The whirlwind of CES 2008 is finally over, and now that we've had a few seconds to gather our thoughts, let's reflect on some of the major HDTV trends we observed at the show.
Thin is in
Flat-panels are popular for a reason, and part of it is people love thin screens. While plenty of people are satisfied with standard 6-inch-deep screens, HDTV companies are betting there's a market for ultrathin sets measured in millimeters rather than inches. The most impressive thin TV tech we saw was Pioneer's "Project Kuro" prototype plasma, which measures only 9mm thin, but unfortunately won't be released in 2008. On the more conventional side, JVC announced the "world's thinnest" LCD--coming in at 2.9 inches deep--while LG showed off an even thinner 1.9-inch thick LCD with a hole in it. Trumping both JVC and LG was Hitachi, with its new superslim LCDs measuring only 1.5-inches thick--although they ditch an internal ATSC tuner to do so. And, of course, no mention of thin HDTV would be complete without OLED...
OLED is coming
Sony made a big splash by showing off the 11-inch XEL-1, which will be the first OLED HDTV available in the United States and measures just 3mm thick. Samsung also had a 31-inch prototype OLED on display and there's no doubt the OLED technolgy is promising: razor thin screens, low power consumption and an excellent contrast ratio. At this early point in the game OLED isn't commercially viable--Sony's 11-inch set will cost $2,500--but as prices drop and screen sizes increase, OLED could be a major flat-panel TV technology.
WebTV all over again?
Bringing the web to your TV sounds like an idea better suited to CES 1995 rather than CES 2008, but we saw a lot of HDTV manufacturers promoting their sets' ability to grab content off the internet. HP, which has been a step ahead of everyone in this regard, announced an update to its existing MediaSmart HDTVs. Sharp is promising the ability to check weather and stock quotes on certain LCDs, while Samsung is focusing on recipes, artwork and RSS feeds. And Sony is continuing to support its Bravia Internet Video Link service, which at least looks slightly more interesting now that Sony's announced a deal with CBS.
RPTV is (mostly) dead
Some of the biggest HDTV news at CES 2008 was what wasn't there. Rear-projection HDTVs (RPTVs) were basically nowhere to be seen on the show floor, and just a week before CES started Sony announced that it would officially stop producing RPTVs altogether. While the general buzz is that RPTVs are essentially dead, that didn't stop Mitsubishi from launching a big laser TV demo--which was short on details and did little to convince us that laser has a real shot to dismount flat panels as the dominant HDTV technology.
While we were expecting to see more green HDTVs this year, we're betting Philips is in front of the curve on power-saving TV tech. The power-savings innovations on the Philips' Eco TV was enough to earn it CNET's Best in Show award and it uses less power than any other 42-inch LCD we've tested. In addition to using less watts, the Eco TV is produced using only lead-free materials and "trace" amounts of mercury. With a very reasonable $1,400 price tag, the Eco TV could be a big hit with consumers looking to control their energy costs--and if so, we'll see more green TVs from other companies.