×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

CES Trends: Get Ready for Your TV to Disappear

Bigger, better, brighter: The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas has been reliably an event of superlatives for TV manufacturers. Each year, companies try to outdo each other with the biggest display, the most advanced technology and the largest amount of pixels. This year, companies like Samsung, LG and Sony did once again try to outdo each other — but they also showed us a future in which the TV itself may fade away altogether.

Walking the show floor in Las Vegas, it’s easy to see 4K HDR displays everywhere, with each manufacturer promising that they have found the best way to display colors more authentic than the other guys. Natural color reproduction has become what brightness used to be just a few years ago, with Samsung SVP Dave Das telling reporters: “With QLED TV, you are not watching TV. You are looking through a window.”

Samsung SVP Dave Das introduced the company’s latest TVs at CES.Janko Roettgers / Variety

Except, windows just work and don’t really require a whole lot of research. The same can’t really be said for this new generation of TVs, which still rely on a myriad of competing formats to display HDR video. LG made a point of mentioning that is TVs support four different HDR formats.

To make matters worse, manufacturers are getting ever better at marketing different displays with strikingly similar names. Case in point: Whereas LG continues to use OLED displays for its high-end TVs, Samsung introduced something it calls QLED — sort for quantum dot LED — which is supposed to improve viewing angles, use less energy, and is likely going to be cheaper than OLED. (For a more detailed comparison of the two technologies, check out this article.)

Aside from picture quality, TV manufacturers have also been investing in the form factor of their devices, which are getting thinner every year. Some of LG’s new W7 TVs are just 2.57mm (0.1 inch) thin, and can be mounted flush to a wall, where it almost disappears, looking more like a giant picture than a big and bulky TV screen. As a comparison: With 7.1mm, Apple’s latest iPhone is more than twice as thick as LG’s ultra-thin TV set.

LG is able to do this by stripping the TV set of everything but the screen, and putting all of the ports, chipsets and everything else necessary to power the TV set in the soundbar. That’s an approach that’s popular at this year’s CES, with Chinese consumer electronics upstart Xiaomi doing the same thing for its new line of ultra-thin TVs.

Xiaomi’s latest TVs have outsourced all the ports and smarts into the soundbar.Janko Roettgers / Variety

LeEco isn’t quite there yet, but showed off a concept TV that also outsourced all of its innards into the soundbar, with an option to eventually replace either the display or the processing unit when you’re ready to upgrade. Essentially, TV sets could become modular, more akin to the way you’d buy a new desktop PC every few years without changing the screen, while someone else may actually want a bigger screen but keep their trusted old computer.

But while TV screens are getting thinner and thinner, some companies are working on screen-free futures altogether. Sony showed off a really impressive 4K laser projector dubbed the VPL-VZ1000ES that made you forget that you are not looking at a TV — and unlike the old man-cave projector that needed to be mounted across the room, this new generation of projectors is short-throw, which means it can be placed inches away from the projection target. Sadly, your bank account will know the difference between this and a regular TV right away: The VPL-VZ1000ES will cost $25,000.

Hisense’s new $13,000 laser projector.Janko Roettgers / Variety

Hisense is making a slightly more affordable laser projector that is going to retail for $13,000, and the company said that the device will eventually be able to power screens of up to 140 inches. Hisense also showed off the next generation of laser projectors with two color wheels, hinting at a glorious future where the best picture quality won’t require a display at all.

CES also has long been a place where TV manufacturers show off their latest smart TV features. But with streaming maturing, improvements at the big name companies seemed largely incremental. LG taught its webOS TVs a few new tricks, including 360-degree video, Samsung added Chromecast-like features to its 2017 TV lineup, and Amazon teamed up with a couple of budget brands to have its Fire TV platform directly integrated into TV sets.

Get ready for instant messaging stickers to pop up on your TV screen.Janko Roettgers / Variety

There was one feature that stood out at Xiaomi’s booth: The company is experimenting with bringing social features to TV sets, and will give consumers in China the ability to use their TV’s voice remote to essentially have instant messaging conversations with their friends while they watch a game, or anything else for that matter. Stealing a page from mobile-based messengers, consumers will even be able to send their buddies stickers that pop up on top of whatever you’re watching.

So even if you won’t be able to afford an ultra-thin or display-less TV set anytime soon, you can still experience television disappearing — behind a barrage of goofy stickers.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Gabrielle Carteris

    SAG-AFTRA Urges Gavin Newsom to Sign Law Punishing 'Deep Fake' Videos

    SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White is urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign legislation that institutes penalties for nonconsensual digital sexually explicit videos, also known as “deep fakes.” The legislation, Assembly Bill 602, targets companies and individuals who create and distribute the videos in California without the consent of the individual being depicted. “We urge Gov. [...]

  • Facebook Portal logo

    Facebook Is Launching a Portal TV Device: Here’s What We Know

    Facebook is getting ready to launch a TV streaming device in time for the holiday season, Variety has been able to confirm with multiple sources familiar with the company’s plans. The new streaming hardware will be part of the company’s Portal family of devices, featuring a camera, and combining video chatting with TV viewing and [...]

  • MoviePass card

    MoviePass Shuts Down, With Parent Company Citing Failure to Raise Funds

    MoviePass, the long-struggling theater subscription service, finally appears to be down for the count. On Friday, MoviePass notified remaining subscribers that it would be shutting down the service effective Sept. 14, 2019, because “its efforts to recapitalize MoviePass have not been successful to date,” parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics announced. “The company is continuing [...]

  • Disney Plus - Full Lineup

    How to Browse the Disney Plus Catalog the Company Is Testing in the Netherlands

    Disney began testing its Disney Plus streaming service in the Netherlands this week. Consumers in the U.S. will have to wait until November 12 to get access to the service, but European streaming aggregator JustWatch already makes it possible to browse the catalog available during this beta test. JustWatch is one of a number of [...]

  • JoJo Siwa'The Angry Birds Movie 2'

    Nickelodeon Star JoJo Siwa Gets Her Own Dance-Tour Mobile Game (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fans of JoJo Siwa will be able to join the teen influencer’s dance squad on stage — virtually — in a new mobile game. In “JoJo Siwa — Live to Dance,” players will become part of the Nickelodon and YouTube star’s worldwide tour on her professional dance team and experience what it’s like to be [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content