For the last week I've been staring into the future of TVs, and it's hella bright.
is over, and now we know all about the year's newest, biggest sets. I saw many, many inches of screen real estate, all of it in 4K resolution and most of it HDR-compatible, with more light output, blacker blacks and crazier designs than ever.
My favorite TV technologies, such as OLED, HDR and local dimming, proliferated to new manufacturers. More players in the game increases competition, spurs innovation and drives down prices. At the high end of the market, TV makers are getting even more creative as they strive to outdo one another to earn buzz (and your buck). And at the budget end there are more good choices than ever, especially from unfamiliar brands.
Let's dig in.
There is another Skywalker (er, OLED TV brand)
If you were waiting for an OLED that isn't an LG, the wait is over. Sony will begin selling the A1E series in the US later this year, finally bringing another brand to the competition for best picture quality ever. I saw glimpses of the set at Sony's booth and in a closed-door comparison Sony put on, and it looks as good as you would expect a Sony OLED TV to look.
The great wallpaper TV of LG
LG rules the OLED roost for now, however, and the most impressive TV at the show for me was its W7 wallpaper OLED TV. So thin it basically blends into your wall, it's easy to imagine it being what every TV will look like in five or 10 years. For now, however, it's crazy expensive at $8,000. That's OK, one of LG's myriad less-expensive OLED sets, like the B7 series, makes a pretty good consolation prize.
A Roku TV better than 'good enough'?
The Roku operating system is my favorite among any TVs, but until now it's been the province of value-centric models with just "good enough" picture quality. The TCL P series, with full-array local dimming and Dolby Vision HDR, might be the first Roku set to score higher than a 6 in our picture quality tests. And it starts at $500.
Playthings for the very rich
Yawn, you say, a sensible $500 TV. What can I get for $25,000? The Sony VPL-VZ1000ES is a 4K short-throw laser projector that can fill a 120-inch screen yet look as good as many TVs in bright light. Then again, if I had that kind of money to throw around on a TV, I might move my seat a bit closer to one of the 77-inch OLED TVs from LG or Sony. First world problems.
Dolby Vision HDR: Coming to more TVs and Blu-ray
To me high dynamic range is more exciting than 4K, 3D or any other TV innovation since high definition itself. In 2017 the Dolby Vision HDR format will be adopted by a slew of new TV makers, including Sony, TCL, Hisense and Philips. Meanwhile a 4K Blu-ray player from LG, as well as ones from Oppo and Philips, will support Dolby Vision too, and the first discs for those players will appear in early 2017. The more HDR, the better.
Kitchen sink streamer
Speaking of players, nothing is quite as powerful as the new Nvidia Shield at providing stuff to fill your TV. Sure you get Netflix and Amazon in 4K and HDR, but it also delivers loads of games (including some in HDR), can command your smart home devices, and even replace a Google Home. Now when you talk to your TV, it talks back.
Hello Hulu live TV
Hulu walked me through its upcoming live TV service for cord cutters and lemme tell ya, it looks pretty good. Profiles, plenty of live channels and Hulu's massive on-demand catalog blend together seamlessly to provide stiff competition to DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue and Sling TV. And there's even a cloud DVR.
CES is always filled to the gills with intriguing TV announcements, but 2017 was one of the best I can remember. Rather than vaporware and marketing fluff, most TV makers and home entertainment companies showed products that I'm actually excited to test in person. Some are sure to disappoint, of course, but some may deserve to entertain you sometime soon. We'll see.