HDTV Technologies and Trends at CES 2009 
Home Theater Feature Articles Best Of & Top 100 Lists
Written by Dick Ward   
Thursday, 15 January 2009

CES 2009 is over, but there’s still much to talk about.  As with every year, there are a lot of technological advances that stand out as big successes and those that just flop.  With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the hit or miss HDTV Technologies and Trends of CES 2009.

Thin is In! - HIT

Sure it’s a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true.   Last year it seemed like each company had only one goal in mind; to make the biggest HDTV possible.  The pull of a television bigger than any room in my house is amazing, if a bit ridiculous.  It’s a bit surprising that no one rolled anything out this year to beat the 150” Panasonic from 2008’s show.  What did make an appearance though were ridiculously thin televisions.

From Samsung’s 7mm thick LCD to Panasonic’s plasma measuring just one third of an inch (about 8mm), televisions that used to take up more floor space than anything else in the room are now so thin that they can hang as art on a wall.  Tacky art, but art nonetheless.


3D - MISS

Since man created film, there has been a constant quest for further realism.  Color and clarity have been nearly mastered, with HDTVs showing pictures with such realism that it’s sometimes difficult to tell reality from television.  There is a realm that hasn’t been captured fully yet, and that’s 3D.  There are a few inherent problems, such as the goofy glasses and expensive monitors, but the biggest flaw seems to be the style of 3D that television companies are implimenting.

Television is like a window, we look at it, but in a way we look through it to somewhere else.   We absorb ourselves in it so that the show, the movie, or game is all we are observing, and anything else ruins the experience.   When 3D images pop out of that window, they ruin the experience by showing us exactly where the edges are.  The U2 video on display, for example, Bono seemed to be closer than the television, but when the camera panned and his arm disappeared, the edge of the TV became apparent and the illusion was broken.

Gaming companies like NVIDIA took a different approach and rather than having the images pop out, had the backgrounds pop further in, making it seem as if the viewer actually was looking through a window.   It still wasn’t perfect, but at least the illusion was never broken.


All-in-Ones - HIT

Silicon Mountain’s Allio was among the All in One televisions on display, and it really showed a lot of promise.  So what is it?  Take a capable media center PC and slap it right on the back of a pretty LCD and there you have the Allio.  Starting at about $1600 for a 32” 720p version, the pricing is fairly equivalent to what consumers would pay to purchase both products individually.  

The higher models include bigger screens, more RAM, more hard drive space, a Blu-Ray player and touch screen capabilities.  The only aspect the All-in-One models seem to lack is a really good graphics card, but the onboard card should be sufficent for what’s needed.  With reasonable price tags and a large feature set, it willl be interesting to see what happens when these start hitting the market!

Green TV Technology - MISS

If the empty spaces around the green displays at CES were any indicator, the average consumer just doesn’t seem to be that concerned.  If choosing between a regular HDTV and a Green HDTV at a similar price point, Green may make a difference.  But if CES is any indicator, it certainly doesn’t seem like it’s going to inspire a new wave of HDTV purchases.

LED Backlit LCD -  HIT

Clearly a popular technology, LED backlit displays were everywhere.  Samsung’s fully backlit Luxia series looked nothing short of amazing, with a brightness and vividness that put my poor Sony Wega to shame.  LG also debuted some excellent LEDs touting a 240Hz refresh rate.

Vizio got in on the game as well, with a 55 inch backlit display.  Featuring a 240Hz refresh rate and a million to one contrast ratio, the VF551XVT comes in at just under $2,000.  A note for next year though, the jail scene from The Dark Knight makes for a really good display of the contrast ratio, but boy did the Joker creep me out.  Some images just don’t need to be that clear.

OLED - MISS

Well, missing anyway.  Weren’t there a ton of these at CES 2008?  Weren’t they larger?  The technology that was to take 2009 by storm is not the technology that might hit high end consumer pricing in the next few years.  They still look amazing, they’re still flexible, and sadly they’re still a few years off.

Integration - HIT

A common theme with new HDTVs was integration.  Whether it was Samsung, Toshiba, Sony or Vizio, it seemed that everyone was out to make the TV a one stop shop for internet based applications.  At the push of a button, different widgets pop up at the bottom of the screen for use.  Checking finances, keeping tabs on a fantasy football team, and hitting up Flickr will soon be as easy as hitting the widget button.

Perhaps more exciting is the announced integration of Netflix with several of the models.  Streaming movies don’t look amazing, but they’re instant and they’re easy.  Having thousands of movies available at the touch of a button for $8 a month?   Expect to see this feature gain in popularity in the future.


Refresh Rates – HIT

To a point anyway, the difference between a 60Hz and 120Hz rate is clear.  The motion smoothing technologies on said displays made it even more evident.  Going 120Hz to 240Hz was less obvious, but side by side there was certainly a difference.  Whether watching action movies, sports, or playing games, there’s definitely a benefit to the rate upgrade.

240 to 480?  Not so much.  Perhaps they didn’t have the best images on display to show it off, but there wasn’t a difference large enough to be truly noticeable to most consumers.  Certainly it’s beneficial, but for now, not really needed.

Gesture Control – MISS

Let me get this straight, rather than the inconvenience of grabbing a controller and hitting a few buttons, I can move into the right spot and make certain hand and arm motions to control my television?  Folks, this isn’t a Wii, it’s a television.  When I sit in front of it, it’s not because I’d rather be waving my arms around, it’s because I want to be sitting and watching.  I will give the gesture control one credit, it sure was fun to watch people try and use it.

Price Point – HIT

The recent economic decline certainly isn’t helping high end home theater companies stay in business, but a great deal of economy televisions certainly will.  With the digital cable change looming in just a month, many households will be getting their first High Def set, and every company wants to be attracting those consumers.






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