CES 2018 Tag

CES Unveils the Future of Video

CES

Now that the Circus Maximum that is CES is a couple of weeks in life’s rearview mirror, I thought I’d share a few items from the show that point to the future of home entertainment. Remembering that the goal of a home theater or media room system isn’t about the electronics themselves but rather using them to deliver the best experience your room and budget can allow, some of the trends at CES spectacularly did exactly that.

 

You usually expect to see hotshot new video projectors at ISE or CEDIA, but there were a couple of standouts at CES, especially as they pertain to the media-room concept. Sony really impressed me with the latest addition to its Life Space UX line, the LSPX-A1 (shown above). This elegantly designed all-in-one solution has an ultra-short-throw 4K laser projector in a cabinet that also houses a full audio system. Placed just inches from a wall, the projector produces a 120” 4K image while the cabinet-integrated Glass Sound Speaker system produces a 360° sound field.

 

A powered subwoofer slides out of sight beneath the cabinet, and a shelf provides an easy way to add source components like an Ultra HD Blu-ray, cable or satellite STB, or Kaleidescape Strato, with integrated wire management keeping everything neat and clean. This is the kind of simple, “I just want to enjoy a good picture and sound without all the complexity” solution that can bring many people into the media-room fold.

 

Hisense was also on the laser bandwagon with a new Laser TV system that can produce a 150″ image when placed just 14” from a wall. Since it’s a TV, that means it includes a tuner and a full audio system, courtesy of Harman Kardon. This 4K projector puts out a whopping 3,500 lumens and uses a dual-laser system to produce 99% of the DCI-P3 color gamut.

 

As much as I love projectors—and I do!—they will always have limitations when compared to direct-view LED and OLED sets. Namely they have limited light output, not able to get anywhere near the 1,000 nits required to truly enjoy HDR content, and their contrast ratios are dictated by ambient lighting. They will inevitably be replaced by other technologies, and when we can get a 100”-plus direct-view model that sells for less than $10,000, I think you’ll see projectors disappear in all but large, dedicated home theaters.

CES

Direct-view technologies like Samsung’s “The Wall” might replace projection systems of all sizes. The Wall is kind of like stackable Lego blocks made of modular micro-LED panels that snap together to create a screen of literally any size you want.

 

Samsung displayed a 146” 4K model at CES that was stunning. The image was super bright, with ultra-deep blacks and eye-popping colors, and with no visible seams where the panels connected. As the pixel density of these micro-panels gets tighter, you’ll be able to enjoy 4K in smaller sizes, as well as 8K. There was no information on price or when The Wall might come to market, but this personal Jumbotron could be a good indication of where home entertainment is heading.

 

CES is terrific for seeing the future of home video, and Sony didn’t disappoint with what many—myself included—felt was the most spectacular, “Best of Show” display at CES. While just a proof-of-concept at this point, its Full-Spec HDR 8K Display put out a scorching 10,000 nits, making it the first display to meet the maximum HDR spec. Compare that to one of the brightest displays currently on the market, Sony’s own Z9 series, which delivers around 2,000 nits, and you’ll appreciate how impressive this is.

 

To leave no question as to how this abundance of nits compares, Sony displayed the Full-Spec right next to a current flagship, the 75” Z9. On its own, the Z9 looked great, but compared to the prototype, the image was flat and slightly washed out by comparison. The brightness detailschrome highlights, reflections, sunlight, headlightswere absolutely shocking in their intensity, making you squint as if you were literally looking out a window to the real world.

 

The abundance of nits also raised color saturation, producing images that were almost lifelike, with realism I’ve never seen before. Another big part of the Sony story was the company’s new X1 Ultimate Picture Processor, a chip designed to handle 8K resolution and squeeze every drop of detail out of an image.

 

Coupled with excellent source material, the future of home video is incredibly bright indeed!

—John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

CES Impressions 2018

CES 2018--Altered Carbon (Netflix)

I can now join the ranks of pretty much every journalist I talked to at CES who’s affirmed it’s become impossible to do a comprehensive show report. CES has gotten too big for any one human to cover it all.

 

Clearly, home entertainment AV products and manufacturers are no longer the focus, although exhibitors like Samsung, Sony, and other big guns were present, headphones and Bluetooth audio systems were abundant, and there was a floor or so’s worth (rather than a hotel’s worth as in years past) of high-end audio companies at the Venetian.

 

Much of what I saw and read about was all about “connectivity,” the Internet of Things, “smart” this and thatjeez, even Bluetooth hair-care systems and yadda yadda. Well, even though I’m a tech head, I don’t care about most of these things. I care about having an emotionally moving entertainment experienceand the products and technologies that can deliver it.

 

There were many times when this Baby Boomer felt alternately intimidated and overwhelmed by all the new tech, as opposed to being in my comfort zone attending AV-oriented shows like Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and CEDIA and checking out the high-end rooms at the Venetian. Perhaps CES by its very nature now presents a skewed picture of what’s really happening in home entertainment. The show used to be more representative of “our” world. Google “media room” and you’ll get about 1,230,000,000 results. That’s not a typo. So there’s lots of real world interest in the subject. Hmmm.

 

A bright spot (more like a bright acre or two) was the proliferation of virtual reality and augmented reality exhibits in the South Hall. Total home entertainment immersionnow that appeals to me, and judging by CES 2018, I have plenty of company. This isn’t just a gamer-geek novelty anymore.

 

Much was made of the power failure in the Central Hall on the second day of CES. The irony was lost on no one. It made me realize that any consumer electronics product is worthless unless it works. After the show, I visited a friend who spent much time yelling at his smart-home control so it could “hear” him. The man-machine interface ain’t perfect yet. Will CES 2028 have a Brain Implant Device Pavilion?

 

Seems like “artificial intelligence” has become the consumer electronics buzzword du jour. But how much of it is merely hype? This is something I want to investigate. Having your refrigerator create a shopping list or having a car with facial recognition isn’t exactly the same as IBM’s Watson or even Sophia the Robot.

The most subversive booth I saw was the Netflix exhibit promoting the upcoming Altered Carbon sci-fi series (shown at the top of the page). It featured highly advanced future tech that was completely fictitious. As I left the booth, I wondered how many people thought it was real.

 

What was the Big Picture here? I don’t know if anyone can see it anymore. Literally. Maybe a few years from now, publications will be sending AI-enabled robots that unlike us mere humans might actually be able to cover the whole show.

—Frank Doris

Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and works with a
number of audio & music industry clients. He’s a professional guitarist and a vinyl enthusiast with
multiple turntables and thousands of records.