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Rich Warren | Annual electronics extravaganza a treat for the senses – jj

Rich Warren | Annual electronics extravaganza a treat for the senses


CES should stand for Completely Excited Senses, rather than Consumer Electronics Show, which on Friday wrapped up its annual stay in Las Vegas. Somewhere around 150,000 attendees experienced sensory overload, beyond sight and sound. During the past few years one could mistake CES for the Las Vegas Auto Show with so many car manufacturers displaying the latest in automotive technology.

Fisker, which thought it could compete with Tesla, lost its charge in 2013 and died. Now it’s back, promising the Ocean, an electric $37,499 crossover vehicle in 2022. The roof is a solar panel. Fisker makes most of the rest of the car from recycled materials. It promises a driving range roughly equivalent to the Tesla 3.

Sony introduced a concept car, the Vision-S, although it’s dubious Sony would be foolish enough to enter the automobile business. It’s largely designed by the same team that developed Aibo, the popular robotic dog. Primarily, the car demonstrates all of Sony’s technologies that might be used by real car companies.

The overall evolution of TVs continues decreasing depth and the space surrounding the screen called the bezel. Manufacturers designed most new models to hang on the wall, as close to flush as possible. We should appreciate the elimination of stands.

Most importantly, a technology recently mentioned in this column finally debuted, ATSC 3.0 tuners, which allow broadcasters to transmit over-the-air 4K resolution. Whether broadcasters will take advantage of this remains to be seen.

LG stole the show on opening day with nearly a score of new OLED TVs from 88-inch 8K to 48-inch 4K, with each size in a range of performance and price levels. The 48-inch is the smallest LG OLED thus far. LG admits its actual OLED display is unchanged over the past three years, but picture quality improves with new computer technology embedded in the TVs. The more you pay, the better the processing, with the best models featuring LG’s Alpha 9 Gen 3 artificial intelligence. It also enhances some models for gaming. Video dynamic range improves as well as Dolby Vision IQ that adjusts the picture for the ambient room lighting.

LG promises this is the year for its Signature RX 65-inch roll-up OLED TV for $60,000. Roll-up as in an old-fashioned school map. However, its performance is no better than LG’s models costing less than one-tenth that price.

Samsung’s unveilings paralleled LG’s, except that Samsung uses its own QLED display technology, which is totally unrelated to OLED. (Are you confused yet?) It pushed its 8K models even harder than LG. QLED fails to equal OLED in picture quality. A newer, radical Samsung technology, MicroLED, which does match OLED, hung in the background with no consumer models yet available.

In the big screen derby Samsung displayed The Wall, a 292-inch MicroLED TV, which is by far the largest TV ever displayed at CES. Critics reported a stunning picture. It’s available for commercial use with a cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Samsung also introduced small rolling robots to assist you. Samsung suggested they be considered “life companions.”

CES always included a bit of theater of the absurd and this year continued the tradition. Charmin, the company that advertises with those goofy blue bears, introduced its Rollbot, a Bluetooth summoned robot that will bring you a fresh roll of toilet paper. It introduced a few other technologies about which the less said the better.

Of course, when it comes to smartphones, most are introduced in the spring and fall and few at CES. That said, 5G and foldable displays dominated CES. You can be sure that the cell providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, blanketed Las Vegas with 5G service. There was no single “killer” new model at CES; just recent and rumored models that, beyond 5G, incrementally improve performance.

This is being written at the end of CES “press day,” before the show officially opens. There will be plenty more to report in our next column.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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