January 3: Earlier than ever
We've always thought CES began far too early. It's a four-day event, starting January 6th. Now imagine that you're a major exhibitor at this show of shows. You'll be exhibiting your latest products, not the ones that have been in the showrooms for six months. Your engineers had to sacrifice Christmas to get the products fine-tuned, packed up and shipped. Shipping is another problem. Good luck getting UPS to pick up your shipment on Boxing Day. And you'd better hope there's no delay between your headquarters (which may be on the other side oi the planet) and Las Vegas,
Now imagine that you are, like us, a journalist.
This is the worst show yet. The first event for journalists is on January 3rd, That means travelling the day after the New Year with no buffer before registration and CES Unveiled. After that, there are now two full days of press conferences. And then the four days of the show.
You know what the result will be? A lot of companies have decided to forget CES. The trend was noticeable last year at the Venetian hotel, where the real hi-fi gear was. Floors that had been reserved for "high-performance audio" were turned into meeting rooms for companies that make computer hard drives.
Yes, we have reports from Vegas 2017. But we're not spending thousands of dollars to get them.
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January 4: Lineups for press days
Press day at CES has always been a hassle. Despite CTA's efforts to reduce the number of journalists, limiting entry to those who actually do stuff, the lineups have been larger than ever. If you want to attend two back-to-back press conferences, you probably won't get into the second one. So now there are two press days (plus last night's CES Unveiled, a bash with free food, an open bar, and tables full of gear).
Samsung is usually first up, and so it is this time. TV sets are the products that interest us, of course. Some manufacturers are concentrating on OLED (organic light-emitting diodes), but Samsung was showing its latest QLED sets. The “Q” stands for quantum dots, tiny light sources that replace the usual backlighting. These are still liquid-crystal sets with their advantages (great brightness) and disadvantages (the inability to produce really dark blacks). But these sets can simulate high contrast by turning the backlighting (the dots) off completely in selected areas. That has long been done, but with much larger segments. We have no prices for the moment, but you can expect QLED to be way cheaper than OLED.
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January 4: LG features OLED
LG and Samsung are, of course, both Korean, but they are fierce competitors. Samsung's QLED has the price advantage, but OLED can do high contrast and deep blacks without any tricks.
LG's partner in the production of these high-end TVs is Dolby, whose high dynamic range (HDR) technology is now used in high-end cinemas. LG says it delivers greater brightness and contrast, as well as a fuller palette of rich colors.
Dolby technology is used for sound as well: Dolby Atmos promises rich sound that “fills the entire room, even the space overhead.” How this works is not obvious. The speakers of the new sets fire upward from a screen that is “blade thin” (LG's word) at 2.67 mm.
We're often asked about our evaluation of OLED technology. It produces spectacularly beautiful images, and there's no doubt about it. But spectacular is not the same as natural. We're unhappy that both the Samsung and LG sets are demonstrated with fireworks and flowing liquids, rather than, say, movies, with real people in them.
The TV sets were not the only products shown by LG. There is a whole plethora of home appliances connected to the Internet. So we have the familiar refrigerator with the camera inside, so that you can check the contents when you're at the supermarket. Now there's a washing machine that can analyze the hardness of the water and the dust in the air, and make adjustments for...oh, the heck with it. One well-known reporter who sat through the presentation noted that having all your appliances connected to the Web gives hackers great new opportunities.
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January 4: A laser projector that is (almost) affordable
The first time we saw a short-throw laser video projector, it was from Hisense, the Chinese home enterrtainment company. It looked really promising. The second one was from Sony. It was the very best video demo we had ever seen, but it cost $50,000.
Now Hisense is back, and its entry is more than a little interesting. The LaserCast has 4K resolution, unlike the one announced by LG. It will sell for $13,000, complete with a basic 5.1 channel audio system (but of course you can use your own). The image size can be pretty much what you want, because this is a projector.
But as you can see from Hisense's promo photo, this is not the classic projector you position on a tabletop or attach to the ceiling. It sits right at the base of your chosen screen and throws the image upward. Of course, you'd expect the image to be seriously wedge-shaped, but it's corrected electronically to look the way it should.
Hisense also announced some classic TV sets. It now owns the Sharp brand, as well as Sharp's Quattron quad-pixel technology.
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January 5: Getting into turntables
With vinyl now outselling CDs, everyone needs something to play LPs on, and so there are new brands of turntables appearing. Bryston has one (and the company is attending CES). And now Mark Levinson, the high-end division of Harman International, has one too.
The imaginatively named Model 515 is notable for its tone arm, which is 3D-printed. The heavy platter is belt-driven from a synchronous motor, using power from a generator and amplifier, not the power line.
The 515 is actually made for Mark Levinson by VPI, and is based on an older design by VPI's Harry Weisfeld. It will cost $10,000 USD, and that's without a cartridge.
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