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Fear Not The Alphabet Soup Of TV Features Unveiled In Vegas

A Sony Bravia OLED television on display after a Sony news conference at CES International on Jan. 8, 2018, in Las Vegas
Associated Press
A Sony Bravia OLED television on display after a Sony news conference at CES International on Jan. 8, 2018, in Las Vegas
Fear Not The Alphabet Soup Of TV Features Unveiled In Vegas
Fear Not The Alphabet Soup Of TV Features Unveiled In Vegas GUEST: Mike Freeman, technology reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

>>> The question of what's next in electronics and gadgets he will get a lot of answers this week. Past year show tailored for industry professionals have showcased the introduction of a variety of emerging trends. This year is not the big shiny new products, but the advances made in artificial intelligence assistance and its ability to connect devices and personal information. Turning me is Mike Freeman technology reporter with the San Diego Union Tribune. Even though it is called the consumer electronics show it is close to the public. As a journalist, you have gotten to go. What happens there? >> It is a massive, massive events. Just like any tradeshow, companies are there to display their products and latest technologies. You see many interesting things there that perhaps are not really ready for prime time. A journalist asked -- described it as a fun house member experience. They get a distorted view. Some of these things are not quite ready for consumers. It is a view of what might be happening in the next three to six years. >> For instance, a few years ago, 4K high definition televisions were introduced. They are just starting to catch on. Apparently at this show there will be 8K TVs. I am wondering, can you really tell the difference between those two in your living room? >> I don't know for sure but the analysts I've spoken to, and 8K television is very big screens, apartments or small spaces where you have to sit relatively close. What happens then is you do not see the pixels that you would on a 4K television or even a standard high definition television. I have seen 4K, but I have not seen a K. Of 4K television is a mesmerizing experience if you were at the right distance. These 8K televisions will allow even more resolution and bigger screens and smaller spaces creating this cinematic experience for viewers at home. >> Some listeners might've gotten a smart speaker this holiday devices from Google or Amazon that listen to you and respond to your commands. That is supposed to be the thing this year. Voice-recognition and more devices at the show this year. How do you think we can see that technology used in new ways? >> I think the idea of voice as the new user interface is one that has been slowly marching forward for a very long time. Amazon captured the imagination in a particular product. I think you will see a lot of copycats of digital assistants. That technology is out there. I think you will see it find its way into more and more things. And particularly, the smart home controlling your smart home gadgets through this kind of centralized Amazon Echo or Google home or another device is going to be kind of a trend that you are going to see where you can say hey, Alexa, turn down my thermostat. These things will become more of a hub for a smart home. >> Individual appliances are ramping up this AI and voice-recognition. Like refrigerators. The idea of talking to your refrigerator. With the refrigerator be listening all the time as well? >> That is going to be a very fascinating situation in terms of where AI and listening appliances, just how comfortable consumers are. They seem to be comfortable with the central hub knowing that is listening to you and waiting for commands. People may not be quite as comfortable with ATV doing that or a refrigerator doing that. And so I think that will be a trend that needs to play itself out over the next year. To see if any of these are connected artificial intelligent devices actually catch on with consumers. >> What about 5G. What is it and is a finally ready for consumers? >> 5G is not quite ready yet. You're going to be hearing about it a lot. What 5G does is allow fiber optics Internet speeds wirelessly and also increases a lot of capacity for the Internet of things. Everything being connected wirelessly, is going to increase the capacity of the wireless networks for that. Very high reliability and low latency. You can have autonomous cars that are connected that need to make split second decisions through machine learning. Those cards can make those decisions because of the connectivity being hyper fast and imperceptible delays between the tower and the vehicle. And so yes, that is coming in 2019. Network operators are really pushing it. When you were talking about getting five or six gigabits per second to your handset, that is the theoretical number. That excites people. >> So UCA 5G, we should see that rollout in 2019 when should we expect some of this year stuff that you're going to see at CES actually show up in stores? >> A lot of it will show up in stores this coming year. Particularly the smart speakers, artificial intelligence, a lot of the smart home stuff. It will be interesting to see if it catches on. That is unclear. But you certainly will see a good portion of these new devices a.k.a. televisions are going to be in stores. The going to be super expensive and there's not going to be very many of them. They will be there. >> I have been speaking with Mike Freeman with the San Diego Union Tribune.

New TVs are coming with an alphabet soup of features designed to get you to spend more.

There's OLED and 4K, with a dash of HDR. How about QLED and QDEF? Samsung, LG and other TV manufacturers are showcasing new models at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas this week — all with acronyms to set their sets apart.

Fear not. Here's how to translate the tangle of great-sounding upgrades into plain English.


HD, 4K, 8K

Translation: High definition has 1,920 pixels across and 1,080 vertically. UltraHD, or 4K, has twice as many in both directions — 3,840 across and 2,160 vertically, which gives you four times as many pixels. 8K, primarily promoted by Sharp, offers 7,680 pixels across and 4,320 down.

8K sets are mostly for show for now — with video limited to the occasional experimental broadcast.

The choice between 4K and HD is still a real debate. It all depends on how far away you'll sit from your TV and how big it is, which we explain with this handy tool at .



Unpacking the acronym: Organic light-emitting diodes.

Translation: Diodes are circuit elements that can emit light under certain conditions; OLEDs do so using a layer of material based on carbon, which in a technical sense makes them organic. Sets using OLEDs, primarily made by LG, tend to be pricey because these screens are difficult to produce.

Pixels, the individual points that form an image, are self-illuminating and can thus be shut off individually. That means images can have truly black areas — rather than just very dark. Sets also cut down on light spillage in scenes where bright and dark colors are side by side; you see sharper contrast. OLED sets also have a wider viewing angle than regular sets.

But OLEDs aren't as bright as other displays and can suffer "burn-in" if a static image is left on screen for too long.


Unpacking the acronym: Micro light-emitting diodes.

Translation: Just as with OLEDs, sets with MicroLEDs have self-illuminating pixels, but the material used is slightly different and isn't organic. Samsung says MicroLEDs are brighter than OLEDs and offer the same benefits of high contrast and deep blacks, without burn-in.

Samsung is unveiling a 146-inch MicroLED set this year. Questions surround their ease of manufacturing and ultimately, their price. Don't expect to see mass-market availability of this kind of set any time soon.


Unpacking the acronym: Liquid crystal displays.

Translation: In an LCD screen, the most common form of display, a thin panel of electrically controlled liquid crystals selectively blocks light or lets it through. The light that makes it through passes through red, blue or green filters to form a full spectrum of colors.

The knock on LCDs is that they must be "backlit" by a light source. Don't be fooled by what are labeled "LED" TVs. These are still LCDs, backlit by LEDs. Because there aren't as many LED sources behind the pixels as there are pixels, there is still some wash of brightness where bright and dark meet and less than complete darkness in dark shots. Still, many manufacturers tout "local dimming" or special control of the backlights to reduce light spillage.

HDR and HDR10

Unpacking the acronym: High dynamic range using 10 digital "bits" to represent color gradations

Translation: Everyone who's ever used a camera has seen what happens when you under- or over-expose a photo. Either the bright parts wash out the dark parts or everything is too dark. HDR aims to include both the brightest bright parts and the darkest dark parts without letting either dominate the image.

An industry group calls for HDR TVs to display about 1 billion variations of color and brightest brights that are 20,000 times brighter than the darkest parts of the screen image.

Video needs to be streamed in HDR format for you to see the improvements. Some online services are offering new Hollywood hits and their own TV series in HDR, but a lot of video hasn't been adapted yet.

Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR 10 Pro

Unpacking the acronym: Advanced versions of "high dynamic range"

Translation: Dolby pushes the color envelope further using 12 bits of color depth to offer 69 billion color variations. Video also comes with hidden instructions for compatible TV sets to calibrate HDR frame by frame. By contrast, standard HDR and HDR10 offer one setting for the entire video, which may not reflect what's best for each scene.

No TV sets can yet handle the 12-bit range, although some use a 10-bit version of Dolby Vision. Sets that incorporate Dolby Vision pay a royalty to Dolby for the technology.

Not wanting to go there, Samsung developed something called HDR10+ that offers frame-by-frame HDR but sticks to 10 bits. It's an open standard, one supported by such major brands as Amazon, Panasonic and 20th Century Fox.

Meanwhile, LG announced Monday it is doing something similar — and calling it HDR 10 Pro.

Quantum dots, QLED, QDEF and Q-whatever

Unpacking the acronym: It's complicated

Translation: Quantum dots are tiny particles that emit sharp colors based on their particular size. Because the size can be finely tuned, the colors can be very accurate. Also, because they give off color, there's no more need for filters — at least that's the promise. Today's quantum dot sets still do use filters, though because of fine-tuning, they represent reds and greens better than other sets and reduce the amount of power wasted when light gets filtered out.

Beware of the stuff that comes after the Q. While Samsung calls its version QLED, it doesn't mean it uses OLED screens. Rather, Samsung's QLED sets are backlit by standard LEDs and have the same problems with light spillage that other LEDs have. QDEF is Hisense's version, also with light spillage. Quantum dots that actually function like OLEDs, eliminating the need for backlighting, is still a ways off. We'll get filter-less quantum dot technology before then.