TVs at CES 2014: Bye-bye 1080p plasma, hello 4K LED LCD
The Consumer Electronics Show is all about TVs, and this year we expect the usual slew of announcements and buzzwords, as well as one conspicuous absentee: Panasonic plasma.
A lot of stuff happened in 2013, and it was an especially eventful year in the TV market.
The biggest change happened on October 31, however, when Panasonicthat it would no longer manufacture plasma TVs. For , the question immediately became "What's next?"
CES 2014 will have the immediate answers.
Filling plasma's shoes with LED
First off, LG and Samsung will most likely introduce and sell new models of plasma TVs in 2014. Heck, the successor to the plasma, even if it's exactly the same, is my odds-on favorite for best non-OLED TV of the year.
Speaking of, I don't expect those TVs to fall much in price in 2014. Yes, leading TV makers will likely introduce new versions, and some might even and/or , but you still won't be able to afford one. 2014 absolutely will not be the year OLED goes mainstream, and I don't even expect to hear much about it at CES.
That leaves Vizio E series -- with its affordable, effective local dimming -- might point the way.to fill the void left by plasma. I'm that any can reach the heights of bang/buck that the Panasonic S60 and ST60 achieved, but products like the
Help me, local dimming Kenobi; you're my only hope
If you're not familiar with , it's a technology that allows LED LCDs to overcome one of their biggest picture quality problems -- grayish, washed-out renditions of black -- by selectively dimming and brightening different parts of the screen. Done right, it works wonders. The best-performing LED LCD TVs of 2013, including the Samsung F8000/ , the Sony and the Vizio E and were all local dimmers.
In 2014, I expect to see even more TV makers introduce local dimming, and migrate the capability down to less-expensive models. I'd also love to see the return of full-array local dimming, last seen on the Sony XBR-HX950, in high-end models.
That's what myself and others focussed on picture quality would *like* to see. In reality, what we're going to see from LED LCD makers is something closer to the monstrosities below.
4K and curved: Two unavoidable trends
The two TVs pictured above are 105-inch, curved, 4K resolution LED LCDs recently introduced by and . I wouldn't be surprised if they cost $80,000 on account of their otherworldly size.
Back on Earth, I don't expect too many more curved TVs to be introduced at CES, but the models above, in addition to the curved OLEDs and, the first curved LED LCD, constitute a mini-trend. In the quest for the new and different, curved TVs and , now that they actually can be manufactured, are seemingly irresistible. Unlike the phones, the one curved TV I got to extensively test in person, , didn't benefit from its concavity. I found myself wishing it was flat.
As for 4K, or Ultra-high Definition, it'll be as common at CES as hacking coughs and B.O. Every TV maker will introduce at least one line with 4K resolution, nearly all will have, and prices will continue falling. 4K TVs will take the place of 1080p TVs as the flagship models, so if you're buying a high-end LED LCD TV in 2014 -- for example, one with local dimming -- chances are it'll have 4K resolution .
As we've said, the migration from 1080p to 4K resolution TVs is . 2014 will be the year 4K TVs hit mainstream prices.
I am hoping for more concrete announcements about 4K content, which is still essentially nonexistent. At this point I'd be surprised if 4K Blu-ray was announced in time for the show, although there have been which now says a specific 4K streaming app will be available on certain TVs introduced at the show.. I don't expect any major TV broadcast announcements, although there will be some chatter around the . Perhaps the most important piece of solid 4K content news comes from Netflix,
Odds-n-ends: Smart, big, and China
No CES preview is complete without passing mention of Smart TV, so here it is: More TVs will be Smart than ever, and they'll do more stuff like control your cable box, respond to voice commands and play your cell phone videos. LG has already said it will show 2014 models that run off its new , so there's that.
Every TV maker has told me the "real growth" is in big screens, 55 inches and larger. The other side of that coin is that it'll be more and more difficult to find premium, high-quality TVs in smaller sizes.
One thing no traditional TV maker wants to talk about is China. Chinese TV brands, led by Seiki, TCL and Hisense, made serious inroads in the US market this year, in part by grabbing headlines with inexpensive 4K models. If one or more decided to try "pulling a Vizio" -- create a more trusted brand in the US while retaining ultra-aggressive prices -- making waves at CES would be a good start.
Plasma may be on life support, and OLED a distant beacon of faint and fading hope, but hundreds of TVs will still be introduced at CES 2014. We'll be there to catalog the best and most interesting ones, no matter how curved or festooned with gimmickry, and let you know what (if anything) is really important about them. And if none of these newfangled TV trends tempts you, .