As I’ve said many times, evaluating image quality on a trade-show floor is usually an exercise in futility. There’s a ton of ambient light, and most manufacturers show carefully selected or custom-made content—usually bright, colorful, and slow-moving—designed to make their displays look as good as they can in that environment. As a result, I rarely include opinions about image quality in my show reports.
Still, some displays stand out from the rest, even on the show floor. And some manufacturers construct light-controlled areas within their booths so viewers can get a better idea of a display’s image quality. Others can be found in hotel suites, where ambient light isn’t as much of an issue.
With all that in mind, here are 10 of the best video demos I saw at CES 2017. I’ve put them in alphabetical order by manufacturer, not in any ranking order. The environments in which I saw each of them were quite different, so making a judgement call about which was better than which is nearly impossible. The name of each product is hyperlinked to more info about it.
Hisense had two Laser Cast ultra-short throw (UST) laser-illuminated projectors in its booth on the show floor, both based on single-chip DLP technology and projecting onto an ambient light-rejecting screen. The H9900 is an actual product that’s expected to sell for $13,000—including a 100″ screen and 5.1 sound system. It looked quite good, but on the other side of the wall was a prototype UST projector dubbed Dual Color that looked even better. Apparently, the projector utilizes two color wheels as well as a red and blue laser to achieve 95% of the BT.2020 color gamut, though I was unable to learn exactly how it works; when I do, I’ll update this post. Regardless of how it works, the image was excellent, with deeply saturated colors and lots of pop, even out on the show floor.
JVC introduced three new D-ILA projectors, which represent the next generation of its 4K e-Shift models. The company erected a small blacked-out demo theater within its booth with a top-tier DLA-RS620 showing clips from the World of Warcraft UHD Blu-ray on a 120″ Screen Innovations Slate 0.8 screen. The blacks were super-deep, and shadow detail was superb. Also, colors were rich with bright highlights thanks to the projector’s 2000-lumen peak output.
LeEco’s uMax85 is a seriously disruptive UHD TV—85″, FALD backlighting with 448 zones, 90% of the DCI/P3 color gamut, and support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision—all for a list price of $5000, with deep discounts often available on the company’s online e-commerce site, LeMall.com. It looked fine, but across the booth was the prototype uMax85Q, which is identical to the uMax85 except that the Q version uses quantum dots to achieve 90% of the BT.2020 color gamut. It looked exceptional with stunning colors. No pricing or availability was announced, but it could be a game changer.
4. LG OLED TVs
Many AVS Forum members agree that OLED TVs provide the finest flat-panel picture you can buy today, and LG’s 2017 lineup pushes that envelope. Even in the bright lights of the main booth, these OLED TVs really shined with great colors and—of course—super-deep blacks, belying the notion that OLED can’t look good in high ambient light. As Mark Henninger reports here, the flagship W7 was demonstrated in a glassed-off room within the booth. And while the audio from its Atmos soundbar was underwhelming, the picture was striking, especially given the set’s almost impossibly thin form factor.
No one who visited the front of Central Hall in the Las Vegas Convention Center could have missed LG’s OLED tunnel at the entrance to its booth. With 216 55″ OLED TVs mounted to form a tunnel 49′ long, 24′ wide, and 16′ high, the area was surprisingly dark, even though it was open at one end. The demo content included images of outer space to show off the deep blacks along with nebulae and other heavenly bodies with bright colors. The effect was stunning, and everyone who saw it gasped in amazement.
Samsung’s QLED TVs—edgelit LCD TVs with blue LEDs and red and green quantum dots of a new formulation—achieve an especially wide viewing angle even though they use VA (vertically aligned) LCD panels, which generally have poorer viewing angles but better black levels than IPS (in-plane switching) panels. The main reason is a new subpixel structure that calibrator David MacKenzie noticed immediately (and wrote about here), but I didn’t. To my eye—in a less-than-ideal viewing environment—the image looked mighty fine with well-saturated colors at high brightness, and surprisingly so at large off-axis angles.
LG is no longer the only purveyor of OLED TVs—Sony introduced the A1E at CES. Based on an OLED panel from LG Display, Sony added its own not-so-secret sauce in the form of the X1 Extreme video processor and other refinements. It looked great in the main Sony booth, and I also got to see it in a smaller, blacked-out room, where it was shown side by side with another unnamed OLED TV. (I wonder which one?) Of course, this was a demo presented by Sony, so who knows about the setup—I was told both sets were in their out-of-box condition—but other than some obvious edge enhancement, the A1E clearly looked better, with surprisingly deeper blacks and more saturated colors at the high end of the brightness range.
This was my favorite video demo at CES 2017. Dubbed CLEDIS (Crystal LED Integrated Structure), the massive screen measured 32′ wide by 8′ tall with a resolution of 8K x 2K. Each pixel consists of a tiny trio of LEDs occupying an area of only 3 square microns mounted on a black surface that’s 100 times larger. These pixels are grouped into tiles that can be assembled into a screen of any size with no visible seams. The image was staggering in its brightness, color, and resolution, leading many showgoers—including myself—to linger and watch the demo loop several times. Of course, it ain’t cheap, but for the 0.1%, it would be the ultimate home-theater display.
The 2017 version of Sony’s popular LCD TV—the X940E—shares much with its predecessor, including a FALD backlight and HDR performance. New this year is support for Dolby Vision in addition to HDR10. The new model was shown Sony’s main booth, but the lighting was somewhat subdued thanks to a roof that blocked the convention center’s klieg lights, and the picture looked mighty fine.
Wolf’s new TXF-5000 is based on the same innards as JVC’s flagship DLA-RS4500—true 4K imagers with a blue-laser/yellow-phosphor light engine. But Wolf tunes the heck out of it, much like AMG tunes already-fine cars such as Mercedes, and the result is an unmistakably superb picture. I saw it in a suite at the Venetian on a Vutec BriteWhite Opaque screen (120″, 1.3 gain), so ambient light wasn’t an issue. (I turned on the lights to get a photo, but all critical viewing was done with the lights off.) The image was sourced from a Kaleidescape Stratos 4K server and Samsung UBD-K8500 UHD Blu-ray player, and the result was stunning, with super-deep blacks, excellent shadow detail, and rich, well-saturated colors. JVC was showing the RS4500 in a different suite, and I heard that it also looked amazing, but unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see it.