Flagship 4K with serious speakers
Sony's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2013 booth went all out on selling the 4K resolution revolution.
Sony focused on two key ideas with its booth at CES 2013. One was a full end-to-end story of 4K television (Sony is not using the term Ultra HD for its 3840x2160 televisions). The other is "one-touch" interactions between near-field communication (NFC) phones and a range of Sony home-entertainment products. Let's take a look at the best of what it had to show.
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Sony has a deliciously black 4K TV in both 65-inch and 55-inch options coming out this year. The TV also features built-in magnetic fluid speakers, which aim to deliver far greater sound than anything we've seen directly within a flat panel in recent years. On the noisy show floor of CES, these TVs definitely showed that they can be cranked to grab attention without ending up sounding distorted and nasty. This does mean that the bezel grows again on the two sides, but, if you don't want any extra speakers involved, it's a big win.
4K OLED prototype
Only Sony and Panasonic had 4K OLED TVs on display, and the pictures were stunning; the pixel quantity of 4K with the picture quality of OLED. Over the long run, these screens will be our future.
Text on 4K is readable at range
Sony ran a number of demonstration zones to sell the reasons why 4K is a big win. One zone showed off a double-page newspaper spread on a full HDTV and a 4K TV. There's no question that even a few metres away, the text was readable in 4K, but illegible on HD. Up close, you could work out what the HD screen text said, but it was something of a mess compared to the sharpness of the 4K.
It wasn't entirely about 4K alone at Sony's booth, with a new Triluminos colour technology also being demonstrated. It's a new lighting technology that Sony has used in this year's newest panels (including high-end full HD) to expand the available colour space. The new technology extends the blue and red ranges that the TV can display, and demonstration footage showed that it definitely adds to the experience.
Upscaling HD to 4K: does it look better?
Another 4K demo showed standard full HD video footage being upscaled to 4K. We saw a few similar demos around the show, and you can definitely see an improvement in the image quality of a Blu-ray on 4K over full HD. Upscaling codecs have definitely improved over the years, and, from what we've seen, there is something to be said for seeing a Blu-ray on a 4K screen.
Sony's 4K content service
Sony wants to sell its status as a film studio as part of its pitch for 4K. Nothing shows that better than its proposed 4K content-delivery service that will stream and download 4K content for your viewing pleasure. We were told by Sony representatives that 4K content could be streamed at 13Mbps to 14Mbps using the latest encoding systems. This means that you'd need a cable modem or the National Broadband Network (NBN) to get a reliable 4K video stream, but, by the time you can afford a 4K TV, the NBN will probably already be at your door.
4K camcorder prototype
Sony showed a 4K camcorder prototype behind glass as part of its effort to give anyone the ability to shoot their own 4K content. It wasn't doing anything, so it could simply be a current camcorder with a 4K badge on the side. Panasonic did show a live demo of a 4K camcorder in action, though.
4K images via PlayStation 3
On top of everything else, Sony showed that PlayStation 3 will get a new feature so that it can display picture galleries on your 4K TV in the full available resolution. Where a full HDTV is the equivalent of 2 megapixels of resolution, a 4K TV can display 8 megapixels of images. Given that most people are shooting images in 8 megapixels or higher, this is a very nice advantage for enjoying your digital photography.
SimulView split-view gaming on 4K
We saw split-screen gaming last year thanks to 3D technologies, but this year Sony showed split screen on a 4K. We could definitely still see some crosstalk in the split, though. Seeing OLED produce two separate 3D videos that showed zero crosstalk, it seems that perfect split viewing is only going to arrive with the speed of OLED.
The first of Sony's one-touch demonstrations was to mirror Android phones to televisions. Touching the phone to the back of the TV's remote control did the pairing required to mirror the phone's display on-screen. It's the easiest mirroring we've seen without an Apple TV involved.
One-touch wireless audio
One touch extends to audio products, including wireless headphones and portable speakers. The audio products on show also included speaker features, so you could take calls through the headphones or even use the portable speakers as a teleconferencing option.
One-touch content backup station
One-touch back-up seems like a clever concept. Just leave your phone on the station, and it sets up a backup connection to ensure that your phone is backed up properly at the end of each day. Now, if they'd just add wireless charging to that backup station...
Seamus Byrne attended CES as a guest of Samsung.