Ultra-HD Leads Announcements at CES7 Jan, 2014 By: Chris Tribbey
LAS VEGAS — As expected, 4K ruled the day to kick off the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
Ultra-HD (UHD) TVs — large and small, expensive and affordable — and 4K content to play on them was front and center from every major consumer electronics company Jan. 6, the day before CES opened its doors.
“2014 will be a breakthrough year for Ultra-HD and it’s important to deliver on not only the top-of-the-line products but also great content to fully enjoy the benefits of Ultra-HD,” said Kyungshik Lee, SVP of Samsung’s service strategy team of visual display business.
Comcast, Amazon Instant Video, DirecTV and M-Go were among the companies to announce 4K services, while Paramount, Fox and other studios confirmed they would make their best movies available in the format, which offers a picture four times the resolution of high-def.
“We will continue to push the boundaries of high-definition technology to deliver the best possible experience to our viewers; 4K UHD is no different," said Matt Strauss, SVP and GM of video services for Comcast Cable, which is partnering with Samsung to offer subscribers 4K content streaming.
The major announcements made Jan. 6 include:
Samsung was all about curves with its UHD line-up, debuting six curved 4K sets, one a giant 105 inches. The smallest is 50 inches.
“In 2014 Samsung will drive industry growth through tremendous innovation in UHD picture quality, breakthrough design and consumer choice,” said HS Kim, EVP of the visual display business at Samsung Electronics. “The combination of our curved design and UHD picture quality creates the ultimate immersive entertainment experience for people passionate about entertainment.”
The curved screens offer a wider field of view and create a 3D effect without the need for glasses. All of Samsung’s 2014 UHD TVs are capable of upscaling content to 4K.
The TVs also feature a web browser, split-screen Internet content and the company’s new U9000 series give viewers the option to split the screen four ways.
Samsung also made a major content splash, announcing 4K content partnerships with Amazon, Comcast Xfinity TV, DirecTV, M-Go, Netflix, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution.
“Customers are excited about the future of 4K and the next evolution of high-resolution video,” said Bill Carr, VP of digital video and music for Amazon. “There are a number of elements that need to work together to create a true 4K experience for customers — you need great content and compatible devices but you also need a service that can deliver that content to your devices so that it plays beautifully—we’re excited about making that a reality.”
Amazon said it would make a big push with its Instant Video service and 4K this year, with Amazon Studios shooting all 2014 full original series in 4K, and partnering with Warner, Fox, Lionsgate and others to bring 4K movies to its subscribers.
“Warner Bros. is looking forward to working with Amazon as they offer their customers a fantastic 4K home entertainment experience,” said Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Home Entertainment Distribution. “The new 4K Ultra-HD displays provide viewers with a superior picture, bringing new life to movies and TV shows, and for content that is not available in 4K, the Ultra-HD displays will make every detail of your Blu-ray collection more vivid and crisp compared to standard 1080p screens.”
Mike Dunn, president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, added: "Amazon has a strong history of consumer-empowering innovations, and their commitment to advancing the consumer digital experience is a testament to their innovative culture. Our strategy of fostering easy, affordable and accessible ways for consumers to enjoy Fox movies and TV shows across all of their devices is very much in line with that."
It wouldn’t be a CES without a major announcement from Sony.
In addition to a wide range of UHD sets, Sony announced it was expanding the content offerings on its Video Unlimited 4K download service and that its newest UHD sets would support 4K content from Netflix.
“It may be cliché to say content is king, but when talking about 4K Ultra-HD TV, it reigns over consumer decision-making,” said Mike Lucas, SVP of Sony Electronics’ Home Entertainment and Sound Division. “Sony is a company of firsts and we continue to lead the way with 4K from lens to living room. Couple our key industry partnerships with our group-wide collaboration and innovative technologies, and consumers will see Sony continues to lead, advance and enrich the 4K entertainment experience.”
There are now more than 140 movies and TV shows available on Video Unlimited, which are available for rent or download to consumers with a Sony 4K Ultra-HD Media Player and Sony 4K Ultra-HD TV. In 2014, Captain Phillips and American Hustle will be among the new titles added to the service.
On the Blu-ray player side, Sony is putting out five new models, the BDP-S6200, BDP-S5200, BDP-S3200 and BDP-S1200, all Internet-connected, and all capable of displaying content wirelessly from an Android device.
The BDP-S6200 upscales content to 4K and is 3D capable.
Panasonic had more than one announcement outside of HDTV, including a new 3D Blu-ray player with 4K upscaling and two standard Blu-ray players,
The BDT360 3D player also features Miracast, which lets smartphone and tablet owners share photos, music and video on the big screen wirelessly. Pricing for the three players was not released.
The company’s 2014 Viera branded line of UHD and HDTVs will include “Life+ Screen,” a new interface that promises more consumer personalization, easier content discovery across services and voice navigation.
“There are so many things you can do with your TV these days, from watching TV shows and films, connecting with family and friends via social media, accessing video on demand and user-generated content via the cloud, gaming, and so much more,” said Julie Bauer, president of Panasonic Consumer Electronics. “Technology has brought us access to a seemingly endless list of content options directly through your TV and it is getting harder to find what to watch. So we decided it was time to redefine what a 21st century TV should be by taking into account how people live their lives today, and how that will change in the future.”
Panasonic also announced a 20-inch 4K tablet, the Toughpad 4K UT-MA6, priced at $6,999.
Lastly, Panasonic announced it was working with Mozilla to bring a new Firefox operating system to its upcoming TVs.
Sharp announced four series of large-screen Aquos branded TVs, including UHD and LED sets.
“Our new lineup of Aquos TVs provides customers with more higher-resolution choices than ever before,” said John Herrington, president of Sharp Electronics of America. “Not only does Sharp manufacture superior 4K and full HD sets in a variety of large-screen sizes, our Q series and our new Q+ offerings provide viewers with even more resolution options, including picture quality never seen before from a 1080p panel."
The Q+ Series LED TVs offer the highest resolution among standard HDTVs, the company said, and can upscale to 4K, despite not being UHD TVs. The Q+ series will be available in 60-inch, 70-inch and 80-inch sizes.
The company’s UHD line-up includes 3D-enabled sets in 60-inch and 70-inch sizes ($5,000 and $6,000, respectively).
Sharp also introduced a universal disc player ($4,000), capable of playing SACD and CDs, Blu-ray discs and DVDs, with three HDMI inputs, two USB ports and an Internet connection.
Toshiba showed off three new series of UHD TVs, complete with voice control, online gaming
“We have expanded our 2014 4K Ultra-HD TV lineup for what will be a quickly expanding 4K Ultra HD market,” said Scott Ramirez, VP of product marketing and development for Toshiba’s Visual Products division. “Once people see Ultra-HD they want Ultra-HD and we have created a model for every customer.”
The UHD TVs are all DirecTV ready, eliminating the need for a set-top box, and come with a cloud-based feature that allows owners connect to their home networks and mobile devices.
RCA — owned by Technicolor — debuted its first UHD TVs, in 55-, 65-, and 84-inch screen sizes, all with LED-backlit LCD sets, Smart TV and the Android TV platform built in, offering instant access to more than 100,000 VOD movies and TV episodes.
RCA will also offer seven HDTVs with built-in Roku, which offers more than 1,000 entertainment channels, as well as two HDTVs with a curved design.
LG got inventive with its TVs, showing off a flexible OLED TV, which allows users to control the angle of curvature of the screen using the remote.
“LG’s flexible OLED TV is a product that has to be seen to be believed because it defies description," said Hyun-hwoi Ha, president and CEO of LG’s home entertainment division. "What curved is to flat, flexible is to curved. LG continues to lead the evolution of televisions into the next generation.”
On the UHD side, LG showed off a 77-inch curved OLED 4K TV, as well as 55- and 65-inch UHD TVs.