Considering the hours of press conferences that took place on Sunday and Monday —many of which were dedicated to new TV models and technology— it seems impossible to think that by Thursday there was anything new to learn on that front. But this is CES. There is so much to see and so many companies exhibiting, that even by Thursday, there was still cool new gear to see and the showcase sets that had been featured in Monday and Tuesday keynotes were now off the stage, on the showroom floor, on display and being demonstrated. More details are emerging about what new technology might be released in 2013 and what’s likely to be be headlining CES as a commercial model next year.
Case in point, Philips 60-inch glasses-free Ultra HDTV. We’ve heard this claim from Philips before (minus the Ultra HD resolution part), but the prototypes have never lived up to the hype. But this time, the company appears to have nailed it. The key to getting the 3D effect to work without stereoscopic glasses is high resolution and data speed and with the combination of modern CPUs and 4K Ultra HDTV panels, the capability to ditch those annoying glasses is finally here. The main catch is that viewers have to be sitting in a “sweet spot” to see the 3D effect, so watching from the extreme side of the room isn’t going to be a pleasant experience. Demos were being held for select journalists and the word is that the technology works well —but the actual set was under wraps and not available for public viewing. The question is, will Philips release a version commercially in 2013? The company is staying mum on that for now, but is promising more news in February.
Sony impressed earlier in the week with a prototype 56-inch UltraHD OLED TV. In case you’re wondering what’s up with the acronym, OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology is considered the next step beyond LED. It works without a backlight, so it can produce much deeper blacks than LCD or LED displays, while being much thinner. It’s also incredibly expensive. Sony’s first OLED TV (released in 1998) measured only 11-inches and still sold for $2,500. However, OLED prototypes featured in company keynotes were the subject of considerable attention today. Not just Sony’s but also Panasonic’s. That company displayed its own 56-inch UltraHD OLED TV that’s only 1.3 cm thick and weighs just over 12 kg. How close are these sets to production? Panasonic hinted that it is converting a former LCD panel factory to producing OLED panels this year, so it could be closer than we think. Better start saving, though, because OLED is still expected to command a huge premium and there's little chance of sets in this size and of this quality hitting the market for much less than $15,000.
Not to be outdone, Samsung showed what that thin OLED display technology can do (besides offering a dazzling picture), offering up a 55-inch OLED TV with a slight curve in the screen. Not as pronounced a curve as the flexible-screened OLED smartphone prototype it's been demonstrating, but still a world’s first. Samsung claims this unique new TV form factor makes for a more immersive, IMAX-like viewing experience than a completely flat screen does. Although this is another prototype, Samsung reps were talking up a possible 2013 release. So keep an eye out for this one. No word on how the screen curvature might affect wall mounting...