It's difficult for me to believe that 2016 marks my 25th consecutive CES. Like the previous 24 shows I've attended, there was way too much for any one person to cover, even limiting that coverage to home audio and video news. So Mark Henninger and I split up—he concentrated on audio while I focused on video, though each of us managed to experience at least a bit of what the other's coverage area offered this year in Las Vegas.
Now that the show is over, it's time to summarize our favorite items. So here are my top 10 video-related stories from CES 2016, along with links to the relevant coverage:
1. Ultra HD Premium Certification
For the last couple of years, I've been advising most video-display shoppers to delay buying a 4K/UHD TV until the dust settled around the issues of high dynamic range (HDR) and wide color gamut (WCG). Well, that wait now seems to be over—the UHD Alliance announced its Ultra HD Premium certification program, which specifies HDR and WCG performance parameters for content, distribution, and displays. If a product passes all the tests administered by an independent facility and thus earns the right to sport the Ultra HD Premium logo, consumers are assured of the best possible viewing experience available for the home.
The first displays to be certified as Ultra HD Premium are all of LG's 2016 OLED TVs
, all of Samsung's 2016 SUHD TVs
, and the Panasonic DX900 LED-LCD TV
, and others are sure to follow. By definition, all Ultra HD Blu-ray players conform to the Ultra HD Premium specs, and most Ultra HD Blu-ray discs will as well. Warner Bros. has the logo on its Ultra HD Blu-ray titles, and other studios are likely to include it. In my view, this is the real tipping point of the transition to UHD, and I couldn't be happier that it's finally here.
2. HDR/WCG Displays
Flat-panel TVs capable of reproducing content encoded with HDR and WCG were all over CES. In addition to the aforementioned LG OLEDs
, Samsung SUHD TVs
, and Panasonic DX900
, there were many others, including the Sony X930D and X940D
, LG Super UHD TVs
, Hisense H10C
, Sharp N9000
, TCL X1
, Philips 8600
, and Panasonic CZ950 OLED
. The era of HDR and WCG has finally begun!
3. Quantum-Dot Backlighting
One of the driving forces behind the widespread appearance of HDR and WCG at the show is the use of quantum-dot technology in the backlights of many LED-LCD TVs. Nanosys
is one of the primary suppliers of this technology, specializing in large films—called QDEF (Quantum Dot Enhancement Film)—embedded with billions of red and green quantum dots for use in FALD (full-array local dimming) sets with blue LEDs. Vizio was the first to use QDEF in its R65 last year, and new FALD panels at CES included the Hisense H10C
, Sharp N9000
, TCL X1
, and Philips 8600
. In addition, Samsung has licensed the Nanosys QD technology since 2010 and used it in both FALD and edgelit TVs, including the 2016 SUHD sets
. If anything can breathe new life into LCD TVs, it's quantum dots—well, and something like Sony's Backlight Master Drive, which I highlight later in this article.
4. LG OLED TVs
My favorite flat-panel displays at the show were definitely the LG UHD OLED TVs. The company announced four new lines with a total of eight new models, but only the top two lines—E6 and the flagship G6—were on display in LG's booth. As you might imagine, the blacks were to die for, and the colors really popped. Even better, the E6 and G6 lines are both flat, as is the entry-level B6; only the C6 is curved. It seems LG got the message that savvy consumers prefer flat TVs—hallelujah!
According to the company, the picture performance is the same across all four lines; design is the primary delineating factor as you step from one line to the next. The B6 does not have 3D capabilities, while the others do. The E6 and G6 sport a new "picture on glass" design and an integrated soundbar, while the G6 includes all the electronics in the base so the panel is more uniformly flat and wafer-thin.
Of course, they ain't cheap—the 65" E6 can be pre-ordered at Amazon and other online retailers for $7000, though no other prices have been announced yet. You can bet the 77" G6 will be way up there, but if you aren't set on the admittedly cool picture-on-glass design, integrated soundbar, and 3D capabilities of the G6 and E6, the 55" or 65" B6 should be fabulous for a lot less. We finally have a worthy successor to plasma!
5. LG Temple of OLED
The main entrance of LG's booth is always jaw-dropping, but this year, it was even more amazing than ever. A large blacked-out area was filled with a total of 112 OLED TVs in a semicylindrical array and a dome above the audience, and all the panels were operating as one huge, immersive, tiled display. The content was mostly footage of outer space, which was highly effective in demonstrating OLED's superior blacks. In fact, the entire presentation was quite mesmerizing, making it difficult to pull myself away to cover the rest of the show. Well done, LG!
6. Sony Backlight Master Drive
The most impressive future-tech demo I saw was Sony's Backlight Master Drive, which is basically a FALD backlight with over 1000 zones. (The Sony rep would not say how many more than 1000 zones, but I suspect it's much more.) Essentially, the backlight forms a black-and-white version of the video image—at a lower resolution than the final full-color image, to be sure, but much higher resolution than any current FALD backlight. And Sony is claiming this technology can achieve a peak light output of 4000 nits from a display that implements it.
This was a concept demo, but the Sony rep said that everything else about the display was conventional LCD technology, so it shouldn't be all that difficult to commercialize it. Perhaps we'll see a product next year, but for now, it's the best thing to happen to LCD TVs since FALD first appeared.
7. Ultra HD Blu-ray Players and Titles
UHDTVs with HDR and WCG are all well and good, but they need HDR/WCG content to look their best. Of course, that content is starting to become available from several streaming providers, but optical discs still provide the ultimate in quality. At CES, three companies announced Ultra HD Blu-ray players—Samsung, Panasonic, and Philips. No pricing was announced for the Panasonic DMP-UB900
, but the Samsung UBD-K8500
can be pre-ordered for $400, and the Philips BDP7501
will sell for the same price. That's less than half of what the first Blu-ray player cost when it was first introduced, which I find remarkable.
In addition, several studios, including Warner Bros., Twentieth Century Fox, Sony Pictures, and Lionsgate, have announced Ultra HD Blu-ray titles that will be released this year. The initial slate will include around 20 titles from all four studios, with over 100 promised by the end of the year.
8. Dish Hopper 3 Satellite DVR
Satellite provider Dish Network caused quite a stir with the announcement of its Hopper 3 DVR, which offers 16 tuners (!) and UHD capabilities. In addition to being able to record up to 16 different programs at once, the Hopper 3 can support up to six Joey extender/clients to serve up to seven different programs to TVs around the house.
9. Wolf Cinema SDC-15 D-ILA Projector
Among all the audio demos at the Venetian hotel, there were a couple of video presentations. Wolf Cinema was showing its new SDC-15 Ultra 4K projection system, which is based on a flagship D-ILA core from JVC with HDR capabilities and e-Shift 4 to present UHD resolution. The Wolf system includes the projector and the company's latest ProScaler MK IV outboard video processor, co-designed by the Wolf team and noted video engineer Jim Peterson, for a whopping $22,000—but based on the image I saw on a 10-foot-wide Seymour-Screen Excellence Ambient-Visionaire Black screen (1.2 gain), it's well worth that kind of money.
In fact, it was the best projected image I saw at the show—and that was playing normal Blu-rays! When I was there, they were playing Tomorrowland, which looked almost like it was HDR content with super-deep blacks, razor-sharp detail, exceptional color, and no visible noise whatsoever. I can't wait to see what this bad boy can do with genuine UHD/HDR content!
10. Optoma Prototype 4K DLP Projector
At CEDIA last October, Texas Instruments demonstrated a new DLP chip with 4 million micromirrors that are quickly shifted back and forth to simulate 4K/UHD resolution—not unlike JVC's e-Shift but starting with twice as many native pixels. At CES, Optoma was showing a prototype of the first consumer projector to incorporate the new chip, and it also uses LED illumination instead of a lamp and color-filter wheel. It's not expected to ship until the second half of the year, but from what I saw, it should be a winner.