TVs Are Interesting Again

TVs notched a starring role at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas instead of the flashier smartphone, tablet, or Ultrabook thanks to a new crop of innovative and high-tech sets.

Big and beautiful TVs earned the most oohs, ahhs, and accolades at CES, including super-slim OLED displays with stunning pictures, prototype wireless TVs that ditch unsightly cords, voice-control interfaces that may ultimately replace hard-to-use, easy-to-lose remotes, and ultra-high resolution sets with many times the pixel density of today's 1080p TVs.

Here's a quick roundup of some of the best of the show.

OLED Stunners

OLED TV
Gorgeous, 55-inch OLED TVs from LG and Samsung stole the show.

Featuring vivid colors, deep blacks, and superior clarity and contrast, these displays are super thin, too. How pretty are they? PCWorld's Tim Moynihan, who got an eyes-on demo of the LG OLED TV at CES, had this to say: "To put it bluntly, this is probably the best TV I've ever seen, 3D or otherwise."

But will consumers be willing to pay a huge premium for a better picture?

Wireless TV

Today's wireless products for TVs, such as the AT&T U-verse TV Wireless Receiver that streams HD video throughout your home, aren't truly wireless because your TV must still be tethered to an AC outlet. The Sharp Aquos Freestyle changes that.

A mobile TV that made its debut at CES, the Freestyle has built-in Wi-Fi and a rechargeable battery, as well as a carrying handle that makes it easy to move around the house. Battery life is reported just two hours -- not long enough to watch the Super Bowl, cord-free, on the patio. But the Freestyle is only a prototype at this point. Sharp didn't announce a shipping date at the show.

4K and 8K TVs

LG's 84-inch TV
Want to see every pore, blemish, and cosmetic surgery scar on your favorite actors' faces? If 1080p doesn't provide the level of detail you'd like, there's good news on the horizon.

At CES, LG demoed a so-called 4K TV that displays eight million pixels at 3840-by-2160 resolution -- that's four times the pixel count of a 1080p HDTV. Not enough? Well, Sharp showed an 85-inch display with 8K (7680-by-4320 pixel) resolution. There's no 4K or 8K content for these sharp-eyed behemoths, however, and it's unclear when (or if) they'll ship.

Voice Control

Nobody likes using a TV remote, with its tiny, hard-to-read buttons. If 2012 CES was any indication of what's to come, voice input may soon replace the hated remote. Numerous tech companies are developing products in this area. At CES, for instance, voice-recognition company Nuance announced Dragon TV, an app that adds speech controls to HDTVs, set-top boxes, and even remote controls.

Consumers are picky and price conscious, so it's too early to say whether any of these innovative and eye-popping sets, once available, will resonate with people who've been reticent to buy HDTVs in recent months. Since 3D TV has been a bust thus far, TV makers need something new and cool to get you to upgrade.

For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out PCWorld's complete coverage of CES 2012.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci at Today@PCWorld, Twitter (@jbertolucci) or jbertolucci.blogspot.com, and follow Today@PCWorld on Twitter, too.

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