Each year, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) exhibitors display any number of exciting products and services, all of which set the media world a-buzz. The truth is, however, that much of it either take a lot of time getting to Australia or never even arrive.
While LG had smaller-sized Ultra HD sets, it's unclear if they'll come to Australia.
(Credit: Nic Healey/CNET Australia)
Two of the big TV technologies that excited us at CES were OLED and Ultra HD, but what does it all mean locally?
While a lot of OLED panels were on display, few companies were talking availability in Australia. LG were willing to commit to a broad stroke date on its panel, suggesting a late March release on the 55-inch model for an estimated AU$11,999 price. The newer-look "Flamingo Style" model will be released at a later time in the year.
This could well set the bar for OLED pricing in Australia. Remember that in 2009, Sony's XEL-1 OLED was $6999 — for 11-inches of screen. Of course, LG are currently selling their TV products at pricing that's fairly cheap for Australia, so we'll need to wait and see what other companies such as Samsung do.
Samsung's F9500 is another 55-inch OLED TV, this one with "Multiview" — the ability to watch and even listen to two different AV streams from the one set, thanks to some cleverly designed 3D glasses with built-in earbuds. As it stands, it seems likely that it will arrive in Australia (being Samsung's flagship OLED model), but dates and prices weren't discussed.
What we're unlikely to see are any of the curved OLED screens that LG and Samsung were both claiming as firsts. Designed to replicate the curvature of cinema screens, they apparently create a more immersive viewing environment. These are very much in the prototype stage, and LG was happy to state that its version certainly won't be seen in any shops during 2013.
There were few TV companies who weren't showing an Ultra HDTV. Sony, LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Toshiba, TCL, Changhong, Hisense and many more all had a variety of panel sizes — from the reasonable to the absurd.
Changhong's 65-inch Ultra HDTV.
Again, though, everyone was light on details regarding pricing and availability. LG stated that it wasn't sure if its smaller-sized 55- and 65-inch TVs would come to Australia. Samsung hoped that its 85-inch Ultra HD would be available in Australia in the first half of 2013, but it wasn't willing to put pricing on it.
It actually seems that the mostly likely source for smaller and cheaper Ultra HD sets will be from the Chinese manufacturers. TCL, Changhong and Hisense all have models around the 55- to 65-inch mark, and all are planning to launch the units into Australia this year. Changhong has actually committed to a sub-AU$6000 price tag on its 65-inch B8000 Ultra HD set, dating it for a Q3 launch.
But what wasn't seen at CES were many Ultra HD content solutions, though content has been the sticking point for Ultra HD as much as price and size.
Netflix and Samsung partner on Ultra HD video.
(Credit: Nic Healey/CNET Australia)
At the LG booth, there was a demonstration of Ultra HD terrestrial broadcasting via the Korean Broadcasting System TV channel. At Samsung, Netflix was showing an "Ultra High-Resolution" video on an Ultra HD set, though this was "early results" from the partnership. Samsung also had some demonstrations of the video encoding format, HEVC.
Overall, it seems that there is still a mentality that the content will follow from the hardware, with an emphasis on streaming Ultra HD to replace the worries about how the physical media will work with the larger file sizes. In Australia, with our generally-poor bandwidth and relatively-high ISP rates, this should be of major concern.
Finally, Sony and Panasonic both had 56-inch OLED Ultra HDTVs (with Sony's set famously failing on the stage during its press event). These looked amazing, but both are in the prototype stage — it's unclear when or even if these will get a release globally, let alone locally.
So where does that leave us? Australians will definitely see OLED this year, sitting somewhere around the AUD$11,999 mark, and we will see smaller Ultra HDTVs from tier 2 and 3 manufacturers, rather than the tier 1 group.
And we still won't have anything to watch in native Ultra HD for quite a while.