The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the largest events for consumer technology. Every year it brings all the major tech companies to show off their latest and greatest products and ideas.
CES 2021 has now come and gone, and while this year was an online-only show, it still brought a bevy of reveals and information about technological innovations! Here is a selection of the most interesting cutting-edge tech shown on the digital show-floor of this year’s event:
New OLED Technologies
OLED TVs were a popular focus of this year's CES. Panasonic announced their flagship new OLED, the JZ2000, which updates their range with a new image-analysing processor dubbed ‘HCX Pro AI’. Panasonic claims this chip will monitor what you’re watching and automatically tweak the picture and sound settings to create the perfect viewing experience. They’ve also given the audio a hefty upgrade, with a ‘360° Soundscape Pro’ system that adds several side-firing speakers for even more room-filling audio.
LG also had some exciting OLED technology to announce - starting with ‘OLED Evo’, an upgraded version of the OLED display technology. This latest version of the OLED technology is more energy efficient and far brighter - aiming to fix one of the largest shortfalls of OLED (apart from the cost). These new OLED Evo panels are being built into LG’s G1 series of 55”, 65” & 75” TVs, though you’ll be paying a premium to experience the newest evolution in OLED technology!
They also revealed the ‘Bendable Cinematic Sound’ OLED display. This 48” display is capable of bending at will, changing between flat (better for watching films) and curved (better for gaming) as necessary. Not only that, but the entire display is capable of vibrating and serving as a speaker, meaning there is no need for any external speakers! This is a really impressive technology, and opens the door to a whole range of flexible displays in the future.
8k TVs for all price ranges
8k TV is set to explode in popularity over the next few years, and so it was unsurprising to see a growing selection of cutting edge 8K TVs on show this year. Sony unveiled the latest iteration of the Bravia series, 75” or 85” monsters with top-quality 8k screens and ‘Cognitive Processor XR’ - which apparently is capable of understanding how humans think and watch TV, and so can make intelligent choices when balancing picture and sound quality. That’s some bold claims… time will tell whether Sony’s flagship TV can live up to them. Sony didn’t confirm the prices, however it’s safe to say these new Bravia models won’t be cheap to buy!
On the other hand, TCL announced they want to bring 8k TVs into the price range of mere mortals. They announced their popular 6-Series will be upgraded to 8k this year - meaning they will be the most affordable 8k TV sets on the market. Pricing isn’t available right now, but given the cost of the older Series-6 TVs, we may be looking at a fraction of the cost of current 8k models. This is an exciting move - it will spur adoption, and hopefully speed up the spread of 8k-compatible media in the next year.
Shiny new soundbars
It’s not just TVs that got upgrades this year - there were numerous new soundbars in attendance at CES 2021. Samsung debuted the hefty ‘HW-Q950A’ - a soundbar that somehow manages to squash in 11.1.4 channels. When paired with the included wireless subwoofer, it will handle 3D sound as effectively as a full sound-system of 5-10 speakers! It has support for Dolby Atmos too, meaning the objects and people in your films will sound like they are moving around you in 3D space!
If you want your soundbars smaller and cuter, but don’t want to sacrifice audio power, then take a look at the ‘Eclair’, unveiled at CES by LG. It’s a tiny soundbar with serious heft - 3.1.2 channels squashed into a 30cm long white lozenge. There is enough power under the hood to fill your living room, and the 2 upfiring drivers allows it to support Dolby Atmos’ 3D audio. It’ll be available in late June.
LG’s ‘Cinebeam’ Projector
LG unveiled a new projector to add to their stock of top-quality product - the ‘HU810P’ is a 4k laser projector with some exciting new technology under the hood. LG’s ‘Cinebeam’ tech allows you to tweak the display and adapt it to the lighting conditions - meaning this projector will work equally well in light or dark, changing at the press of a button! It will fill screens up to 300 inches, and has all latest wireless streaming tech baked in. It’s not cheap though - you’ll be paying a wince-inducing $2,700 for the latest in projection technology!
New Headphone Tech
Headphones are always a popular topic at CES, and there were a number of new products and techs on show this year. Anker released their latest take on Apple’s Airpods - the Liberty Air 2 Pro. They boast large 11mm drivers and Active Noise Cancelling, as well as a 6-7 hour battery life and a wireless-charging case. The specs are similar to those of the Airpods Pro, but the price is about £40 cheaper. They also have 4 different colours - great if you’re allergic to Apple’s stark white airpods design!
Sony announced an upgrade to their ‘3D Reality Audio’ technology - this provides immersive 3D sound for compatible headphones, creating a 3D effect to make it feel like you’re in the middle of the music. Sony has been working on this for a while, but it was limited by a lack of compatible media. At CES they announced partnerships to greatly expand the range of 3D-audio enabled content, as well as software that makes it easier to transcribe music/audio into 3D, and a range of 3D-audio compatible speakers, to create immersive soundscapes in your living room.
Samsung’s Smart Vacuum
RoboVacs may not be quite as sexy as TVs or 3D audio, but they’re certainly a helpful addition to modern life! At CES Samsung unveiled their new ‘JetBot AI 90+’ - a smart vacuum cleaner that can use LiDAR to navigate your floor, and an onboard ‘Intel AI’ to identify and track paths around obstacles. It can also automatically empty it’s dust bin when recharging, and an app that allows you to view the robovac’s front camera and take direct control if necessary!
Colour E-Ink Tablets
Electronic Ink (E-Ink), the technology that powers Kindles, has proven a real success, but it has one large flaw - it’s only capable of displaying black & white. Colour E-Ink displays have been in development for years, with varying levels of success. The newest contender in the arena is TCL’s ‘NXTPAPER’, an Android tablet with a colour screen using a display tech very similar to E-Ink. TCL are boasting that the NXTPAPER gives off no Blue Light, making it great for long reading sessions without promoting eye-strain. It’s being suggested as a great gadget for comic fans, allowing them to read all they want, without having to strain their eyes on an iPad or Laptop display. However there is a large caveat - it lacks a backlight, meaning it may be of limited use in the dark. Time will tell whether this is a dealbreaker - the NXTPAPER is released in April.
LGs Rollable Phone
LG gained a lot of attention this year with their teaser for the ‘LG Rollable’ - a concept smartphone that has an adjustable screen that can shink or grow on command. Little is known for certain about this tech - it’s assumed it uses similar technology to their rollable OLED TV debuted several years ago. It may not even appear at all, but for now it’s a tantalising look into what the future of smartphone designs could look like!