Jarred’s Best of CES 2012

CES is all wrapped up and everyone is back home (presumably—there are probably a few who remained in Vegas to lose more money gamble a bit more), and one of the questions I’ve been asked repeatedly by friends and family is, “What was the coolest thing you saw at CES this year?” Now, keep in mind that I am only one person and I didn’t even see a fraction of the show floor, as there were plenty of meetings set up around Vegas, so this is just my perspective on the coolest technology trends at the show. You’ll also notice that there’s a common thread in what really impressed me, but this is a highly subjective topic so take it for what it’s worth: one man’s opinion. (And note that I am specifically not speaking for the other editors; I'm sure most of them would have a different top three.)

I Have Seen the Future, and the Future Is 4K

The most impressive thing I saw at the show for me is the 4K displays. Several places had such displays on hand, but I didn’t spend a lot of time with the various display/HDTV vendors so the first real close up encounter I had with a 4K display was at AMD’s meeting rooms. They had a 4K panel hooked up to a 7970 running an in-house demo. The demo itself wasn’t anything special, but the display… wow! I didn’t have a tape measure handy and the AMD reps I asked weren’t sure, but the panel appeared to be a 46” model (possibly 42”). I did check the native resolution, and while I’m not sure if all 4K displays will use the same resolution, this particular panel was running at 4096x2160, so it’s even wider than the current 16:9 aspect ratio panels (and closer to cinema resolutions); thankfully, with 2160 vertical pixels, I’m not sure many will complain about the loss of height.

Other than the sheer size of the display, what really stood out was the amazing clarity. The dot pitch at 4096x2160—even on a 46” display!—is slightly smaller than that of a 30” 2560x1600 display. I don’t actually need a finer dot pitch, and I had to increase the DPI of Windows in order to cope with my degrading vision (some text just looks too small to comfortably read from a couple feet away), but for videos and images I’m of the opinion that “more is always better” (provided you have the hardware to drive the resolution, obviously). Where I really see 4K being useful outside of people that love high DPI computer displays is for home theater enthusiasts that have 60” and larger displays—particularly projectors—where 1080p just doesn’t really cut it.

If you want another perspective, the consumer electronics industry is always looking for ways to get people to upgrade. When HDTV first came out, you had to choose between 720p and 1080i. A couple years later, 1080p launched and everyone “had to” upgrade. Then of course we had the 120Hz/240Hz/480Hz offerings, and 3D displays got thrown into the mix as well. Now that 1080p 120Hz displays are going for $500-$800 for 40-52” HDTVs, for a lot of people we’re at the point where our displays are good enough to last the next decade. So how do you convince people that they need to upgrade again? You come out with an even better standard. (I also suspect we’ll see a follow up to Blu-ray with native 4K support at some point in the not-too-distant future; that will also be when the content providers come up with a new “unbreakable” DRM standard that will cause a lot of grief and still get cracked within a year of launch.)

Now, I’m all for giant HDTVs, but even I would suggest that a 42” or 46” computer display sitting on your desk would be too much. Still, if I could get an IPS, PLS, or *VA panel and the weight was manageable for my desk, I’d be willing to give it a go. The only drawback I can really see is pricing; I don’t know what these displays will cost when they start showing up en masse at retail, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see five figures for a while. Then again, I remember when 60” plasma displays were going for >$20K about eight years ago, so given another decade we should see these panels in the <$1000 range (for 40-60”). However long it takes, when the price is right I know I’ll be eager to upgrade.

Looking Forward to WUXGA and QXGA Tablets
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  • speculatrix - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    given that the majority of people can't tell 720 from 1080 on their TVs as it is - it's simply not possible for the human eye to resolve the detail at their sitting distance - I think 2K and above will not catch on except for professional installations or the richest early adopters. Reply
  • cheinonen - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    No matter how many numbers people throw out on what resolution makes a difference, looking at the 8K set that Sharp had on display (never coming out, of course) and you'd see a huge difference from a 2K or 4K set. However, I'd still take the OLED or CrystalLED sets for their better viewing angles, contrast ratios, motion, and black levels than the extra resolution. That said, you can see the difference in resolution, but bandwidth concerns mean we won't get to see that for a long time. Reply
  • Fanfoot - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    I don't know why I'd want the print on my monitor to look better. I can read it perfectly fine as it is. In fact I don't know why all those printer manufacturers don't stop making printers at 600dpi or even 1200dpi. That's stupid. Who needs anything that readable? Everything should top out at 150dpi or so. Anybody who suggests otherwise is being unreasonable. Reply
  • pixelstuff - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    Printers use the higher resolution to get better gradations and color blending. Apparently you've never seen print out from the early 360dpi printers from the early '90s. 720dpi, 600dpi, 1200dpi, 1440dpi, and 4800dpi printers have gotten noticeably better with each upgrade in resolution from those early 300 dpi versions.

    Perhaps some people can see finer resolution than others.
    Reply
  • EnerJi - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    I think you missed the sarcasm... Reply
  • B3an - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    Pretty obvious it was a sarcastic comment. Reply
  • adonn78 - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    i would love to know the aspect ratio of the 4K displays. Also were there any curved displays. I remember the Ostendo CRVD that was awesome from back in CES 2009. They have not updated the display have they? Would lvoe to see a high res curved display for gaming rather than a bunch of panels with their bezels. Reply
  • pixelstuff - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - link

    I wrote Ostendo Technologies about the CRVD last September asking them about a higher resolution version. Something like 3840x1200 (two 1920x1200 monitors), because 900px high is practically useless on a desktop computer.

    They said they were out of stock on the current model and had no plans to build more. However my request for a higher res version had been noted, and I could get their newsletter to know about future announcements.

    Maybe if enough people email them about a high res version they will try again with something more useful.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    As I mentioned in the text, the 4K display I saw ran at 4096x2160, so it's a 1.896 AR (compared to 1.778 for 16:9 and 1.6 for 16:10). I've also seen some info saying we'll see 4096x2304 4K displays (16:9), and I neglected to get a picture of the resolution but I swear there was at least one 4K display that I saw that had a >2.0 AR. Reply
  • jjj - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - link

    I hate TN panels so yay for non TN but i view the resolution game in phones and tablets as mostly marketing BS and it creates additional problems.Prices go up (and this is why the industry likes the idea) gaming gets slower and battery life is lower (or ,for tablets,you shove in a bigger battery and then the price goes up some more).Is it really worth it?
    4k TV's sure but i would rather see prices for 30" monitors come down a lot.
    Thin laptops with the CPU perf of systems costing half as much,GPU perf lower than terrible,poor battery life .... no thanks.Funny how intel tries to do what they already did years ago with the ULV line except this time they added some more shine and doubled the price.Touch screens on laptops,folks should realize how much that will add to the retail price before getting too excited.
    Reply

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