CES 2011: top TV trends

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Ty is a journalist with 15 years experience in writing for IT and entertainment publications. He is in charge of the home theatre category for CNET Australia and is also a PC enthusiast. He likes indie music and plays several instruments. Twitter: @tpendlebury

For the last few years the biggest category at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas has been, in more ways than one, televisions.

tv tech smart tv iptv

CES 2011 played host to the TV trends we will see in the next 12 months. (Credit: CBS Interactive)

Gigantic-screen TVs festooned with yearly boosts in technology — from SXRD to 1080p to LEDs to lasers to 3D — have owned the headlines at previous shows, but this year something "different" happened.

There were still plenty of TVs announced, but show-wide it seemed like everyone followed Apple's iPad and released a tablet.

Out of the hundreds of TVs announced at this year's show, our favourite models of CES 2011 came from Panasonic and Samsung. The Panasonic VT30 series sounds like more of what we liked in our Editors' Choice VT20: premium plasma picture quality with supposedly improved black-level performance. The Samsung D8000 series supposedly improves the picture quality of the C8000, but another big reason it scored our nomination was its amazing design, with a bezel just 0.2 inch thick.

A couple of other models to watch out for include the Sony XBR-HX929 and the LG LW9500 series, both flagship TVs with local-dimming LEDs said to improve upon their predecessors.

Top TV trends to watch out for in 2011

3D format war — passive vs. active: LG and Toshiba announced 3D TVs that use passive-glasses technology, which is said to be more comfortable over long periods of time than active-shutter. It also requires cheaper glasses than active and, in its current iteration, offers only half the on-screen resolution. Sony, Samsung and Panasonic eschewed passive to concentrate on the same active 3D technology used by all TVs in 2010. While LG and Toshiba will produce both types, expect some barbs to fly between the different camps. More information on the differences between active and passive.

Based on a brief look at last year's, UK-only LG passive TV, we think it will be much more comfortable to watch a passive screen for extended periods. We're curious to know how it directly compares with the best active TVs, though, and look forward to testing this soon. Stay tuned.

Smart TV: Samsung, Panasonic and LG all announced completely revamped "Smart TV" offerings, which in many models include built-in web browsers and fancy remotes designed to make the interfaces easier to use.

All will have app stores and expanded content, and we're sure Sony won't be the only maker to announce a new Google TV in 2011. Especially with 3D becoming more common, different flavours of internet connectivity will become the primary ways companies set themselves, and their various TV model lines, apart.

Device interoperability: many makers announced ways for apps on iOS and Android devices to control and interact with the TVs, and some, like Samsung, tie the two together even more explicitly. Beyond new capabilities such as being able to watch and resume media across devices, it will be interesting to see if this kind of convergence is delivered in an open way or used to not-so-subtly guide consumers to purchase like-brand products.

Thinner, bigger, brighter ... and better?

Despite all the new designs and technologies, we saw little at CES 2011 that made us believe that image quality would be substantially improved. We expect LED backlight LCDs and plasmas to yield some improvements, especially for 3D, but it doesn't seem like such advancements were the major focus of TV makers at the show. Of course, only in-depth reviews will tell for sure, so until we get our hands on the new sets, all we can do is speculate.

So what TVs and technologies are you most looking forward to in 2011? Let us know below.


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Mitch posted a comment   

All this effort into this silly 3D fad. What a waste of time and effort.

I was hoping to see some large LED backlit LCD TV's with improved image quality, including 400Hz motion blur reduction.


AnthonyV posted a comment   

Rather than connect another piece of hardware to my TV, I just use TV software from the TVDevo website which allows you to watch both live and on-demand tv shows. You can also connect your PC to a TV if you wanted to with a $5 cable.

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