TVs of tomorrow

THE venerable TV has come a long way. It may not be the only window to the world but it has evolved from chunky vacuum tubes to slim and sexy devices not much thicker than a sheet of glass.

Even as manufacturers continue to shrink the telly in size, they are also finding ways to cram in more features than ever. A modern TV now has processing power, camera and storage just like a modest computer.

And at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show — the premier event for all things technology — just about every TV maker had something big to show off.

Samsung, Sony, LG, Panasonic and Sharp were just some of the manufacturers bandying about their big TVs and equally big jargons such as Ultra High-Definition (Ultra HD), organic light emitting diode (OLED) and Smart TVs.

Here’s how the idiot box is shaping up.

The term Ultra HD was coined recently to categorise a new breed of TVs with insanely high resolutions — that’s the number of pixels or dots that make up an image on screen.

More pixels means more detail in every frame and an Ultra HD TV is so sharp, the images will look crystal clear even if you are just standing next to the screen.

Ultra HD comprises two resolution — 4K and 8K. The 4K TVs must have a minimum resolution of 3,840 × 2,160-pixels, which is four times that of current HDTV’s. If the numbers are confusing, here’s a simple way to picture it — an 80in Ultra HD model will have the same resolution as four 40in HDTVs stacked together.

As almost every manufacturer will be been pushing 4K this year, there is no question that it will be the successor to today’s HDTVs.

At CES, Samsung amazed the crowd with its 85in UN85S9 4K model. The floor-standing TV is so big it actually looks like a big blackboard held up by an easel.

Meanwhile, LG expanded its Ultra HD TV lineup to include 55in and 65in models to complement its 84in unit. The models will be take advantage of LG’s Smart TV ecosystem which includes over 1,400 apps.

The 4K standard is not just reserved for TVs — Panasonic has showcased a 4K tablet with just a 20in display.

While most TV makers are fighting in the 4K space, Sharp dazzled the CES crowd with the world’s first Ultra HD TV with 8K resolution.

The prototype is an 85in behemoth with a resolution of 7,680 x 4,320-pixels or 16x times that of current HDTV’s. It’s one of those technologies which you have to see to believe.

Besides Ultra HD, another technology that has finally matured for use in TVs is OLED. The unique feature of OLED is that it doesn’t require backlight to work which will allow TVs to produce deep black levels and yet be thinner and lighter than the current generation.

Samsung and LG’s OLED prototypes have a curved screen which make images look more panoramic and immersive. It goes without saying, that the models look cool and futuristic too.

When was the last time you fought for the TV remote control? Well, TV makers may just put the age-old “tradition” to rest with TVs that understand voice commands and even gestures.

So, the next time you want to change the channel, you can do it with the wave of your hand or just by speaking out your commands.

Samsung is one of the first to introduce such a model last year.

The Slim LED ES8000 not only understands voice and motion commands but the built-in camera recognises faces and will automatically present each user with a personalised space called Smart Hub.

LG TVs, on the other hand, still require the use of the remote but instead of pressing buttons, you can speak to it or wave it to issue commands .

It’s just a matter of time before other companies follow suit with unique and natural ways to interact with your favourite companion.

Just about every modern TV comes with smart features and a whole ecosystem of apps and games but this can lead to fragmentation with each company favouring their own.

Google is looking to penetrate the smart TV market by providing its Chrome web browser for surfing, YouTube for videos, and the Google Play store for apps and games. The last entry is the most compelling — you’ll be able to access the same apps and games on your Android smartphones and PC, on the TV as well.

Called just Google TV, it’ll be available as set top boxes or built into TVs directly. LG has announced that it will introduce seven devices featuring Google TV.

The Ultra HD TVs are expected to cost in the region of five figures. If that hasn’t dampened your enthusiasm then here are few issues to be aware of before you splurge on one.

Firstly, there is a general lack of content for 4K TVs. The local TV stations have yet to broadcast in HD, so it’ll be awhile before they step up to Ultra HD.

If somehow you managed to get 4K content, you’ll be surprised at how big the file can be. Movies in 4K are expected to take up nearly 10TB which dwarves any consumer hard drives or optical discs.

Currently no hard drive is big enough to hold such a file and if you resort to Blu-ray discs, you’ll need 100 pieces as each can only store up to 100GB.

It’s not a lost cause — it’ll just take more time for 4K movies to reach the masses. As it is Sony is making a big push to deliver 4K movies this year but only time will tell when it reaches our shores.

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