Through the looking glass

Bigger, thinner and brighter

By Marc Saltzman

For self-professed geeks such as yours truly, the annual Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is simply nerdvana. We’re talking nearly three million square feet of showroom floor space—the equivalent of about 55 football fields—all devoted to upcoming gadgets and gear. From autonomous car concepts and adorable robots to voice-controlled smart-home gadgets and wearable health innovations, CES serves up an exciting peek into where we’re going.

And yes, it wouldn’t be CES if it didn’t have next-generation televisions. Giant, thin and gorgeous TVs were on dis- play, hoping to generate buzz about new models available by mid-year.

The following are a few highlights—but be aware that none has confirmed pricing or a specific launch window just yet. You’re getting a sneak peak, courtesy of yours truly, who braved the 175,000-strong industry crowd to bring you a glimpse of tomorrow.

Rollable TV

Finally, a television that rolls up into a small stand when you don’t need it. Billed as the world’s first large flexible-display product to market, this 65-inch TV tucks into a small table-like stand when not in use—resembling a piece of furniture. It includes a built-in shelving unit on top—but once you turn on the box with a button or by using your voice (with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant sup- port), the screen rises rise up in just 10 seconds.

There’s also “Line Mode,” in which about a quarter of the display is shown, for on-screen music controls and smart-home control. The LG SIGNATURE OLED (pronounced “oh-led”) TV R also houses a powerful 100- watt Dolby® Atmos speaker.

This unique television can also roll downwards from the ceiling, like a projector screen, if you prefer to mount it against a wall.

This model was designed to create a more aesthetically pleasing environment, says LG, by giving people the ability to adjust how their TV looks according to the design of a room.

Rotatable TV

The first rotatable model, the Sero, was also unveiled by Samsung at CES 2020.

The Sero, which means “vertical” in Korean, can pivot between horizontal and vertical orientations—just like many computer monitors and whiteboards (aka Samsung’s aptly named The Flip).

Why would you want this? Well, if the TV detects it’s showing vertical content—such as TikTok videos or Instagram photos—it can rotate the screen accordingly (as opposed to seeing black bars on each side of the content) for your viewing pleasure. Samsung says Sero’s display- orientation technology connects seamlessly with your smartphone or tablet so it will rotate automatically based on what you’re watching, or you can manually request the change on the remote and then flip it back when you want to watch TV shows, movies or sports.

Targeting the mobile generation (primarily Gen Z and millennials), the Sero has a modern design that stands out in any space, and a range of different display features for when it’s not in use.

Enormous TVs

Speaking of new, the Korean consumer electronics giant also showed off its latest MicroLED television technology— at a whopping 292 inches!—but the models slated to debut for the home will have “smaller” 75 -, 88-, 93- and 110-inch displays (and up to 150 inches for the commercial market).

Aptly named The Wall, Samsung’s MicroLED television is essentially a collection of smaller MicroLED panels placed adjacent to one another to create a much bigger picture. And it’s said to be modular, so you can add or remove panels, too. These TVs have an “infinity” design (think infinity pools), virtually removing all four sides of the bezel for a finish that blends right into any wall.

No word yet on when we can expect these to be ready to install—providing your wall is big enough, that is!

8K televisions

If you thought your new 4K TV was gorgeous, you couldn’t walk a few feet at CES without stumbling over 8K TVs. That is, instead of the roughly eight million dots (or pixels) that make up a 4K image, we’re talking more than 33 million pixels, resulting in an unbelievably lifelike and clear picture (even nose to glass).

Another way to think about it: 8K TVs offer four times the resolution of a 4K TV and 16 times that of a 1080p HD TV. And yes, until 8K content becomes more readily available, these new televisions can “upscale” HD or 4K content to near 8K resolution.

Sony wowed the crowds with its Z8H 8K LED TVs, which will be available sometime in 2020 in 75- and 85-inch sizes. These “Full Array” LEDs bring more realistic peaks of brightness, more accurate shadow detail and deeper blacks than standard edge-lit LED TVs. When coupled with Sony’s TRILUMINOS Display (for better colour and brightness) and its Picture Processor X1 Ultimate engine, it delivers a stunning picture.

Sony also introduced new Frame Tweeter technology, which vibrates the frame of the television to emit sound, giving viewers the sensation that sound is coming directly from the screen.

As with many other Sony televisions, these 8K models are Android TVs with built-in Google Play Store, Chrome- cast and Google Assistant. With the latter, Sony’s Z8H and upcoming X950H 4K models are voice-activated, so you can ask the television to search for the latest movie block- buster, stream shows or do non-TV tasks such as dimming the lights or changing the temperature in the home (with compatible devices). Pricing and retail availability will be announced in spring 2020.

LG, on the other hand, showed off its ZX OLED 8K TV.

Pronounced “Zee ten,” this stunning—and stunningly thin—television is available in up to 88 inches. Like other 8K televisions, LG’s Alpha Nine Gen 3 processor can upscale lower resolution content to near 8K quality—and improve sound quality, too, says the company.

TVs with OLED panels are incredibly thin because each pixel (dot) is its own light source, meaning that backlighting isn’t required.

More importantly, perhaps, OLED televisions deliver a gorgeous picture, including unprecedented contrast ratios— the luminance between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks—as well as high brightness compared with most LED-backlit TVs (the bigger the “nits” number, the higher the brightness). OLED TVs are also much more energy efficient than other TV panel types as they sip rather than gulp electricity.

And then there’s Samsung’s flagship Q950TS QLED 8K TV—the industry’s first 8K TV to combine a striking, ultra-thin form, premium 8K picture quality and impressive surround-sound audio. Plus, like the abovementioned MicroLED models, the Q950TS boasts an Infinity Screen that produces a screen-to-body ratio of 99 per cent, so there’s virtually nothing between you and your content.

The television can upscale non-8K content thanks to its AI Quantum Processor 8K, while a feature called Adaptive Picture optimizes the screen to both ambient conditions (such as changing lighting in the room) and individual images.

Along with better audio—with technologies such as Q-Symphony, Object Tracking Sound+ (OTS+) and Active Voice Amplifier—Samsung says its upcoming 2020 QLED 8K television lineup will offer ATSC 3.0 tuners, a next- generation broadcast standard for over-the-air transmissions in up to 4K quality.

For the past 25 years, Marc Saltzman has been a recognized expert in consumer electronics, business tech, social media, and automotive trends. You can see him on CTV, Global TV, and as a keynote speaker across North America. Follow him on Twitter @marc_saltzman.

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