This year’s CES had three main thrusts—more smart TVs with an increasing portfolio of built-in Internet apps, a greatly expanded array of 3D HDTVs (many compatible with passive and inexpensive polarized 3D glasses, the same type provided in most commercial 3D movie theaters), and a plethora of iPad-like tablet devices.
The Wednesday before the show opened was press day, with LG Electronics kicking off the festivities with an event featuring a pre-taped segment with actress Jane Lynch of Glee fame, touting LG’s expansive line-up of internet-enabled TVs and other devices. Most notable amongst their various product unveilings was a wide range of 3D flat panels that utilize passive polarized 3D glasses for viewing, which are much less expensive than active shutter-type LCD 3D glasses. A number of LG’s new 2011 3D sets will ship with four pairs of glasses with additional pairs said to retail for under $20 each, with some of the premium models slated to ship with THX certification for both 2D and 3D modes. Among the wide range of new models shown, LG also debuted their SmartTV Upgrader, an adapter that adds web access and internet app functionality to any TV or projector that has an HDMI input.
Sharp debuted an expanded 3D line-up, including a 70” model as part of their four color Quattron range with LED backlighting that will ship with built-in Wi-Fi, and they released more details about their XV-Z17000 3D DLP front projector that was previewed at last fall’s CEDIA show, which features active shutter LCD glasses technology and is slated to carry a suggested retail of $4,999. The projector is slated to ship with two pairs of glasses.
At the Samsung event, on an elaborate stage, the firm introduced a new line of plasma flat panels that feature a trimmed bezel that provides for an increase of an inch of viewable picture area compared to earlier generation sets. With a theatrical flair, they also debuted new LED-powered LCD flat panels with two models shown on the stage that were rather ordinary looking—ordinary, that is, until the faux frame bezels were removed to show the real thing underneath, with ultra-thin bezels about as thick as a pencil.
Samsung claims they shipped about a million 3DTVs last year, capturing about 70% market share, and project an overall 3DTV market of around six million units for 2011. While the actual 2010 sales numbers overall fell short of earlier projections, Samsung pointed out that, in terms of adoption rates, 3DTV in 2010 outsold DVD, Blu-ray and even HDTV in their respective debut years. They also touted their expanding smart TV offerings, with more than 300 apps currently available (some free, some not), claiming one million smart app downloads so far.
Their snazzy premium color LCD touchpad remote gets updates with capabilities for handling two video streams, letting viewers watch one program on the TV itself, while the person who takes the remote elsewhere in the home can watch another. They also debuted stylish and lightweight (one ounce) active shutter 3D glasses that can be wirelessly recharged via an optional docking station. They also demo’d a 3D version of their excellent DLP front projector, although pricing wasn’t available at press time.
Panasonic announced an expanded 3DTV range, including their first LCD 3DTV models. Along with Samsung, Panasonic was first out of the gate with 3DTV last year, but they only offered 3D in their plasma range. While plasma is still the preferred choice of fussy videophiles (like me), there’s no question that Panasonic’s new LCD 3DTV models will greatly expand their 3D market share.
It would be a dull business without Sony, and once again the firm went over the top with a lavish press conference in their CES booth. Calling their CES presence a “booth” is somewhat misleading as the sheer acreage of their display seemed to go on forever. The highlight of Sony’s CES presence was a massive venue-type HD display that was many dozens of feet wide, with the ability to simultaneously show three huge 16:9 2D and 3D images, or one super widescreen image. Sony CEO Howard Stringer got things off to a rollicking start with a 3D trailer of Sony Pictures’ Green Hornet movie, and then appeared onstage with the film’s stars—Seth Rogan and Jay Chou, who play Britt Reid and Kato respectively, along with the other star of the show, a 1966 Chrysler Imperial, also known as the Black Beauty.