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CES 2019: What to expect

28 Dec 2018 | Rasmus Larsen |

Many of the most prominent brands will take the stage at CES 2019 in Las Vegas to show off their latest innovations and products. FlatpanelsHD will be in Las Vegas for the show and we expect to see 8K, HDMI 2.1, advancements in display technology, improved TV audio, and more.

8K and HDMI 2.1

We have already seen the first 8K TVs and have even published our review of Samsung’s Q900R. We expect to see more TV makers join the race to the next step in video resolution. Most TVs in 2019 will still come with 4K resolution but high-end will start gravitating towards 8K panels.

There has been a lot of discussion about HDMI 2.1. The next generation video interface was delayed and some manufacturers were so eager to get started that they launched 8K TVs without it. For an 8K TV, HDMI 2.1 is paramount but it can also bring improvements to 4K TVs.

However, it is important to understand that HDMI 2.1 consists of many components and some of these have already been implemented in a few 4K TVs. We expect many more TVs to support features like HDMI eARC and VRR next year. But the increased bandwidth that opens the door to true 8K input signals - and 4K at higher frame rates - requires new chipsets. We expect to see the first TVs with such chipsets introduced at CES but do not expect full HDMI 2.1 to become ubiquitous in 2019.

Display technology

OLED still has a lead in picture quality and as the TVs get cheaper they will start to challenge LCD’s dominant position in the market. There is still life in LCD, too, but the most advanced technologies will be reserved for the highest-end TVs such as 8K TVs.

Several manufacturers have developed LCD panels that use microLED - or rather miniLED - as the backlight unit in order to increase brightness and the number of addressable dimming zones. Prototypes were shown off at CES 2018 and we may see actual products at CES 2019 but even if we arrive they will most likely be very expensive.

We do not expect major picture quality advances in OLED panels - besides 8K OLED - as LG Display currently seems more focused on scaling production. However, we expect to see OLED enable new types of products such as the rollable OLED TV.

As for microLED, Samsung is planning to launch a consumer version of 146-inch The Wall. Again, it is probably more accurate to call it miniLED but the distinction is not too important. It is the same technology where the mini/micro moniker instead relates to the pixel pitch. There are rumors of Samsung launching a smaller 75-inch version but even if it happens, we expect it to be very expensive. MicroLED is not ready for the mass market yet so adjust your expectations.

Samsung The Wall

Smart TV and sound

Analyst companies report that external media players are more popular than Smart TVs for streaming video. As such, platforms such as Amazon FireTV, Apple tvOS, and Roku are more widespread in use than Samsung Tizen, LG webOS, and Android TV.

Some of the TV operating systems developed for streaming boxes are making their way to TVs but we nevertheless expect the big guys to continue on their current trajectory next year. There are rumors of Samsung adding Google Assistant but the TVs will most likely still be powered by the company’s in-house Tizen operating system.

Lastly, we expect an increased focus on TV audio. Technologies such as automatic room correction and adaptive audio tuning as well as features such as HDMI eARC and Dolby Atmos will increasingly be employed in TVs and external TV audio solutions such as soundbars. LG has announced that its 2019 TVs will support WiSA - a wireless audio system. And there is even a rumor about a crazy 21:9 TV with moving speakers.

We hope for a few surprises, too. Will Amazon or Netflix start offering 8K content next year? Will the first universal HDR TVs emerge? Will Roku and FireTV expand globally? Will we finally see 16K TVs?

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