January 16, 2019 11:37 am

CES 2019 – What We’re Talking About


We were watching CES 2019 from a distance last week. With tons of fun techie news coming out, here at VCA, it’s an ongoing topic of interest.

Our interest as commercial AV pros is less about how or if what’s being introduced can make the jump from consumer to commercial. It’s more about how these trends are going to impact how consumers think about technology in their professional environments. We’ve seen over the years how many commercial AV trends trickle up from the consumer world. The classic example is BYOD while voice control is the latest way consumer tech is impacting workspaces.

Part of the reason that CES commands the world’s attention at large is the way that these devices, services, tricks, trends, and more have come to impact our daily lives so significantly. It’s when a consumer discovers a creative application that an inventor or product designer never foresaw that makes the biggest impact. So, what will it be this year? Here are a few of the things that has us talking.

Bose QuietComfort Road Noise Control

This is just a feel-good piece of news for those of us that understand the value of good acoustics. It’s a quality that lends itself to every place. That’s exactly what Bose is chasing after with this noise cancelling application in a car. We work every day underscoring and demonstrating the value of good acoustics in commercial spaces. Perhaps if people are experiencing it in their cars, that demand could translate into their professional environments.

TCL Displays Upgrades

Budget flat-panel display company TCL announced a range of new products, but it’s the 75-inch 4K 6-Series that has VCA’s resident gamer most excited. Features like low input lag and full array local dimming for producing deeper blacks appeal to gamers and videophiles alike. The price point that TCL hits with these features is what commands attention. Especially when you consider the impact that high quality at a lower price has on the competitive landscape. These are budget TVs by definition, so the fact that they are adding features that chase the higher end of the market is really good competition to have if you purchase on either side of the market. The hope is that the price effect will trickle up to the commercial market in some way.

Of course, the 8K model TCL announced has caught our eyes as well. The Quantum LED (QLED) is “crazy nice,” as one of our engineers commented. It’s essentially trying to make LED compete with OLED quality (at much, much less expense). At the end of the day, it’s about getting the best possible quality picture from LCD technology.

The Chip Wars

Nvidia’s new mobile graphics cards are really promising in the gaming space as they can tackle higher frame rates and resolutions in laptops. This technology will be welcome for professions with graphic intensive tasks like video editing.

AMD’s new GPU will be the first 7nm graphics card capable of 4K at 60fps. This allows them to compete more directly with with Nvidia now. Again, we like to see added competition in the market to help drive prices down eventually. This is one area that could trickle into the commercial AV space in the form of custom-made PCs for large video walls, which could benefit from these components being built in. We expect these applications could appear for e-sports, casinos, universities, conventions, etc. AMD chips are expected in the next generation Xbox and PlayStation gaming consoles rumored to be coming out next year. The gaming space is a great place to experience innovations like this because it’s an environment where software is optimized to run on custom-built hardware.

On the Intel front of the chip wars, there have been expectations that they would introduce a graphics card, but it was noticeably absent from any official announcement. This was disappointing; although, some details did emerge later this week. The Intel GPU is definitely in development, but there are still a lot of “what-if’s” to be determined.

LG’s AI Platform

While the first applications might be quite a way off, LG’s artificial intelligence ThinQ platform is leading some interesting conversations in the noisy AI space. They call it “a new language for articulating user-centric framework for thinking.” It’s interesting to see large tech companies look to optimize experiences for what the user is doing, instead of the more traditional approach of creating features they want consumers to adopt. All in all, it paves a path for a golden age of sorts in terms of consumer technology products. All of LG’s OLED TVs will feature this new AI platform, which can optimize the display and sound for what is being watched.

Separately, LG’s rollable OLED is intriguing, along with the ultra-short throw 4K projector. This is one example where a pro AV product is being brought into the consumer space. In the insatiable appetite for bigger displays at home, a projector that can sit just 7 inches from a wall to create a 120” image in a home is pretty awesome. [Pictured is the “LG OLED Falls” display, which features 260 LG OLED digital signage screens, in curved and flat configurations.]

Samsung MicroLED

Is MicroLED the future of display technology? That’s what Samsung is telling us. This is one technology at CES 2019 that is bringing a commercial video trend into the home. Samsung is positioning it for the home to display art and other unique use cases. The fact that they’re going 75-inch is interesting because large OLED could be more expensive. Some of the benefits MicroLED offers include better contrast ratio than most TVS and better brightness. There’s more flexibility with assembly than a large flat panel offers. There’s also no burn in with MicroLED versus OLED. That’s big for people who have static images, like logos from TV channels, on screen information from video games, photos, etc. A smart strategy would be to release a MicroLED solution that could be added to later, for when users get upgrade-itis. (IE: “If only I had sprung for the extra 10” diagonal!”)

Biggest Disappointment

There don’t seem to be any new developments emerging around the ATSC 3.0 standard, which transports broadcast signals over-the-air. It appears the only significant news surrounding ATSC 3.0 is Sinclair Broadcast Group’s development of a system-on-a-chip (SoC) supporting the “Next-Gen” TV standard. In general, we know that this latest ATSC standard will support 4K and HDR (high dynamic range), and it will know what people are watching, so ads can be tailored. For a technology that promises to be more interactive than traditional broadcast, we would think there might be more buzz around it. An LG executive did state the expectation for ATSC 3.0 TVs to launch in 2020, so it is certainly coming, just not as soon as we would expect.

We were hoping to see the new tuners already in displays rolling out this year since broadcasters are switching over to the standard starting in 2020 (there will be a period of time when both standards are broadcasting at the same time). There is certainly some good news in this category in general at CES 2019, but it makes buying a TV this year not very compelling as consumers would have to buy a separate tuner later.

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