Jarred’s Best of CES 2012

CES is all wrapped up and everyone is back home (presumably—there are probably a few who remained in Vegas to lose more money gamble a bit more), and one of the questions I’ve been asked repeatedly by friends and family is, “What was the coolest thing you saw at CES this year?” Now, keep in mind that I am only one person and I didn’t even see a fraction of the show floor, as there were plenty of meetings set up around Vegas, so this is just my perspective on the coolest technology trends at the show. You’ll also notice that there’s a common thread in what really impressed me, but this is a highly subjective topic so take it for what it’s worth: one man’s opinion. (And note that I am specifically not speaking for the other editors; I'm sure most of them would have a different top three.)

I Have Seen the Future, and the Future Is 4K

The most impressive thing I saw at the show for me is the 4K displays. Several places had such displays on hand, but I didn’t spend a lot of time with the various display/HDTV vendors so the first real close up encounter I had with a 4K display was at AMD’s meeting rooms. They had a 4K panel hooked up to a 7970 running an in-house demo. The demo itself wasn’t anything special, but the display… wow! I didn’t have a tape measure handy and the AMD reps I asked weren’t sure, but the panel appeared to be a 46” model (possibly 42”). I did check the native resolution, and while I’m not sure if all 4K displays will use the same resolution, this particular panel was running at 4096x2160, so it’s even wider than the current 16:9 aspect ratio panels (and closer to cinema resolutions); thankfully, with 2160 vertical pixels, I’m not sure many will complain about the loss of height.

Other than the sheer size of the display, what really stood out was the amazing clarity. The dot pitch at 4096x2160—even on a 46” display!—is slightly smaller than that of a 30” 2560x1600 display. I don’t actually need a finer dot pitch, and I had to increase the DPI of Windows in order to cope with my degrading vision (some text just looks too small to comfortably read from a couple feet away), but for videos and images I’m of the opinion that “more is always better” (provided you have the hardware to drive the resolution, obviously). Where I really see 4K being useful outside of people that love high DPI computer displays is for home theater enthusiasts that have 60” and larger displays—particularly projectors—where 1080p just doesn’t really cut it.

If you want another perspective, the consumer electronics industry is always looking for ways to get people to upgrade. When HDTV first came out, you had to choose between 720p and 1080i. A couple years later, 1080p launched and everyone “had to” upgrade. Then of course we had the 120Hz/240Hz/480Hz offerings, and 3D displays got thrown into the mix as well. Now that 1080p 120Hz displays are going for $500-$800 for 40-52” HDTVs, for a lot of people we’re at the point where our displays are good enough to last the next decade. So how do you convince people that they need to upgrade again? You come out with an even better standard. (I also suspect we’ll see a follow up to Blu-ray with native 4K support at some point in the not-too-distant future; that will also be when the content providers come up with a new “unbreakable” DRM standard that will cause a lot of grief and still get cracked within a year of launch.)

Now, I’m all for giant HDTVs, but even I would suggest that a 42” or 46” computer display sitting on your desk would be too much. Still, if I could get an IPS, PLS, or *VA panel and the weight was manageable for my desk, I’d be willing to give it a go. The only drawback I can really see is pricing; I don’t know what these displays will cost when they start showing up en masse at retail, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see five figures for a while. Then again, I remember when 60” plasma displays were going for >$20K about eight years ago, so given another decade we should see these panels in the <$1000 range (for 40-60”). However long it takes, when the price is right I know I’ll be eager to upgrade.

Looking Forward to WUXGA and QXGA Tablets
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  • marc1000 - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    thanks Jarred! it's nice to know anything, even if it is a "not yet"... lol

    i will keep waiting for that card, if it gets only 1 PCIe power connector it will be my next card. if not, I will just wait until this level of performance fits this power envelope.

  • maglito - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    I was genuinely excited about ultrabooks too. Crap (sub 1080p resolution) is a deal breaker.

    I guess I'll start looking more seriously at sticking it out longer on my core2 ULV 11.6" and look towards the 2XXXx15XX resolution tablets.

    What a disappointment.
  • Roland00Address - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    The problem is they only off this resolution on their signature sony Zs so it is about 2.8 to 3k for price
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    I believe the base model Z starts at under $2000 and includes the dock, but still, it's an expensive (and beautiful I might add!) display for sure. I had one company suggest that such displays add $700 to the price of a laptop right now, and they might be right. Or they might be trying to make excuses for using crappy displays.

    Incidentally, did you know you can buy a 1080p 95% NTSC matte 15.6" panel online for under $150? I'm not sure how a 13.1" display would cost four times as much to make; it's just a matter of getting enough supply and demand.
  • Roland00Address - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    The base sony z is 1600x900
    You can find the base sony z for 1.8 to 2 k

    To get the 1920x1080 sony z you need to upgrade to their "signature" models which cost 2.8 to 3k
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    Oh, you're right... forgot about that. Sony pricing is as "good" as Apple! :-)
  • mckirkus - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    4K makes sense for movies if they're broadcast on a giant screen at a theater. Not at home on a 50'' screen 12 feet away from the viewer.

    I'm a lot more excited to see OLED displays. We need to refocus on color gamut, contrast, refresh rates, not more pixels nobody can see. On a tablet two feet from your face higher resolutions matter.

    As for YouTube, 4k is a joke because the bit rates aren't high enough to take advantage of the resolution.
  • Fanfoot - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    Sorry, but I don't agree. If you think the TVs we've got now are as big as they're going to ever get, you're wrong. I sit some 8-10 feet from my 65" TV and it actually seems quite small. The number of degrees of arc isn't actually that great. If you want something that seems more like the experience of watching in a theater TVs need to get MUCH bigger.

    Already last year we saw that 80" Sharp LCD TV at $4999, way below anything we'd seen at that size previously. And with LCD TV manufacturers seeing a glut in production and prices crashing below $1000 you can't really blame them for looking forward to even larger TVs.

    A "wall size" unit is still a long ways off.
  • mckirkus - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    The TV size sweetspot right now is 46 inches. Even for high end TVs where price isn't a concern. A lot of people apparently find massive TVs kind of tacky (have a look in a home design magazine). That may not apply to you but it means 80'' TVs will remain a niche market, regardless of how cheap they get. Which means 4k will remain a niche technology, which means it will remain expensive.

    Blu Ray needs 40Mbits a second to drive 1080p. If Blu-Ray is the last physical media before we're all streaming, and 4k is 4x the resolution of 1080p, then we need 150-200Mbps internet connections before this is even feasible.
  • EyelessBlond - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    You know where gigantic displays will eventually find a home in the, er, home? Windows. And no, I don't mean the operating system:


    The future is a large picture window being replaced by a TV that can switch from window to giant display with a push of a button. The other alternative is advancements in flexible displays that will allow very large TVs to roll up into the ceiling, but that kind of already exists for projectors and nobody uses them, so it's not likely to be very big in the future either.

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