Last year at CES, all any TV makers wanted to talk about was 4K ultra-high resolution displays. They’re still pushing these new high-resolution screens in 2015. But the big TV news at CES 2015 is color. Every TV maker wants to make colors deeper and more vibrant, and screens brighter. But not every company is doing it the same way.
Set manufacturers are also talking up other TV tech to support their new 4K push, like Android-powered screens to 4K content distribution.
The buzz at this show has been around quantum-dot technology. And it’s not what Iron Man uses to power his suit.
Let’s geek out on this new tech for a minute.
LCD displays are made up of thousands of tiny red, blue, and green dots called pixels. Those pixels get their light from a blue LED that’s coated in yellow phosphorus to create what looks like pure white light. Unfortunately, colors generated this way aren’t too vibrant or bright.
OLED TVs, which LG is pushing heavily, address these issues and offer incredible colors, but are still way too expensive for the average consumer. That’s where quantum dots come in.
Quantum-dot tech uses nanocrystals (again with the sci-fi talk, sorry) that can create pure red, blue, and green pixels. The process is both more efficient and results in gorgeous colors and deeper blacks, which means a better overall picture.
Samsung is currently using the technology in its new SUHD TV 4K televisions, while LG uses it in its Color Prime TVs. This tech isn’t even new. Sony has been using it for quite some time, though the company refers to it as its Triluminous Display technology.
Sharp and Panasonic are also in on the color improvement game with their own technologies. Panasonic says its tech, called “wide color phosphor technology,” uses a unique phosphorus coating that stimulates the red color band, which the company says is more important for color reproduction.
The result, a company spokesman explained, is a brighter image than quantum-dot TVs with nearly the same color quality.
Sharp, meanwhile, uses what it calls “Spectros Rich Color Display technology,” which adds green and red phosphorus filters to the existing yellow phosphorus used on standard LCD TVs. Sharp says the color produced by Spectros is close to the color produced by quantum-dot displays, but is less expensive to produce.
That’s not all, though. Many companies, including Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony, are also offering high-dynamic range technology with their high-end TVs, which further adds to the range of colors these sets can display.
The problem with HDR, though, is that 4K HDR content is in short supply (there’s even less of it than standard 4K content). So you won’t see the true benefit of this tech for some time.
4K for all
Meanwhile, 4K technology is trickling down to smaller TV sizes. The smallest 4K set is still fairly large at 50 inches; go lower than that, and 4K resolution is basically pointless, as 1080p is razor sharp on 47- and 48-inch displays. But with smaller sizes and a wider array of 4K capable TVs available, prices on the sets will soon start to fall.
The big news about 4K, though, is that we’re finally starting to see more 4K content that takes advantage of these TVs’ enormous pixel counts. Netflix already offers 4K content, and now Direct TV will begin to offer 4K services to more TV manufacturers; previously, Samsung 4K TVs were the only sets that could use Direct TV’s 4K service.
There’s also a new 4K set-top box from Dish, and television and film studios promise more 4K content in the near future thanks to an alliance that will create new 4K standards.
Smart TVs have, so far, been pretty awful, because their interfaces are usually slow and unintuitive. It’s usually just easier to drop a couple of extra bucks on a Chromecast or a Roku to get access to your favorite TV streaming services.
Interestingly, it looks like TV makers have finally caught on, because a host of them have introduced new TV interfaces that might just be good enough to make you ditch your set-top streaming box.
Let’s start with Sharp and Sony, which both announced that their newest TVs will run on Google’s Android TV operating system.
That means you can download apps from the Google Play store, like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and HBO GO, and watch them directly on your TV without having to buy yet another gadget. You can even play some Android games on these TVs if you want.
Sharp showed us a TV using the company’s Multiview feature, which lets you stream four apps onscreen at once, for those of you who love being distracted.
Panasonic is using the open-source Firefox OS, which is made by the same company behind the Firefox browser. Because it’s open source, like Android TV, developers can create new apps for Panasonic TVs, which could open up a whole new world of possibilities. (Developers will probably be busy enough with Android TV apps, though.)
LG and Samsung are also getting in on the action, with LG rolling out its new WebOS 2.0 TV interface, and Samsung showing off its Tizen TV interface. Both are far better than either companies’ previous offerings.
What about 3D?
Oh, yeah, about that. 3D is dead, and no one cares about it. Samsung unveiled a gigantic 8K TV that uses glasses-less 3D technology that lets you ditch those goofy 3D goggles but instead forces you to stand in a specific spot to see the effect. And even when you do see it, it looks blurry and unimpressive.
So let’s just forget that whole 3D thing ever happened? Deal? Deal.