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CES 2009 preview: HDTV

CNET editors preview the HDTV technology to expect during the 2009 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show.

This year's CES will bring the usual array of extremely large, easy-to-blog HDTVs, although we're not sure anybody will top the 150-inch Panasonic plasma from last year. More interesting is a group of new trends that, compared with items like "1080p" and "HDMI 1.3" from previous years, could actually prove exciting. OK fine, they're nothing compared with Macworld, but they're as exciting as HDTVs get.

Philips' Eco TV, the 2008 Best in Show winner, heralds a 'green TV' trend in 2009. Philips

Eco-friendly: Oil prices might be falling with the financial crisis, but with a new, more environmentally conscious president and general belt-tightening, the American public may finally be ready to factor power consumption into a TV-buying decision. The new Energy Star ratings rolled out in late 2008 will help separate the wastrel TVs from the misers, but as with dishwashers, we expect most TVs to bear the little blue logo in 2009. More TV makers will market "green TVs" than ever, and with some of the technologies below, especially OLED and LED, they could improve efficiency even further.

Internet connectivity: 2008 saw a rash of TVs with the capability to stream video, music, and photos over a network, along with some models from Panasonic and Samsung that display news, weather, business information, and other Internet content onscreen. In 2009, we will see further interactive capabilities, perhaps including Netflix streaming or access to online video sites like Hulu. Web video displayed on an actual TV seems like a no-brainer, and given the fractured market perhaps we're being overly optimistic. But it sure would be cool.

OLED: No display technology is cooler than OLED. Sony was first to market with a consumer OLED TV, the 11-inch XEL-1, and we expect the company to announce a larger screen size, perhaps as big as 30 inches, this year. Samsung will also join the fray. But don't expect these sets to be affordable or widely available anytime this year--or next.

LED: Much more accessible than OLED, LED backlights combined with standard LCD technology will be out in force in 2009. We've heard that one manufacturer wants to create a separate market segment called "LED TV," to separate these more-expensive, better-performing models from their non-LED LCD brethren. Samsung, Sony, and LG, at least, will expand their LED lineups in 2009, and prices will definitely fall as production ramps up.

240Hz: As the marketing logic goes, if 120Hz is good, 240Hz has to be twice as nice, right? Not really, but that higher number sure looks impressive on a spec sheet, and Sony is already selling a 240Hz LCD in its KDL-52XBR7--which, in case you don't want to click through, did not perform twice as well. Nonetheless, Samsung and LG will likely up the Hz ante in 2009 as well.

Dejudder processing: Currently widely available in 120Hz LCDs, the ability to smooth out motion, known as "dejudder," will probably migrate in force to plasma, standard 60Hz LCDs, and rear-projection, too. If you like that smooth effect feel free to rejoice, but we'll probably stick with leaving it Off, thank you.

Ultrathin flat panels: Last year's CES included a number of even flatter flat-panel LCD TVs, like the Hitachi UT37X902, and we expect abuse of the phrase "thin is in" to grow during this year's show coverage. Ultrathin technology may also make its way to plasma models this year. Of course, the difference between the standard 3 or so inches thick panel and "ultrathin" models 1 inch thick or less isn't going to sway many buyers to pay extra, but that won't stop manufacturers from pushing thin anyway.

DTV transition: We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that about a month after CES the country will go through the transition from analog to digital TV. A few manufacturers will probably take advantage of the transition to market portable DTV-ready sets or even TVs with built-in DVRs that can record digital over-the-air programming. Seriously, if you have over-the-air TV, streaming Netflix and Hulu, why keep cable?

What new HDTV technology do you want to see announced at this year's CES? Let us know in comments.

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