Monday, January 7, 2008

TV Innovations Rule CES 2008

It's the elephant in the living room: Panasonic's 150-inch plasma has all but stolen the show here at CES 2008. When people ask you "What's the coolest thing you've seen at the show so far?" they invariably follow that up with "Except for the 150-inch TV."

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And sure enough, the thing is a marvel to behold. It's so big, it's hard to take it in, really. With a viewing area that measures 11 feet by 6 1/4 feet and 8.84 million pixels of resolution, the TV (which has no model number and no date for being commercialized) is regularly thronged by crowds of slack-jawed onlookers, unable to comprehend the thing.

It's so big that all the other flat-panel companies have simply removed signage that might indicate how big (er, small) their sets are in comparison. There are obviously some big sets here from Pioneer, LG, and Sharp, but exactly how big their biggest sets are remains a mystery. Next year I will have to bring a tape measure.

Still don't think it's big? After all, maybe that woman is incredibly short, right? Wrong. Here's a picture of it next to last-year's largest, the 103-inch plasma:


With the war on screen size all but lost for 2008, a more interesting one is shaping up on thickness, with vendors battling to see just how thin they can make their displays. Virtually every vendor is offering a screen (LCD or plasma) less than 2 inches thick. LG's is 1.7 inches thick. Hitachi's plasma is 1.5 inches and its LCD is just 0.75 inch. Sharp also has a 0.8-inch-thick LCD (52 inches diagonally, too). But it's Pioneer's 0.35-inch plasma that takes the weight loss crown, even if it is a prototype.

Other TV trends continue apace: A big one is OLED, which both Sony and Samsung are moving forward impressively. Side by side, Samsung's technology demo of OLED vs. LCD is striking; the difference in color and brightness is astonishing. Meanwhile, Sony was demonstrating a 27-inch OLED set, too. (In related news, you'll finally be able to buy the 11-inch OLED here in the United States, for just $2,500.)

Also emerging: Wireless HD. While I'm not sold on the need for this technology, more and more products keep showing up with it. Will we replace HDMI cables with wireless connections? Your sense of tidiness is probably salivating over the prospect already.

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