CES 2011 Preview 
Home Theater Feature Articles Other
Written by Dick Ward   
Monday, 03 January 2011

The Consumer Electronics Show is just a couple days away, and there's plenty of excitement going into it.  It's a time for big announcements, exciting technologies and perhaps the part we all look forward to - new product launches. Every CES is different and every CES brings something new.  It's like Christmas day for the industry.  Each booth is like a present under the tree just waiting to be opened.  Sometimes you get exactly what you wanted, sometimes there's a surprise and sometimes you get reindeer socks from your weird aunt.

The last few Consumer Electronics Shows have showcased 3D televisions, Blu-ray players and height channel audio, declaring each year to be the big one for 3D.  This CES is going to be even more 3D focused than the last few - it's time for that big push to see if 3D can really make it into the mainstream or not.  No matter what else happens, 3D is bound to be the biggest thing at CES this year. Of course, with so much emphasis on 3D from the big boys, the smaller companies are jumping into the 3D game too.  Just about anyone who makes a display or a source is finding a way to make it 3D.  Expect to see a lot of strange 3D products this year.

One surprisingly cool 3D product is coming from Westinghouse, who we rarely get excited about.  Their TVs aren't exactly at the high end, but the company's new 3D personal media viewer is well worth seeing.  Like other personal media viewers, it takes the form of a pair of glasses or goggles that show you a very small close-up image.  Unlike others, it does 3D, making it an interesting and even practical device for fans of 3D. 3D fans have plenty to look forward to in new sets being rolled out by the likes of LG and Vizio too.  What sets them apart from other sets on the market is their use of passive, electronics free glasses like you'd find in a movie theater. The new sets are both 65 inches, and it seems like the technology will be limited to very large TVs for now.  As you'd expect, the TVs boasting passive tech are more expensive, but the glasses are far cheaper.  Both companies say that their sets are superior to those using active technology, so the competition between the two types of 3D glasses could end up being one of the big stories of the show.

3d vegas
Designer 3D glasses are going to make a strong presence at this year's CES and we'll have plenty to say about whether they actually help to improve the picture as companies like Oakley and Gunnar claim.  The launch of passive 3D glasses seemed trivial at first, but with the new "Theater 3D" televisions on the way they're starting to look far more appealing. Don't like wearing glasses to get your content?  Don't worry, glasses-free displays are on the way.  We won't be seeing Nintendo's 3DS despite early rumors, but you can expect to see glasses-free displays from a few companies, including one handheld set from LG.  Don't expect a large scale glasses-free set anytime soon though, they seem to be relegated to the 10 inch and down category for now.

Of course, none of that matters without content.  Not that exclusive stuff either - 3D isn't going to take off unless everyone can get their hands on the latest and greatest.  We're hoping for some big content announcements at this year's show. We've had 3D as a "Miss" two years in a row in our CES wrap-up, but with so many companies pushing it so hard and so much new technology behind it this might be the year 3D finally becomes a "Hit." 

While the steady stream of new 3D technology is a sure thing, Google TV is going to be this show's big mystery.  There's been a lot of controversy surrounding the new platform and rumors abound about what we'll be seeing. We've heard rumors of Toshiba, Samsung and Vizio bringing out Google TV products, though Samsung seems a bit reticent, stating " Samsung is focused on delivering the most complete smart TV experience to consumers and this will guide our approach as we consider introducing new services or platforms such as with Google," but that " A relationship with Google TV is currently under consideration but no decision has yet been reached."

Meanwhile, there are reports of a Google TV delay.  The initial software package wasn't entirely well received and there's no question that the folks at Google are hard at work on something new.  Logitech has even stopped production of the Revue until something happens about the platform.   The big question is whether we'll see Google TV presence at the show. According to rumor, the new software is still in the works and won't be ready for the show.  As such, Google has asked that companies delay showing off the new Google TV, which may cause them to hold back some products as well.  After all, without the new software, the hardware isn't as impressive.

Google TV

On the other hand, there's a chance that we'll get to see the new Google TV software at the show.  Given all the talk that's going around it seems like unlikely, but we're holding out hope. Even if Google TV isn't there, you can expect to see streaming content on just about every device you can hook up to a TV.  Receivers, Blu-ray players, game consoles and everything else Home Theater will be getting an internet infusion. There are already plenty around, but new set-top boxes with added functionality are sure to be on the way.  The market is crowded, but with more people than ever jumping on connected hardware, there's plenty of room for something new.

The folks at LG have created what they call a Smart TV Adapter, which lets you upgrade your standard HD television into a Smart TV.  It adds the full internet experience from LG, including Netflix, Pandora and other streaming services.  The company hasn't specified whether this will only work with LG televisions or not.

There's also a distinct possibility of seeing big things from one of the less common networking technologies like MoCA, which sends your signal through coaxial cables, or Powerline which does so through your electrical lines.  Wireless just isn't cutting it, and a big play from one of the two could mean exciting things for 2011. One technology we don't expect to be seeing much of at the show is OLED - at least not in TVs.  Sure, there will be plenty of AMOLED and OLED displays on cell phones and cameras, but unless someone's been keeping secrets incredibly well, it doesn't seem like OLED televisions are heading our way anytime soon.   The usual token OLED sets will certainly be there, along with one or two companies demonstrating just how good 3D can look on an OLED display, but if you're hoping for a reasonably priced 42-inch screen, you're going to be sorely disappointed.

Speaking of disappointment, expect to see a few companies introduce some rather unimpressive innovations.  Magic wand remotes, motion control, strange new alternatives to traditional 3D and more are on the way.    Surely something will work its way though, but don't expect anything too amazing. Owners of iPods, iPhones and iPads can expect to see even more compatibility heading their way.  The iPad opened up  a whole world of possibilities as a touchscreen controller and tech companies are quickly jumping on board.  New receivers are especially likely to boast new compatibility. Another thing the iPad did was popularize the tablet.  We'll be seeing plenty at CES, and hopefully one or two that boast the same kind of functionality we've come to expect from Apple's iPad.  Android tablets are looking promising, and stand to take Apple's throne - at least in the realm of home theater.

One incredibly promising development to come out of the computer market is the advent of processors with graphics capabilities built right in.  By combining graphics and processing power onto one chip, Intel and AMD are making it easy to create small but powerful devices. The single-chip technology could help to create thinner and more comfortable touch-screen remotes, MP3 players that can play HD content and even portable 3D devices.

CES is always a big event, but with so many new developments and products already announced - and so many that haven't yet been - this could be one of the biggest.  We're expecting a lot and certainly hoping that the event can live up to the hype. Stay tuned to the site for updates from the show and post-show conclusions.


What are you excited to check out / hear about at CES this year?  

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