Live From CES Blog: All the News From Today’s Press Events
The 2014 CES Convention began today with the annual CES Press Conference day, when many of the big announcements from the most important exhibitors are unveiled. The following is a live blog post that will be updated throughout the day beginning with LG Electronics and then highlighting announcements from Sharp, Panasonic, DISH, Samsung, Hisense, and Sony.
Overall, it was an interesting day but one filled with plenty of important steps forward with respect to Ultra HD and “smart” devices, tablets, and phones, but there was no “killer” introduction. Which, honestly, given the track record of over-hyped product areas in 2010 and 2011 (think 3D, e-readers, and the original smart TVs) may be a good thing.
First up was LG Electronics that also celebrates its 10th anniversary in the U.S. market this year (yes, it was only 2004 that the LG brand became a part of the consumer electronics landscape.
The slogan this year for LG is “It’s all possible” so let’s see what the company has in mind. Content, which will be a consistent theme of the day, was the big news from LG Electronics.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings took to the stage with LG CTO Dr. Scott Ahn to talk about a new game-changer that is the result of LG’s Web OS and pointer device that allows consumers to point and find the content they want.
The game-changer? An Ultra HD streaming service that is integrated in the LG Ultra HD sets. Hastings says that House of Cards will be one of the first TV shows available in 4K to consumers this year.
“People who invest in new LG TVs will be able to watch content in 4K on LG sets with Web OS,” said Hastings.
As for those Ultra HD sets? LG’s new curved ULTRA HD TV (model 105UC9) features a massive 105-in. screen with a 21:9 aspect ratio and 5120×2160 5K resolution. LG also introduced its premium UB9800 series 4K ULTRA HD TV lineup comprising 65-, 79-, 84- and 98-in. units.
The company says the UB9800 comes with a sophisticated upscaling function that takes SD, HD, or Full HD content and renders it in sharp, near Ultra HD quality. Working in tandem with the upgraded Super Resolution Algorithm, the Tru-ULTRA HD Engine Pro guarantees a more enjoyable viewing experience by eliminating the visual errors common to other upscaling systems. In addition, the Tru-ULTRA HD Engine Pro also supports a technique called 4K Motion Estimation Motion Compensation (MEMC), which ensures that all 4K Ultra HD content appears lifelike and free of motion blur.
A particularly forward-looking feature of LG’s ULTRA HD TVs is the built-in 4K HEVC 60p decoder. The device decodes broadcast signals in both H.264 and HEVC H.265 formats, in both 30p or 60p. What’s more, the TV seamlessly displays Ultra HD content from nearly any input source, including HDMI 2.0, USB and LAN. The new models also feature LG’s unique ULTRA HD CINEMA 3D, which uses Film Patterned Retarder (FPR) technology to render convincing 3D images with virtually no flicker or cross-talk.
And for fans of plasma, there is still hope for the future as four new series and five plasma TVs will still be in the mix for LG. And the LCD lineup will have 25 new TVs, from 22- to 70-inches that are up to 30 percent slimmer than in 2013.
So to highlight the big news: Netflix streaming of 4K content; the use of a 4K HEVC codec that can allow 60p sports content to be delivered to the set; and the death of plasma has been greatly exaggerated.
Sharp was up next and introduced the latest models in its Aquos lineup. The highlight is the new Quattron +, designed to allow consumers to play 4K content on an LED TV that does not have true 4K resolution (and also doesn’t have the big price tag). With the use of Sharp Quattron and Revelation technologies it does have 10 million additional subpixels over a standard HD set. The result? More color and greater depth, two improvements that could make the lineup an interesting alternative for those Sharp customers who cannot quite find the financial means to pay the additional $3,000 required go 4K. Expect it to be about half the price of a Sharp 4K set. The SQ line will be in 60- and 70-inch screen sizes while the UQ line has additional features and will be available in an 80 inch size.
As for the company’s 4K lineup? The Sharp Aquos 4K Ultra HD set is the world’s first to have THX certification and will also have HDMI 2.0 for 60p content and HEVC for streaming 4K content. It will be available in both 60- and 70-inch screen sizes with additional sizes to be announced later this year.
Panasonic’s Rance Poehler, Panasonic Systems Company of North America, President, put the focus on a strategy that is designed to make Panasonic a leader in more than just living room 4K technology but, instead, a leader in the use of 4K for business needs as well.
A 4K tablet, for example, was re-introduced (it made its debut at least year’s CES) and a 4K Varicam camera that can shoot up to 120 frames-per-second (and will be introduced at NAB) was also highlighted. And then there are 4K needs in museums, galleries, and even for security cameras as reducing the number of cameras required to cover an area can cut costs at sports venues and other locations.
Also highlighted was the announcement of a new outdoor 4K display that will be installed in Churchill Downs and will be the world’s largest (longer than a football field) when it is in place in time for this year’s running of the Kentucky Derby in May.
As for the consumer side, Julie Bauer, Panasonic Consumer Electronics, president, introduced the HD and Ultra HD product lineups.
One enhancement across the board? Going beyond the smart TV to something called the “life+screen” that Bauer says will take consumers to a whole new level of experience. The My Stream feature knows who is watching and what their favorite programs are. A Viera Assistant responds to voice commands. And an Info Bar displays information like weather and news when someone walks by the TV set. It will be featured on all 1080p and Ultra HD sets.
Also with the use of Studio Master Color technology the 4K LED AX800 58-65-inch models will bring plasma contrast performance to LED TVs, overcoming a shortcoming in previous LED sets.
Dish was the only content distributor to have its own event at CES and among the highlights was “SuperJoey,” giving users the ability to record up to eight shows simultaneously and DISH Anywhere integration of Hopper Transfers to Apple, Android, and Kindle Fire devices and a new app that allows recorded content to be viewed without the need for an Internet connection.
Vivek Khemka, senior vice president, product management at DISH said, “Now, Hopper with Sling users can choose to watch all their live and recorded shows remotely and transfer recorded programs to their iOS and Android devices, all within the new DISH Anywhere app.”
Khemka added that the transfer time as also been improved so that it only takes 15 minutes to transfer a 30 minute program from the Dish Hopper DVR and the portable device.
“We continue to focus on three key features: affordable, anywhere, and easy to use,” he added.
In addition DVR control and channel guides have been extended to Sony PS3, PS4, and LG Smart TVs. Lastly, a new Dish Explorer app with voice search and control can allow or users to use natural language to search and control recorded and VOD content.
Samsung CEO BK Yoon kicked off the 2014 Samsung press conference with a vision of a smarter future with smarter homes that reflect four key factors that he says are changing the world: connectivity, urbanization, aging populations, and extreme weather events. And Tim Baxter, Tim Baxter, Samsung Electronics America, president, teed up, literally, PGA CEO Peter Bevaqua to discuss a new relationship between Samsung and the PGA. The two entities have co-developed a new app exclusively for Samsung devices.
Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban was also on hand as “entrepreneur” to represent the NBA’s new relationship with Samsung and to discuss second-screen 2.0 which is all about integrating with a TV broadcast as well as Ultra HD.
“UHD is incredible, from a gate point of view that extra resolution and pixels used for gaming and untold things that developers will come with,” he said.
Joe Stinziano, Samsugn Eletronics America, SVP, then dove into UHD, the “next driver in the TV industry. But not all UHD is created equal.”
Samsung’s first UHD’s were launched in 2013 and the company was tops in market share and sales.
“And analysts say demand will skyrocket to 60 million sets in 2017,” he said.
But, he added, UHD won’t be Samsung’s only star on 2014 as he introduced a new “bendable” TV set that, with the push of a button, curves to best suit the viewer’s needs.
In terms of the new UHD lineup, the lineup from Samsung will include curved sets from 50 to 110 inches in size. And new features include auto depth enhancer, PurColor for accurate and natural colors, and UHD upsclaing and UHD dimming. And a Samsung Evolution kit allows the sets to remain future-proof as technologies change. The One Connect Box essentially houses the brains of the TV externally, enabling customers to switch out the box with the latest Samsung UHD Evolution Kit to stay up to date on the latest UHD standards, as well as to get access to the newest technology Samsung has to offer, all helping customers protect their investment for many years to come.
Through its three UHD TV series – S9, U9000 and U8550 – in 2014 Samsung will offer a full lineup of UHD Smart TV models in sizes from 50 to a 110 inches, and both curved and flat form factors so consumers can choose the UHD TV that best fits their lifestyle.
“We’re the only TV manufacturer that ensures you are ready for the future of UHD,” said Stinziano.
And then there is the need for content. This spring a UHD video pack will be launched and 4K content will also be integrated with Samsung sets from Amazon, Netflix, Comcast Xfinity, and DirecTV.
Also new from Samsung were two “pro” Galaxy tablets: the Note Pro and three models of the Tab Pro. The Note Pro is a 12-inch tablet that is designed to bring true to life colors to a tablet that is about the size of a normal paper. And multitasking is at a new level as four windows can be used and viewed at the same time. And up to 20 devices can be connected via WiFi with document editing at the same time. Lastly, a remote PC feature allows for remote control of files and programs on a PC. And the 12-inch size also has a full-size virtual keyboard for easy typing. Other specs include depth of only 7.95mm, weight at a little over 1.5 pounds, a 2.3 GHz quad core processor with 3 GB of RAM and the Android 4.4 operating system. And with WiFi ac MIMO the company is promising better connectivity.
The Tab Pro models include an 8.4 and 10.2-inch version and weight of a little more than 1 pound.
Hisense is at CES once again looking to build its global brand awareness. As a group the total revenue for TV grew to $2.2 billion outside of China and in the US total sales were up to 1.9 million. And U.S. sales alone should top 3 million TV and tablet units in 2014 giving the company reason to consider building a U.S. factory. More importantly, the CES research presented on Sunday (more on that later) proved that the Chinese market is going to be a powerhouse and what succeeds there may succeed elsewhere through sheer scale. One wonders if Hisense can ride the wave.
Jonathan Frank, VP of Marketing, Hisense USA, and Chris Tyghe, Head of Marketing for Jamdeo, took to the stage to discuss how the company’s new smart TV platform, VIDAA, could make a difference for a concept that has never quite lived up to the hype. Last year VIAA was rolled out to the Chinese market and this marked its U.S. debut. The goal is to simplify the user experience with simplified content silos (Live TV, VOD, Media Center, and Apps).
“The forced integration of computing into TV sets bolted discrete functions into the TV and led to confusion that has stopped smart TVs from being more fully adopted,” said Tyghe. “So we took a step back to see what is going on, what it is so complex, and how we can change that.”
The key is to allow users to jump back and forth between content with the single push of a button. For example, while watching an on-demand product a viewer could hit a button to check a score and then hit another button to jump back to the content without multiple clicks. Ditto for going to other devices like a blu-ray or DVD player or even cloud-based storage services like Dropbox.
“It waits for you because it is your experience,” added Tyghe.
That quote encapsulates an entire industry’s desire for a Smart TV experience that is clean and ready for even the most non-technical household member. The steps taken by Hisense are a step in the right direction.
Sony Electronics made it clear that 4K and Ultra HD are the top priority in their 2014 plans has the first 20 minutes of their press event were dedicated to developments related to the new format: and that doesn’t even include any new product innovations.
“Watching someone experience 4K for the first time never gets old,” said Mike Fasulo, the new president and COO of Sony Electronics. “And we have made steady progress on a variety of 4K devices but we all know that content is king and we made significant advances there as well.”
Topping the list of past accomplishments was the successful deployment of Sony’s native 4K delivery service to a server that is sold with every 4K set. By the end of the summer of 2013 it was up and running and has a library of more than 140 titles, including movies and TV programs like Breaking Bad.
Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, made his second CES press conference appearance of the day (he started the day at the LG Electronics press event) to talk about the work Sony and Netflix are doing together to roll out a Netflix UltraHD service.
“The Internet is a natural medium to deliver 4K and we are not only working on the encoding but also the deliver mechanism,” said Hastings. “We’ve been working with Sony on 4K for the Bravia TVs and giving the Internet a chance to shine.”
In terms of delivering 4K, Hastings says that 15 Mbps is enough to deliver the content using HEVC.
“So anyone with a cable or fiber plant at 20 Mbps or above will have plenty of headroom and that is a testament to the work on encoding we have done and the work Sony has done on decoding.
In terms of new Ultra HD set developments, the XBR-X950B, XBR-X900B, and XBR-X850B topped the list, offering expanded dynamic range and a unique blacklighting technology that Fasulo said means better brightness, higher peaks, and deeper blacks.
“And available in both 65 and 85 inches the displays are eye catching no matter what you are viewing,” he added.
Another new development was a 4K Handycam, the FDR-AX100, that Fasulo says is ideal for film-level projects as well as weddings or vacations. Priced at $2,000 it can also downconvert 4K content to HD within the camera, playing back a super-sampled HD signal that Fasulo said is much higher in quality than conventional HD.