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The TVs: Smarter, curved, and in gorgeous 4K that finally clicks

Susie Ochs | Jan. 10, 2014
CES 2014 is packed with wearables (even for pets!) and incredibly cool car tech, but the show's bread and butter is still TVs--the bigger and more over-the-top the better. We scoured the press conferences and the sensory overload of Central Hall until our ears were ringing to identify the newest trends coming to your living room...if not this year, then eventually.

CES 2014 is packed with wearables (even for pets!) and incredibly cool car tech, but the show's bread and butter is still TVs — the bigger and more over-the-top the better. We scoured the press conferences and the sensory overload of Central Hall until our ears were ringing to identify the newest trends coming to your living room...if not this year, then eventually.

4K is on the way
That HDTV in your living room looks fine, but its lustre will fade once you see 4K, aka Ultra HD, which doubles the resolution on both sides, so instead of 1920x1080, you'd see 3840x2160. This allows 4K content to show much more detail, and the 4K video being demoed on the shiny new TVs at CES is pretty jaw-dropping. You can see reflections in a dew drop on a flower petal. You can see variations in color between the hairs on a puppy's face or the individual barbs on the feathers of a bird. It's pretty remarkable.

But high-resolution video like this requires a lot of processing power, not to mention the cost of a high-res screen, so early 4K TVs came with jaw-dropping prices as well. But prices are coming down and will likely continue to fall. The best deal so far is the P-Series from Vizio, which starts at $999 for a 50-inch set, with prices increasing by $400 for every 5 inches, up to a 70-inch screen for $2600. That's really not bad — I saw these TVs and was impressed with the design and quality.

Vizio's V6 processor sports a quad-core GPU and dual-core CPU, and the sets support 4K streaming over 802.11ac Wi-Fi, so once Netflix starts rolling out all their original 4K shows (yes, including House of Cards, which was name-checked by every TV vendor in Vegas), you'll be ready.

The full-array LED backlighting produced brilliant color onscreen, and the P-series sets have 64 Active LED zones. Active LED divides the screen into a grid, and the backlighting in each zone is dynamically adjusted based on the content being shown. That way colors can stay bright while dark areas of the screen can be stay dark, since the backlighting doesn't have to stay uniform on the whole screen.

4K will keep getting better over time, just not in resolution — 8K will come along later to quaduple the amount of pixels yet again. But future 4K TVs will boast a wider color gamut, higher framerates, and brighter displays. If you're worried about winding up sad like the early adopters who snapped up 720p HDTVs before 1080i/1080p came along, Samsung has your back. The company's UHD (for Ultra HD) sets are future-proofed by the Samsung UHD Evolution Kit. That's a detachable box that houses the processor and other crucial components, so you can actually upgrade your TV as the technology advances, without having to buy a new screen.

 

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