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CES 2015 - Day One: UHD TV - Better not just more pixels

by David Watkins | Apr 07, 2015

CES 2015 – Day One (Tuesday)

Television sets have long been the darling of CES despite the efforts of mobile devices, smart home and wearables to dislodge them from their throne in recent years. If yesterday’s press day announcements and the throng of people forcing their way into the central hall booths of the major TV vendors this morning is anything to go by then the TV has certainly retained its position as the king of tech at this year's show.

UHD TV - A focus on better not just more pixels

TV vendors are well aware that higher resolution on its own is not enough to generate a real step change in picture quality (although of course resolution is the easiest element to market to the consumer). The four other main ways to improve picture quality are through higher frame ratesbetter colorimetrygreater bit depth and higher dynamic range. At CES 2015 most of the major TV vendors are addressing all of these elements to a certain degree but it is the enhancements to color and dynamic range that have been getting most of the attention on the show floor.

Several LCD TV vendors including Samsung, TCL and LG are looking to widen the color gamut on their sets by employing a technology known as Quantum Dots which are essentially nanocrystals that emit their own light and create a range of colors that can exceed 100% of the NTSC standard. QD Vision is a major supplier of Quantum dot technology with its Color IQ system and has been used in Sony’s Triluminous TV displays for a few years now. TCL has also partnered with QD Vision to bring quantum dot technology to its UHD 55 inch H9700 model which is due to launch in the US in the second half of 2015. LG sources its quantum dots from Dow Chemical, a rival of QD Vision, and the company has also developed its own wide color gamut solution which it calls ColorPrime which it will offer in its step up UHD series. LG is seemingly hedging its bets between the two color solutions, letting the consumer decide which is best. Sharp was also touting its own wide color spectrum technology calledSpectros.

Samsung, Sharp, LG and Sony all announced that they will be building High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology into select UHD models this year. HDR is effectively better contrast ratio allowing for darker blacks and brighter whites to bring more clarity and detail to images. The three major suppliers of HDR solutions are Dolby with its Dolby Vision suite, Technicolor and Philips but at this stage it is not clear which HDR solution each TV vendor will be using. Significantly the only way to benefit from the built in HDR technology is to watch content that has been mastered in HDR which is virtually non-existent at present. Netflix is looking to rectify that and announced at both the LG and Sony press events that it would add HDR to its 1080p and 4K streaming services later this year and would support all HDR standards adopted by the newly formed UHD Alliance of which Netflix is a member along with Dolby and Technicolor. 

All of these LCD UHD TV display improvements should be applauded as they really do bring about a step change in picture quality that is far more impactful than just a pure increase in resolution. However, the industry must think carefully on how to promote these new technologies in order to avoid creating consumer confusion or worse potential backlash from those consumers who have already spent thousands of dollars on older non HDR or wider color gamut models.

David Watkins
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