability to display video from IP, satellite or cable providers as well as 4K content sources including Video Unlimited 4K, Netflix and 4K content shot on Sony’s expanding range of 4K Handycam camcorders. The 4K Projector will be available in Summer 2014 for a price between $30,000 and $40,000.
Best Ultra HD Audio (Built-in)
LG 105-inch Curved Ultra HD TV
The LG 105-inch 21:9 Curved Ultra HDTV wins our 2014 Best Ultra HD Built-in Audio Award. This Ultra High Definition Television is absolutely stunning in many regards, and while it may seem a tad impractical for the mainstream at a whopping $70,000, the built-in audio from this Ultra HDTV is utterly fantastic.
Stepping up to this curved beauty locks your eyes to its gorgeous details, and then you begin to listen to the almost magical sound coming from its built-in front-facing 7.2 multi-channel harman/kardon sound system, whereupon you are whisked away to a fully immersive cinematic experience. For those who can afford the ’5K’ 5120×2160 resolution LG 105UB9, we only ask that you invite us over every once and a while to be in its glorious presence. LG has not yet announced availability.
Best Ultra HD Audio (External)
Sharp Universal Player
The Sharp Universal Player wins our 2014 Best Ultra HD External Audio Award. We were fortunate enough to receive a private demonstration of this high-end audio system in a sound-proof room at the Sharp booth. The company spared no expense in developing this near perfect external audio product, the WiSA-compliant Universal Player (SD-WH1000U). We were told that the audio team at Sharp literally hand picked and tested every internal component of this player until their senior audio guru “The Ears” gave it his final blessing. No shortcuts here, just a company with a huge passion for audio.
The Universal Player is capable of wirelessly transmitting uncompressed sound at 24-bit/96kHz and video at Full HD (1080p) — connecting up to 8 wireless speakers for 7.1 channel surround sound. Alternatively, you may connect the player to your existing speakers and amplifier using the optional Wireless Bridge. The player can handle SACD and CDs, Blu-ray discs and DVDs and offers 3 4K-ready HDMI inputs, two USB ports and an internet connection to bring a wealth of online and portable device options to the high-end audiophile. The Universal Player will retail for $3,999 and the Wireless Bridge for $599.99, both of which will be available in Spring 2014.
Best Ultra HD Camera
Sony 4K Handycam
The Sony Handycam FDR-AX100 is awesome, to say the least, which is why it won our 2014 Best Ultra HD Camera Award. The FDR-AX100 is really the first consumer grade 4K Ultra HD camcorder, which makes it perfect for recording classic family moments at Disneyland or the Grand Canyon.
The FDR-AX100 uses 1-inch BSI sensor technology, creating a 20 megapixel image. With a 12x 29mm lens, the image is reasonably wide. It uses the XAVC-S codec for 60MB/sec 4K Ultra HD recording at 30p and 24p, or 1080 at 60p. The Handycam also comes with a neutral density filter, control wheel, 3.5-inch LCD, broad audio controls, NFC, and WiFi. Sony expects to ship the FDR-AX100 in March 2014 for $1,999.99.
Best Ultra HD Gaming
While flawless 4K gaming might need a few more generations to catch up, we have to hand Panasonic the 2014 Best Ultra HD Gaming Award for their impressive demonstration.
Panasonic allowed attendees to sit down and drive their Formula-1 car on an 85-inch 4K display at 60fps. The demo was smooth and mesmerizing, really connecting you with the game. We applaud Panasonic for their efforts in Ultra HD Gaming, and we expect great gaming capabilities from them in the future.
Best Ultra HD Innovation
Toshiba changed things up at CES 2014, which is why they’ve won our 2014 Best Ultra HD Innovation Award. The company impressed attendees with their 5K Extra Wide Ultra HD Television and their Premier Series lineup. While we are amused with the selection of head-scratching curved and flexible Ultra HDTV’s, we’d much rather take extra pixels and put them to good use — as Toshiba demonstrated.
We immediately noticed the extra brightness in the Premier Series, which kept us stuck to the demo screen. The brilliant colors and contrast were absolutely glorious, and most definitely separated Toshiba from the rest of the Ultra HD crowd. While they may not have been the bell of the Ultra High Definition ball at CES 2013, we are confident that Toshiba will have a bright future in 2014. Oh, and we loved the Toshiba mirror as well, an excellent complement to Wearable Devices.
Best Ultra HD Content
A few Ultra HD Content Providers are starting to integrate with various Ultra HD Televisions this year, but we believe that Netflix stands out of the crowd – Netflix wins our 2014 Best Ultra HD Content Award.
Showcasing season 2 of the Emmy award winning ‘House of Cards’ 4K Ultra HD trailer was a perfect way to attract attendees at the Samsung booth – there’s nothing quite like watching Kevin Spacey take over Washington like a boss in Ultra High Definition. Netflix 4K streaming will also work on other Ultra HD devices from companies like Sharp, LG, Vizio, and NanoTech to bring integrated Ultra HD Content to your living room in the very near future.
Best Ultra HD Codec
Rovi made a profound impact on the world of Ultra High Definition this year, which is why we’re handing them the 2014 Best Ultra HD Codec Award for both enterprise and professional/consumer use. Rovi invited us to a personal demonstration away from the CES show floors, where we were given a comprehensive tour of Rovi’s Ultra High Definition lineup.
Our 2014 Best Ultra HD Codec Award for Enterprise goes to Rovi’s MainConcept HEVC SDK 2.0, which streamlines integration of HEVC (next-generation compression) into video applications and services in multiple environments, powering several of the streaming Ultra HD products and services that we saw on the show floors. MainConcept HEVC SDK 2.0 delivers compression rates 37-50% better than AVC (the previous generation of compression), making Ultra HD streaming a more realistic goal, given today’s bandwidth limitations.
The 2014 Best Ultra HD Codec Award for Professional and Consumer use goes to the newly released DivX 10 software, which is the first software to feature HEVC video creation, playback and streaming up to 4K Ultra High Definition. The software can decode 4K in real-time on an Intel i7 processor, and encode HEVC HM11 video up to 4K with AAC, MP3 or AC3 audio. Furthermore, DivX offers an HEVC certification program and is well positioned to propel HEVC adoption on next generation devices, like Ultra HD Televisions. Oh, and if you don’t already know, the software is already installed on 1 billion devices around the world.
All-in-all, Rovi offers a complete ‘ecosystem’ of products and services to make sure Ultra High Definition content seamlessly gets from the camera to the viewer. We were impressed with the full suite of 4K tools demonstrated at the presentation, which are must for anyone serious about developing anything in the soon-to-be vast world of Ultra HD.
** Ultra HDTV’s Best of the Best Award **
Vizio unveiled their Reference Series lineup at CES 2014. Wow, just wow. The 120-inch ‘Reference Series’ Ultra HD Smart TV is more than 6 feet high, and almost 9 feet wide, weighing just over 100 pounds — basically it is its own piece of furniture. The Reference Series Ultra HD TV features ‘High Dynamic Range’ technology with 384 Active LED Zones and an 800-nit ‘Ultra-Bright’ backlight, which they claim provides better brightness and contrast than any other Ultra HDTV. They got that right! Absolutely amazing!
We had to give Vizio our 2014 Best of the Best Award. The picture quality on the Reference Series is impressive, and the brightness makes you wonder why you even waste your time with other TVs. Vizio has not yet announced pricing or availability for the Reference Series, but given the history of this company, this high-end Ultra High Definition Television might be more affordable than you’d think.
Vizio also announced pricing for their consumer-grade ‘P-Series’ 4K Ultra HDTV’s, with the 50-inch model starting at $999.99, and the top-end 70-inch model at $2,599.99. Netflix and other apps will be built-in to the Vizio lineup, promising 4K Content to owners as the year moves onward. Anyone looking for an amazing Ultra HDTV for a reasonable price should seriously put Vizio on their shortlist. Simply put, the Vizio lineup is 2014′s best of the best in Ultra High Definition!