Electronics giants tone down the hype

Annual show focuses on the 'refined old' rather than the 'must-have new'

Even as tech titans such as LG, Samsung, Panasonic and Sony unveiled their thinner, ultra-high-definition television sets on the day before the start of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, a clear pattern was already emerging - there was nothing new or amazing to see.

While the announcements at the giant electronics extravaganza in previous years focused on hyped-up new features such as stereoscopic 3-D, smart TV connectivity, ultra-high-definition 4K and quantum dot displays, tech brands this year have dialled back on rolling out new must-have features.

Instead, the focus is on refining the features that were introduced in previous years. 

The continued push for quantum dot displays, which offer brighter and sharper colours on screen, was the main message from Sony, Samsung and LG this year.

Each is showing how its adoption of quantum dot displays continues to augment the sharpness of 4K televisions.

But what many consumers may not realise is that quantum dot screens were used two years ago, and they were the big push at last year's CES.

One reason for this refinement process is that it was only this week that the UHD Alliance, a group of 30 companies representing TV manufacturers, audio formats, content streaming services and broadcasters, finally decided on a standard format.

This defines the minimum requirements that television sets need before they can be certified as Ultra HD Premium.

These parameters include performance metrics for resolution, colour gamut, black levels, high dynamic range and luminance.

"The criteria established by this broad cross-section of the Ultra HD ecosystem enables the delivery of a revolutionary in-home experience," said UHD Alliance chairman Hanno Basse.

This did not prevent some companies from rolling out new features, but they did not take centre stage.

LG touted a new slim TV with a thickness of four stacked credit cards, while Samsung is using its 2016 TVs as a hub for connected smart devices such as video cameras, lights and speakers.

Samsung also showed a prototype model that was exceptionally thin.

"In 2015, we are building on all of those successful, important elements. We are introducing new technology that will help us with black levels and contrast ratios that we've never had before," said Mr Bill Lee, Samsung's vice-president of product marketing, television.

Other brands at the CES have also adopted the refine-and-focus approach and held back on over-hyping on features.

While Google's automated cars have been a common sight in some American cities, brands such as BMW, Ford and Audi continued to drum up support for their autonomous driving system.

Fitness tracker leader Fitbit announced a new Blaze fitness watch, which tracks multiple activities, with a focus on a new workout feature that guides users during working out instead of merely tracking movements.

Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC announced a second version of its Vive virtual reality headset.

The original was announced early last year and the updated Vive Pre offers sharper visuals, ergonomics and performance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2016, with the headline 'Electronics giants tone down the hype'. Print Edition | Subscribe