TV manufacturers were back touting ultra-high definition TVs at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, but the most interesting announcements came in the form of content partnerships and software innovation.
Ultra-high definition 4K TV has been around for a few years now, while high-dynamic range – which produces blacker blacks and whiter whites on screen – is somewhat newer.
CES 2016: TV hardware inches forward
Korean rivals LG and Samsung have both been pushing their versions of the future of ultra-high definition 4KTV at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Technology reporter Hannah Francis takes a peek.
Manufacturers, content creators and streaming platforms are now scrambling to get ahead of the game to deliver UHD content to their customers quickly, easily and affordably.
Hardware inches forward
There was little that wowed at first glance in TV hardware during Tuesday's press conferences from LG, Samsung and Sony.
LG and Samsung, impressively, came out with even thinner models than last year: a panel of "around 3mm" for Samsung and 2.57mm for LG "at its thinnest point".
LG's new G6 and E6 models, which range from 55 inches to 77 inches, are part of a new "premium" product line which it's calling Signature. The line also includes a washing machine, a fridge and an air purifier – a fast-growing category for the company, no doubt due to increasing air quality degradation across urbanised Asia.
The TVs have a cute feature that lets you display artwork or imagery on the back even when it's switched off, so if happen to have your TV in the middle of your lounge rather than on a wall, it will have added functionality and aesthetic appeal.
While LG appears to have ditched curved-screen TVs, Samsung's new line-up of SUHD TVs includes the "world's first" bezel-free, curved 10-bit quantum dot display.
Sony also announced new models in its Bravia UHD TV range.
We won't have pricing on these new generation TVs for a bit, but you can bet LG's will be the most expensive. Aside from them being "premium", LG is an outlier in using OLED technology, which is more expensive to produce.
While quantum dot UHD technology can produce a brighter picture, OLED does not use backlighting on the screen, which means a better contrast range by keeping light pollution to a minimum, resulting in a more life-like picture.
Samsung and LG's rival approaches still each boast 1 billion colours in between their bright brights and dark darks however. Samsung's TVs now boast brightness up to 1000 nits.
While the language each company is using to push its approach is remarkably similar, Samsung Electronics America executive vice president Joe Stinziano took a subtle swipe at the competition when he said Samsung's TVs were "designed for the way people watch TV in real life".
"Our research has shown people don't live in windowless caves," he said.
"The vast majority of Americans still view TV in bright or lit rooms."
But if you're planning on bingeing on TV serials in a dark room - home theatre-style – then you will probably notice OLED is better. LG is confident that will matter, declaring 2016 "the year of OLED" at its presser.
For many consumers however, the price of OLED will remain prohibitively expensive. Depending on the size, comparable UHD TV models can be thousands of dollars cheaper than LG's OLED displays. (LG also produces UHD TVs, although you wouldn't know it attending their press conference.)
The new Samsung and LG TVs have also both received a tick of approval from the UHD Alliance. This joint initiative from manufacturers, content producers, streaming platforms and other stakeholders was announced by Netflix at last year's CES, and is designed to create standards to give consumers a better idea of which TVs provide a true high-quality viewing experience.
Speaking of content providers, Samsung announced partnerships with platforms and channels including Netflix, Amazon and US TV channels to integrate them seamlessly into its Tizen smart TV operating system.
Instead of having to click on a Netflix app from the homescreen or via a digital set-top box, users will be able to browse through all connected streaming platforms, free-to-air channels and even gaming console platforms to view the latest personalised content recommendations, using the same Samsung remote.
With many smart TVs today still much closer to stupid, and as more and more ways to stream and watch content come onto the market, this is a step in the right direction.
Sony also launched a new premium 4K digital streaming service called Ultra, optimised for Bravia.
Hannah Francis travelled to Las vegas as a guest of LG.
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