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.
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 details—chrome highlights, reflections, sunlight, headlights—were 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!
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.