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4K Television Developments at CES

LG is the only company making OLED panels for 4K televisions as far as I know—so both Sony and Panasonic presumably are using LG panels. But a good TV involves a ton of signal processing to deliver the best picture.

All of these vendors “cheat” on these high-end TVs by showing footage that ranges from BluRay HD to what looked like uncompressed video to me. Nothing streamed on Netflix is going to ever look that good, and that matters, because signal processing to deal with noise and digital compression artifacts can have a large influence on image quality.

  • I checked out the latest Samsung TV (“WLED”) in their cavernous booth, and while the color is gorgeous, I can see a grid-like pattern even at 2-3 feet from the panels. Samsung did not want to talk about it. I would NOT be buying a Samsung TV given what I saw. That said, the 98" 8K demo TV was playing some footage from something shot with very high end lenses, and at my viewing distance of about 5 feet, it looked incredible, far beyond the detail that 4K delivers, and at that huge 98" size.
  • Sony had some footage on their new 77" OLED TV, price and availability unspecified but likely very pricey and probably not until the end of the year (65" a lot less costly, but also TBD on when). The looped over-saturated video footage was eyeball-roasting to behold (vs reality, but an extreme that consumers presumably like). What impressed me most were reds that I can’t have see on my NEC PA302W or iMac 5K, both of which have a very wide gamut into the reds. Something is going on—I’d say it was Rec2020 but maybe (doubtful) it was only DCI-P3, which I doubt can deliver the incredibly “hot” reds I saw. The glowing ball of melted glass was very impressive, with gorgeous tonal gradation from white hot to glowing deep orange/red. Yowee!!! A really unique feature is SOUND from the display itself—propagating through whatever the TV sits on—no conventional speakers, very cool.
  • Panasonic hardly wanted to show TV at all. The cute Panasonic rep was almost as interesting as the TV...anyway, the 65" OLED Panasonic TV comes with an explicit “might not be brought to USA”. However, I judged its picture to be the most realistic looking and color accurate, with deep rich blacks and pro-grade color rendition (sample loop from a BluRay HD played by the DMP-UB900 Panasonic player). The Panasonic displayed the image that I would most want to watch, over the Sony and Samsung and LG offerings. But that’s a risky statement given the totally different footage. Still, it might not be wrong.
  • LG had a massive booth with an incredible “cave”/tunnel with 216 4K panels doing a sort of astrophotography show. Slick. The LG OLED TVs had terrific color and blacks. There was a darkened area to show off aquarium fish swimming against a truly pure black background. BUT many of the LG 4K OLED TVs had strangely unsharp imagery that made me think it was little better than high quality upsampled HD—not too exciting. Odd... just not good source material presumably. The new W line is insanely thin (3mm or less I think), and LG had those TVs mounted on rotating glass panels, the downside being a separate module for the electronics and sound. At $20K to $25K (estimated) for the 77" model (my preferred size), I won’t be enjoying movies on one any time soon. But the 65" models with conventional stands have the same panel quality, I was told—just not as fancy in build. I’m not a fan of super-thin, but such panels clearly have benefits in some install scenarios.
Panasonic 65" 4K television (might or might not be available in USA)
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