CES had been a bit dead the past few years compared to what I'd seen earlier in the decade, but this year's showcased a renewed vigor in all things consumer electronics. It's still a bit too much of a gadget show and could use some additional focus but clearly 2010 was better than past years. Here are some of my highlights and not so highlights.
LG was one of the first booths we visited at CES this year, albeit by accident, and I must say LG is definitely up to something because their booth was the busiest I encountered of all the CES attendees. The LG booth was so jam packed with press, dealers and the like that it was impossible to actually view anything they were showcasing. I cannot speak definitively on the nuts and bolts of their upcoming displays other than to say they are clearly focused on 3D (as is every HDTV manufacturer) and from what I was able to see it looked very good indeed. Truth be told, the booth was so chaotic that I found the nearest escape route I could out of fear of being crushed.
Samsung gets my award for the "look at me booth" with their multi-story entrance featuring more LED based HDTV's than I could count. While the entrance was a mad house, mostly because everyone was trying to get a photo of the impressive display, elsewhere in the booth it was much more manageable.
Samsung was showcasing their newest line of LED based HDTVs with 3D technology and out of all the demos featuring 3D I have to say Samsung's was among the best overall. Samsung's 3D displays were virtually flicker free and had some of the widest viewing angles out of all the manufacturers. Now, I'm still not whole-heartedly convinced that consumers are going to want to wear glasses (which I understand are sold separately) to view their displays for long periods of time but it's a step in the right direction. Also, I'm still at odds about LED or LCD being the best format to showcase 3D for the extreme brightness and super glossy screen material does create an awful lot of visual vibration in the 3D space, especially during fast motion sequences. CG-based animation seemed to fair the best in most 3D demos, which is no doubt why Samsung relied on it almost exclusively to showcase their newest sets.
Aside from 3DTVs, Samsung was also showing a new line of LED based LCD TVs that were so thin, somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter of an inch or less, that they were virtually invisible when viewed from the side. Very cool stuff and no glasses required.
Not to be outdone by Samsung, Toshiba was also showing various 3D displays however Toshiba took it a step further with their CELL Technology, which is actually a processor that rests in a standalone box that can convert, in real time, any 2D material to 3D. Polarized lenses or glasses are still required to complete the effect but the initial demo was encouraging to say the least. I'm not sure the still photo portion of the demo was as spectacular as Toshiba was hoping for, seeing your old photos remixed in 3D is a bit weird and disjointed if you catch my drift, but the video portion of the demo was very impressive.
Another thing about Toshiba's 3D displays that I did like was the fact that their displays didn't seem to utilize a high gloss plastic or glass, which cut down tremendously on image vibration as well as improved black levels and perceived contrast. I'm going to definitely keep my eye on Toshiba and their CELL Technology in 2010.
Panasonic, once again took the honors in the "my HDTV is bigger than your HDTV" category, though I'm not sure any of the other manufacturers were playing along; for no one was trying to win the bigger is better fight this year. Still, Panasonic did have several 3DTVs on display all showcasing sports footage, which was interesting to see and wise on Panasonics part since most initial 3D broadcasts are bound to be of sporting events.
If 3D can capture the sports market then it will definitely have legs in the consumer space and judging by the quick football clips I saw at Panasonic's booth the effect 3D has on the field during a football game is cool and convincing.
No word yet on how beer goggles change the 3D experience but I'll keep you posted as things develop.