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CES 2022: And Just Like That, TVs Are Exciting Again
Televisions finally make real progress just in time for the FIFA World Cup - here's why it matters
So this year's CES - the greatest tech show on the planet even in these pandemic times - is all wrapped up and, despite many major players not showing up due to COVID concerns, it was an interesting one: some new computer processors, a number of experimental products, weird laptops and hybrid devices, concept cars, crazy gadgets of all kinds and... televisions. Lots and lots of televisions. This was, admittedly, true for other past CES shows too, but this year it was different. Special. A whole new TV category, a notable rivalry between four giants for the top image quality crown in the most popular such category, new options at new price points... the list goes on and on. By headline count alone, TVs reigned supreme in Las Vegas.
For a FIFA World Cup year - where television sales historically go through the roof anyway - that's more than a happy coincidence. 2022 is the Year for a New TV. Let's break it all down.
QD-OLED TVs: the new kid in town will amaze consumers, hurt wallets
The most important among the latest developments in the TV product category as a whole is, of course, a new kind of display tech consumers will finally have access to in 2022: QD-OLED. Without getting too technical about it, these screens are similar to OLED but superior to those in a few key areas: they are, too, self-emissive (so there are no backlight issues to solve), they offer pixel-level control (so contrast and black levels are literally perfect), but they can also get considerably brighter (so they can be used in more diverse lighting conditions as well as handle modern HDR content in a more impressive manner) while expressing a much wider range of colors thanks to the Quantum Dot layer they employ.
Samsung Display is the only manufacturer providing these screens - and the only two companies bringing QD-OLED TVs to market this year are Samsung Electronics and Sony. The latter already showed off and talked up its own sets during CES, while the former is going to do so in the next few weeks. These televisions, as cutting-edge tech usually is, will be quite expensive (especially given the fact that they will be coming in 55- and 65-inch sizes only), but they will push cinematic image quality to new heights. First impressions of the QD-OLED TVs shown in Samsung Display's CES booth were extremely promising, so all we're waiting for is a release date (and a price that will not make us cry... maybe?).
MiniLED TVs: more players than ever, best LCD picture quality up for grabs
For people also into sports watching though - this is a World Cup year after all - LED/LCD televisions that can get really bright are the way to go. TCL has been experimenting with the most advanced mainstream backlighting these TVs can have, MiniLED, for a while now (let us put aside the hyper-hyped MicroLED-based TVs that cost at least six figures), but competition among different manufacturers will be truly fierce in 2022: not only do Samsung and LG, which offered their own MiniLED TVs in 2021, promise much better implementations this time around, but Sony has entered the fray with its own MiniLED TVs too.
This cannot be underestimated: Sony has invested more than anyone, for longer than anyone, in the image processing algorithms that take care of every detail in modern TV picture - so display enthusiasts are highly interested to see what the Japanese will be able to do with MiniLED backlighting. Samsung has made great progress in the same department and will answer with its own improved processing algorithms, while LG and TCL will strive to offer their MiniLED TVs at lower (or even much lower) prices than either Sony or Samsung. Consumers will have no less than nine more MiniLED TV options to choose from than they had just a couple of years ago. Competition. It's a good thing.
OLED TVs: for any living room, for any bedroom, for any wall
It's true that OLED TVs have not progressed as much as everyone would like them to during the last four years, but their slim profile and beautiful picture remain as attractive as ever. What 2022 brings to consumers interested in this kind of display is, first and foremost, a much wider range of choice: the new wave of OLED TVs that LG, Sony, Panasonic, Philips and others will be offering includes the cheapest models ever, the smallest models ever, the brightest models ever and the largest models ever. Interestingly, the most expensive OLED TVs ever will not get more expensive in 2022. Thank God for small favors!
Joking aside, choices: LG and Sony will be offering, for the first time, a 42-inch OLED TV intended to be used in a small bedroom or as a very, very nice PC monitor for play and work. LG will also be offering the largest OLED TV it has ever built at 97 (!) inches, for people who can spare a wall in their living room for it. All manufacturers will be including more affordable models than they did last year in their lineups, with LG leading the pack - it does not mean that OLED TVs will get cheap enough for everyone all of a sudden, but it does mean that more people will have access to an OLED model (depending on their needs). A handful of manufacturers also promise to get specific OLED TV models to go brighter than before with the help of hardware and software. After similar promises made in 2021 were not kept in practice, we'll have to wait and see about the new ones. But we appreciate the effort.
Let the TV Wars begin, let the best products win
People following developments in the TV market for a while will recognize a pattern here: after many a CES there's some or even a lot of enthusiasm about new models and big promises, performance gains and impressive features, only for that enthusiasm to die down when review time comes around and journalists' impressions do not quite line up with those promises. We've seen this play out exactly like that before, no?
But this time it really does feel different: genuinely new display tech will be offered in widely available TV sets, already established display tech will be offered in more forms than ever before, display tech in general will be hitting every price point - from dirt cheap to obscenely expensive - with new or updated models. All in the same year, all in a FIFA World Cup year when interest in new TV purchases hits record levels in all major markets. Promises? Well, we'll see about those, but it's going to be an exciting time in any case. Oh, yes!