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CES 2017: The Year of the Television

By: Evan Marshall

 

This year at CES, there was a multitude of big reveals in regards to the way that technology is evolving. The industry that had the most impactful reveal to me was the television industry. There were reveals from three major television manufacturers (LG, Sony, and Samsung) which showed the new technology to make televisions better, brighter, and (somehow) thinner. This year, manufacturers were pushing for OLED televisions. OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode, a display technology found in phone and laptop screens too, although, before CES 2017, only LG Display made large screen sizes with that technology.

 

Take a look at some of the reveals that made my jaw drop.

 

LG W7 OLED TV

 

The all-new W7 OLED is like no TV you’ve ever seen. It can’t stand by itself on legs or a pedestal. Instead, it requires a wall. And when attached to that wall, it protrudes no further than a couple of coins stacked together: just 3.85 mm. That’s 0.15 inch, so thin you’d never notice it from the side.

 

The 65-inch model weighs just 18 pounds and the 77-incher weighs 27. That’s less than many 32-inch LCDs, light enough to attach just about anywhere, without worrying about in-wall studs or weight limits. LG includes a special flush-mounting plate, the top of which screws into the wall as usual, while the bottom sticks to the wall with magnets. It’s even flexible enough to peel slightly away, if for no other reason than to blow your visitors’ minds.

 

Many of the coolest products shown at CES are just concepts, but LG will begin shipping the 65-inch size in March for $8000. It will also be available in a 77-inch size, with pricing and availability to be determined. For reference, LG’s current, relatively thicker 77-inch OLED costs $20,000. Nobody said the future was cheap.

 

Sony A1E OLED TV

 

In 2017, Sony enters the OLED fray. The new A1E series will ship later this year at an as-yet-undisclosed price, although a previous report says the 55-inch and 65-inch will ship during the second half of 2017, with prices of $2,000 and $3,000, respectively. It also said the panels used in the Sony TV will be originally manufactured by LG Display.

 

Sony’s announcement today mentions none of that but does reveal some new details about the series. It will include a 77-inch size (likely $20K or more) and, more interesting, a new audio technology. The screen of the TV itself acts as a speaker to produce sound, so the audio emanates from the picture itself. It eliminates speakers around or behind the TV for what Sony is calling a stand-less form factor.

 

I expect similar stellar image quality from Sony’s OLED TV, and they could even beat LG (we’ll see). They’ll have 4K resolution and a flat form factor, just like LG’s, and new for 2017 they’ll work with both HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR formats. Sony also talks up its processing, which is generally very good.

 

The set will also work with Google Home so that device can control the TV via voice, and like previous Sony sets, it uses Android TV’s operating system.

 

Samsung QLED TVs

 

The company’s new QLED TVs introduced at CES 2017 include the Q7, Q8, and Q9 series. Pricing, availability, and sizes were not confirmed, but the company did divulge plenty of claims about picture quality and other features.

 

All Q’s boast a new quantum dot technology said to improve light output (up to 2,000 nits in highlights, double that of OLED) and color performance. Samsung talks up “100 percent color volume,” claiming more accurate color reproduction at different light levels compared to OLED.  Beyond image quality, Samsung has addressed what it calls “common pain points.” One innovation is a super-flush “No Gap” wall mount, included in the Q9 and an optional accessory on the other sets. In addition to hugging the wall closely, it eases installation with tilt and simpler leveling functions.

 

The Smart TV system is largely similar to 2016, complete with the unique ability to automatically identify gear you plug in. The company has improved its phone app to mimic the look of the big screen layout, and you can even search and cast apps like Netflix to the TV from your phone, much like with Chromecast.

 

NVIDIA’S New SHIELD TV

 

The Nvidia Shield has always been more than just another box that serves up Netflix. The newest version, shipping later this month, could broaden its appeal beyond tech nerds. Welcome improvements include more apps, new smart home capabilities from Google Assistant and a better game controller. And now there’s even a remote in the box. Pricing hasn’t changed though: the basic Shield with 16GB of onboard storage is $200 and the Shield Pro with 500GB storage is $300.

 

One of the biggest complaints about Shield has finally been addressed: there’s now an app for Amazon video. It’s the latest interface and offers full access to Amazon’s vast library of content, including Prime video, a la carte movies and TV shows, and 4K and HDR content (when connected to a compatible TV). Now the sole major streaming platform that doesn’t have Amazon, the second-most popular service after Netflix, is Apple TV.

 

The new Shield box has the exact same powerful processing and graphics as the original but is 40 percent smaller. It has all of the same connections (HDMI, two USB) except there’s no longer an SD card slot. On the original Shield the remote control was a $50 option, used a rechargeable battery, and lacked infrared so it couldn’t control TV volume directly. The updated one can; it relies on a coin cell battery that lasts a year, and best of all, is now included in the box along with the game controller.