While PC/Consumer Electronics convergence has undeniably happened, CES is still a consumer electronics show. Our first press conference of the show was with ASUS talking about netbooks, but the next day was full of mostly TV makers discussing their 2009 lineups.

Generally the focus of most TV manufacturers at CES is to talk about how cool their TVs look and go rather light on the technology. This year, as we mentioned in our earlier coverage, we got more meat for our minute - we rarely heard about 100”+ TVs and instead got a real dose of technology.


Large TVs were in Vegas this year, they just weren't the focus of the show. Photography by Laura Johnston.

So forgive me while I talk about a less PC, but very technology oriented element of this year’s CES: LCD TVs.

Wireless Inputs are In

I already mentioned that last year’s CES was very much a displays show. Nearly every manufacturer either had a focus on having the thinnest TVs or the largest screen size. As with most pissing contests, at the end of it you tend to feel a bit silly; so this year we saw less glam and more functional features.

Here’s the problem. LCD and Plasma TVs are dropping in prices. While that alone isn’t a problem, with more consumers purchasing them you have more people trying to wall mount their new flat screen TV. The issue with wall mounting is that most TVs are useless by themselves; you need an input source of some sort. Whether it’s a cable box, HTPC or Blu-ray player, getting your content to the TV usually means running cables from one or more boxes to your TV.

This tends to make wall mounting your brand new TV far messier. While the TV looks like a part of the room, the sources dangling from it don’t. Last year a couple of companies showed TVs with wireless inputs. There’s a separate box that communicates wirelessly to the TV, and you plug all of your sources into that box.

This year, wireless inputs are in and far more companies had demonstrations of TVs with wireless inputs.

The standard is WirelessHD. Your inputs are connected wirelessly to the TV via a 60GHz signal, capable of transmitting full bandwidth 1080p60 at a distance of up to 30 feet. The transmission is lossless and is sent uncompressed. The same goes for audio, you can send up to 7.1 audio wirelessly between the box and the TV.

Samsung, Panasonic and LG all had TVs at the show with wireless inputs, all using the same WirelessHD standard.

Eventually I’d expect to see wireless outputs directly on CE devices and wireless inputs on TVs, cutting out the set top box middleman. I suspect that’ll be a while given how many legacy devices users will want to connect to their TVs.

More TV Trends: Thin, Local Dimming and 240Hz
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  • 3DoubleD - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_frequency">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_frequency
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WirelessHD">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WirelessHD

    Both pages agree that not only is it possible, but the article is correct. This frequency range has (relatively) high attenuation in Earth's atmosphere and (usually) requires line-of-sight so it is really limited in terms of application. It should really make connecting devices much more easy. Apparently the first devices are supposed to support up to 10 feet without line-of-sight. They chose the extreme high frequency band because the strong absorption with oxygen molecules in the air will protect copyright owners by preventing you neighbors from using the signal. A competing technology uses bandwidth around 5 GHz to achieve 250 mbps throughput, but I guess copyright holders were a bit worried with the transmission distance.
    Reply
  • Jaybus - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    I doubt they chose the 60 GHz band just to avoid copyright problems. It is because of the bandwidth that they needed. 250 Mbps is not nearly enough. HDMI 1.0 specifies 4.9 Gbps for uncompressed transmission of 1080p60Hz plus 8-chan audio. HDMI 1.3 upped it to 10.3 Gbps to allow for higher resolutions. WirelessHD has a 7 GHz bandwidth on a 60 GHz carrier to achieve a max of around 25 Gbps. You obviously can't have a 7 GHz bandwidth with only a 5 GHz carrier frequency, so the carrier frequency had to be high to truly do HDMI wirelessly. Now why they chose 60 GHz as opposed to say 40 GHz may be because of transmission distance. Reply
  • Galvin - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    4K LCD's scare me that just increases your chance of dead pixels by 2x. The sooner FED/SED tech is out the better. Cause that tech doesn't need all the fancy back lighting of LCD to handle blacks/whites.

    Reply
  • Plifzig - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    Even worse, it increases your chances of getting dead pixels by 2X in the horizontal AND 2X in the vertical. Overall it's a 4X chance increase!

    2,073,600 pixels vs. 8,294,400 pixels
    Reply
  • Denithor - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    And can you imagine the GPU required to push a game for that resolution? Reply
  • SlyNine - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - link

    Geforce 256 SDR ?? ;) Reply
  • 3DoubleD - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    "Another potential benefit of full matrix LED backlighting is what Toshiba and some other manufacturers are calling the 240Hz effect. Last year we saw the beginnings of a move to 120Hz LCDs, which you may remember isn’t LCD panels with 120Hz refresh rates. There are only 60 frames of data displayed, the data in between two frames is simply interpolated on the fly effectively giving you 120 frames per second (but from only 60 frames worth of data)."

    Anand, this is one implementation of 120 Hz technology, but I fear it is the incorrect one. Many (if not all) TV manufacturers are producing TVs that use interpolation on 120 Hz TVs. This feature primarily targets sports as many complain about blurring while watching their favorite fast paced games on their several thousand dollar LCD TVs. This is the only time interpolation should be implemented as the effect is rather sickening for movie content. Interpolation of movie frames gives a rather "home video, handycam" sort of feel, completely ruining the experience.

    120 Hz was used to allow both movie and tv content to be viewed without performing an uneven pulldown. On most TVs in the past, 24 Hz content (from Blu-rays, HD DVDs, and properly encoded movies and TV shows on the internet) required a 2:3 pulldown to be shown at 30 Hz and then doubled to the 60 Hz refresh rate of your TV to eliminate flickering. Unfortunately, the 2:3 pulldown isn't perfect and you get a phenomena called telcine judder or motion interpolation. This is very obvious during slow panning scenes, where the panning motion does not seem smooth, but jumps. The only way to properly handle 24 Hz material is to display it at a refresh rate at an even multiple of 24. Thus there are two options: offer two possible refresh rates on your TV (60 Hz and a multiple of 24 but greater than 60 (72 Hz or 96 Hz)), OR offer one refresh rate at 120 Hz as it is divisible by both 24 and 30 Hz.

    TVs such as the Pioneer Kuro line offer the first implementation, where 60 and 72 Hz refresh rates are available. Most LCDs above ~$1500 CAD offer 120 Hz. With most of these 120 Hz LCDs, interpolation can be turned off for proper movie viewing. With all of this said, a TV that has a 240 Hz refresh rate is completely useless as 120 Hz solves the problem of displaying both 24 and 30 Hz content as well as offering interpolation for keen eyed sports fans.

    However, the general public will never understand this... so let the Mhz wars begin (again)
    Reply
  • Holly - Sunday, January 18, 2009 - link

    You forget one thing... These 240Hz screens might be also inteded as a first step to shutter-glass aided 3D screen simulation. Giving each eye 120Hz is about reasonable refresh rate not to tire the eyes too much. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    If you turn off interpolation, wouldn't that leave 60Hz as the only option? Which would still not provide a multiple of 24 for movies. Reply
  • 3DoubleD - Monday, January 12, 2009 - link

    When you turn interpolation off it should due a 5:5 pulldown, which is simply playing the same frame 5 time in a row. However, some TVs don't do this and they should be avoided. This is something everyone should look for when shopping for a TV. Most TVs with 120 Hz capabilities have off-low-medium-high settings for their interpolation Reply

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