CES is always a showcase for the latest TV technologies, and CES 2015 will be no exception. As we get ready to head to the show next weekend, we're once again expecting some big news in the TV area, everything from new TV technologies that can improve performance in areas such as color and contrast, to announcements about new content and services.
With that in mind, here are the top five TV trends that we expect to see emerge at CES 2015. And if you're in the market for a new TV between now and the Super Bowl, make sure you read Top 10 TVs of 2014 and Top 10 TV deals of 2014 to get the best deals on the best TVs.
2. UHD TVs become mainstream. Almost every brand will have Ultra HD TVs at CES, as the technology goes from something of a higher-priced novelty to simply being the premium sets in a manufacturer's TV lineup. This year we tested 35 UHD sets, and several have been at the top of our Ratings. We're also expecting prices to keep falling, with screens ranging from 40 to 85 inches, with the sweet spot in terms of size and pricing in the 55- to 65-inch range.
3. There will finally be more 4K content. To get the most out of your UHD TV, you'll need some 4K content, which until very recently has been scarce. Netflix has been offering some 4K video streams for a few months, and recently Amazon, DirecTV, and M-Go have started offering some 4K video streams, though DirecTV and M-Go currently work only with some Samsung sets.
This will change at CES, where we expect the existing services will announce that more TV brands will support their streaming, and several new entities will launch 4K services. We could see a major announcement by YouTube, which is using a different video codec—VP9—than the HEVC (H.265) used by the other services, as well as support for this new codec from a few manufacturers, since the decoding chip needs to be built into the TV.
We're also waiting to see if the larger cable companies have any announcements about how they'll offer 4K content to their subscribers.
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4. OLED TVs will still be fairly limited, and pricey. We think OLED is the future of TV—but that future's not here just yet. Right now LG is really the only company pushing OLED TV technology, and we're not sure that 2015 will be any different.
We've tested one LG OLED TV model this year, and while we noted a few shortcomings we were nonetheless impressed with its overall performance, especially in areas such as black levels and contrast, which were unmatched.
Though pricing of LG's 55-inch set has dropped (it's now selling for $3,000 to $3,500), high prices will remain the norm as the industry moves to larger screen sizes and UHD resolutions. That's one reason we don't see many other companies pushing OLED technology; instead, they'll embrace quantum dots as a way to get OLED-like colors.
5. You'll hear more about High Dynamic Range (HDR). HDR is an attempt to improve a TV's performance beyond picture detail by focusing on better brightness and contrast, which is the spread between how bright and how dark a TV can get.
At the last CES we heard a lot about Dolby's proprietary approach, called Dolby Vision, which is an encode/decode solution, meaning that it has to convince Hollywood to encode content, which can then be decoded in the television.
Other companies are attempting to create HDR-like performance in the TV without the need for special content. We expect to hear more about Dolby Vision and other approaches at CES, though we imagine that we won't see sets utilizing HDR until later in the year.
So those are our predictions for some of the top TV trends we'll see emerging at CES. We're sending our largest team ever of reporters and testers out to CES this year, so keep checking back for all our coverage of CES 2015, which kicks off early next week.
—James K. Willcox
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