CES 2021 is an all-digital show and FlatpanelsHD will of course bring you the latest news on TVs and technologies. Here's what we know, what we think we know, and what we hope for.
8K, 4K, new display technology
Sales of 8K TVs remain sluggish, even more so than the muted expectations. Next-gen consoles did 8K no favors either; if anything the new consoles just pushed the transition further out into the future.
Nevertheless, we expect lots of new 8K TVs at CES, especially considering that Samsung, the world's largest TV maker, in 2020 downgraded its 4K TVs to try and push buyers towards 8K TVs. It is a cheap trick but it also tells you something about the cost structure of an LCD TV, regardless of whether it is marketed as "QLED", "NanoCell" or "ULED". It is expensive to equip even an inexpensive LCD panel with advanced zone dimming, which is why you are not – perhaps never – seeing those super-advanced zone dimming systems trickle-down to affordable LCD TVs.
In 2021, we will see LG, Samsung and possibly others launch LCD TVs with advanced zone dimming miniLED backlights, according to sources. It is similar to what TCL launched with its 8-series (X10 in Europe) – decent TVs but certainly no revolution. Samsung has lined up, and trademarked, a new tsunami of buzzwords including QLED Neo, QLED Platinum and QLED+ to sell the LCD TVs. It remains to be seen what LG will call its miniLED LCD TVs but when the official announcements come from LG and Samsung, know this: These are still conventional VA or IPS LCD TVs, now with more advanced backlight systems.
There will be a transition away from LCD technology. It will just take more time. LG and Samsung are both abandoning LCD panel production, leaving the Chinese to it. The challenge is that 95%, if not more, of all TVs sold still use LCD technology. No other advanced display technology is mature enough to take over just yet.
TCL launched the first miniLED LCD TV in 2019. Picture: TCL
Samsung Electronics has decided not to launch QD-OLED TVs in 2021, according to several reports. Instead, Sony, Panasonic and TCL could be the first to offer an QD-OLED TV. Both QD-OLED and microLED are exciting developments that, together with OLED, use self-emitting pixels to bring HDR and beautiful picture quality to the masses.
Samsung will launch its first pre-fabricated microLED TV in 2021. It is already confirmed but the bad news is that it will be crazy expensive, and we suspect that whatever Sony is referring to as the next "breakthrough in direct-view display technology", it too will be crazy expensive.
OLED technology will advance in 2021. In addition to the smaller 48-inch 4K OLED panel that is still rolling out, there will be a larger 83-inch 4K OLED panel, according to a report. FlatpanelsHD has also heard talk about the "next OLED evolution where OLED pixels take advantage of a new luminous element and composition to enable higher brightness. We have heard it described as 20% brighter (full white screen)". And a Gallery Stand for LG's 2021 TVs, known as C1, G1 etc.
With Vizio onboard, there are not many leading TV brands left to recruit (since Samsung is going in a different direction) but OLED can and should obviously expand to the mainstream market. It is the next frontier in a trickle-down environment. What advanced zone dimming LED technology in LCD TVs has failed to achieve over the course of two decades, OLED will most likely achieve in one decade. There is a huge opportunity here and with LG Display's second OLED TV factory (in Guangzhou, China) in operation, could 2021 finally be the year that OLED moves into the mainstream TV segment? We believe so, yes. Why? Well, if you want to more than double sales of OLED TV panels, that is the path you must tread. Retail prices must come down.
HDMI 2.1 and TV features
We hope to see more TVs with HDMI 2.1 ports in 2021. There are already millions of "next-gen" PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles out there so the incentive to offer HDMI 2.1 in high-end TVs is huge.
However, we do not expect HDMI 2.1 (and its optional features) to be universally supported in 4K TVs with 120Hz panels in 2021. And although we expect more HDMI 2.1 players to arrive in 2021, we do not expect them to show up (virtually, of course) at CES 2021. What was missing from CES 2020, will probably still be missing at next year's show. We have heard rumors that some companies (who are already in the game) have once again decided against launching new UHD Blu-ray players at CES 2021. Perhaps there will be something, perhaps nothing. Let's see what happens.
Also read: An 8K disc format is unlikely. Here's why
The Google TV interface on the new Chromecast
Google might start its transition from Android TV to Google TV at CES 2021, and TV partners like Sony, Philips and TCL (Europe) may be ready to talk about it. Google could also finally bring its game streaming service, Google Stadia, to TV screens. And Apple might partner with additional manufacturers to bring AirPlay 2, HomeKit, and the Apple TV app to more TVs. Now we're just guessing, really.
What else? We expect to see more TVs with support for AV1 decoding, Filmmaker Mode, Dolby Atmos decoding (maybe even DTS:X?), Dolby Vision IQ, and HGiG (HDR Gaming Interest Group).
CES 2021 will take place as an all-digital show from January 11 to Thursday 14 but you can expect some official announcements to come in early January or even late December.