Pondering CES Part Deux

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posted 1/15/2008 by Dan Keener
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Now that we are back from Vegas and I am wrapping up my coverage, I had a chance to think back to all the questions I had going into the 2008 CES and what answers I had hoped to find out. While not every answer met my expectations, I DID get an answer to what I was pondering. As I thought, there wasn’t anything earth-shattering from the gamer’s perspective, and the Ace up Bill Gates sleeve never materialized (unless you count Slash hitting the stage amongst lasers and smoke, and disappearing almost as fast). While we didn’t really encounter too many of those “Vegas Moments” there was some great quotes that came out of our visit and a few celebrity meetings I will share instead…


How good are the 120Hz refresh LCD TVs?
The answer to this question is simple, yet complicated. I had the opportunity to ask multiple companies just how good the technology was and if it impacted the longevity of the LCD life. The answer was no, it would not impact the life at all. This answer came from all the companies including one’s lead engineer/designer. From what I saw on numerous booth visits, they are exceptional, but two small things are still nagging at me. The first is the quality of the motion smoothing chip used to create the 120Hz refresh in the sets and the second is the continuing progression of motion smoothing as it hits 180Hz and 220Hz technology. At our meeting with Vizio, we were able to get great info from their Designer/Engineer that stated he didn’t put the 120Hz technology in until he found the proper motion smoothing chip to use. The demonstration we saw was incredible, and included split-screen and side-by-side comparisons of 60Hz vs. 120Hz. There wasn’t a comparison, as the 120Hz is far superior and you don’t really see it until you have a proper demonstration. The other thing that I noticed is that the next level of Motion Smoothing technology isn’t that far away, as I saw a prototype of 180Hz refresh, and Chuck saw a 240Hz refresh on the show floor.


What thunder will Microsoft bring during Bill Gates last keynote as head of Microsoft?
This one was a bit of a bust, as there was nothing earth shattering (especially from a gaming perspective) about the Gate’s keynote unless you count the hilarious self-parody video. As expected, the surface technology was further explained and had a prominent position in the Microsoft booth and the Synch service received quite a bit of time. Probably the most notable piece to the keynote was the general philosophy that Microsoft will be focusing on going forward. As far as my predictions go, we did get some additional IP TV (strictly over the pond with British telecom for now) and Xbox 360 digital download partner news, but that elusive handheld is still sitting on a shelf in a back room or in everyone’s imagination. Maybe as the year goes on we will get some gaming announcements before Gates officially retires.


When will OLED become more than a developing technology?
Well, after seeing several models capped by the Samsung 31” prototype and Sony 27” model, it appears as if OLED will be hitting the U.S. sometime in 2010. The largest Sony OLED was a 27”model that may retail for approximately $2,500. While extraordinarily thin and bright, the high cost, small size and limited life-span means these guys probably need to go through a few more years of development to become something the average Joe will gout and buy.


Next-generation gaming consoles are launched and mainstream, so what now?
Who knows? The answer probably won’t come until E3 or the Game Developers Conference later this year. There was so little information for the consoles available that we were left scratching our heads. Sure the Xbox 360 had a UK IPTV update and announcement of three more Digital Download partners, but Microsoft’s focus at CES was on Games for Windows and Vista. Having said that, some upcoming big Xbox 360 announcements were alluded to during our meetings with Microsoft, so I guess we will have to wait and see. Sony was almost as frustrating, as we did not secure a meeting with SOE or SCEA and had to settle for walking the booth and getting a bulk Little Big Planet demo. The crazy thing is that some of the best game related stuff came from the likes of NYKO, Ageia, TN Games and the other third-party makers of gaming related gear.


What game titles will we get to see and have a hands on with?
It was an interesting show for video games, as the focus seemed to move away from the playable titles and focus moron the peripherals and gaming experience. The CES organizers touted 60% more floor space dedicated to gaming at this years show, which may have been true, but Sony and Microsoft more than offset that with the small amounts of titles available. There wasn’t a single Xbox 360 title on the floor (although we saw Devil May Cry 4 demo and five new XBLA titles in meetings with Microsoft), as they chose to focus on the games for Windows Business. We had hands on Demos with Age of Conan, Frontlines: Fuel of War and also experienced Space Siege and Turning Point Fall of Liberty. At the Sony booth, Chuck was in the crowd for a Little Big Planet demo, and we saw LBP, Metal Gear Solid and Hot Shots Golf 5 on the floor. John was fortunate enough to attend the Soul Caliber IV event, but we missed out on the Sony Pirates of the Burning Sea event due to scheduling conflicts. So overall, it was kind of disappointing the amount of titles we were able to get time with, but it IS a consumer electronics show, not a video game show.


What one product will make me stop and say Wow!
There were actually three times that my jaw dropped while walking around the show floor, but none more so than during a handful of visits to see JVC, Vizio and Samsung. After the JVC press event, they took us to the product lineup in an adjacent ballroom, but the goodies were all in the back in the developing technology room. This is where JVC introduced gesture sensing technology into one of their LCD televisions. It was pretty slick, as you could snap your fingers of wave your hand to control different options on the set. At Vizio, it wasn’t necessarily the technology, but what price the bundled tech would be coming out at. Vizio had a 60” full 1080p Plasma on display that will hit retail stores later this year for a base price below $3,000. In fact, with four HDMI ports, a thin bezel and bright technology, a suggested price of $2,899 will almost be like stealing. And finally, the Samsung booth held one of the top things I saw on the floor. While it wasn’t the biggest of the televisions there (The Panasonic 150” Plasma held that honor), the 82” Ultra High Definition LCD was sporting a resolution of 3840 x 2160, four times the current LCD resolution. Let me tell you it was the most detailed image I saw at the show, and was quite impressive. Let’s hope that gets to retail at a reasonable price in the next couple of years, because you will never see anything as life-like on a Television until then.


What will be the most bizarre thing I will see?
Despite it being Vegas and all that “what happens there stays there”, we saw so few bizarre things around the show that I am having trouble relaying anything. There were some classic quotes, such as Ben’s “It was after 4:00 p.m.” while trying to defend pounding beers in the Gibson tent and the debate whether a girl in line at a food vendor was a booth babe, Porn convention participant or a hooker. For the record, she was carrying a bag with the “Naughty America” logo on it, so the question was answered quickly. Otherwise, it was kind of an uneventful trip. We did meet quite a few celebrities, with Ben taking top honors (in his mind) for meeting Carson Daily. I had a chance to meet and talk to Marcus Allen briefly at the Samsung booth and John saw Pete Rose signing stuff at Caesar’s, but that was about it outside of the Gaming Community pseudo-celebrities like Major Nelson and Gamerscoreblog group.

Chares Husemann and John Yan contributed to this article
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