Thinking about buying a new TV, Blu-ray player, or even laptop? Well maybe you should think again because we saw some technologies at CES 2010 that could make a gadget you buy today obsolete very soon.
HDMI is the standard for moving digital media like surround sound audio and high definition video from a source like a Blu-ray player, game console or receiver to your TV or other device. The current standard is HDMI 1.3 with variations like 1.3a, b, and so on. HDMI 1.4 is the latest standard that not only adds support for 3DTV but adds an Ethernet channel that allows the cable to be used to transfer networking data at speeds up to 100Mb/sec for things like IPTV and DLNA (see below). The good news is that high speed HDMI 1.3 cables (the expensive ones) will support HDMI 1.4 features except for the Ethernet channel the bad news is you’ll need a new device for the old cable to work with.
They would prefer you call it SuperSpeed USB but whatever you call it, it’s much faster than the older USB 2.0. USB 3.0 or SuperSpeed boasts a speed improvement of around 10X over USB 2.0 with transfers up to 300 or 400 megabytes per second. SuperSpeed has been slow to be adopted. Intel, who is promoting a competing technology based on optical cables called Light Peak, has said it won’t support SuperSpeed for another year. In fact, some people think Light Peak which claims 10 gigabit per second transfers might even replace USB especially if vendors like Apple adopt it. Meanwhile, Microsoft is in the process of creating SuperSpeed drivers for Windows 7. The good news is USB 3.0 is picking up speed (haha). We saw SuperSpeed external drives, adaptors, and even a laptop at CES 2010.
If you are planning on buying a high end HDTV this year, you may want to consider waiting for a 3D-capable version. A 3D LCD TV (or Plasma) will have a fast refresh rate of at least 120Hz (240Hz is better), circuitry to decode the various 3D broadcast formats, a 3D glasses interface (if it uses active shutter glasses which it most likely will), and HDMI 1.4 ports. We should see more sets appearing on the market in the second half of 2010.
The Digital Living Network Alliance has been around since 2004. It now claims to be used in more than 5,500 devices. DLNA has been something of a sleeper for the last few years but at this year’s CES 2010 we kept hearing it mentioned in places like the Samsung booth where they were showing their vision of a “connected” house. We predict you will start seeing it featured more prominently in TVs, mobile phones, laptops, printers, and more. We understand that the DLNA standard might be enhanced to include support for MPEG-4 AVC and Bluetooth in the near future. We advise you to keep an eye on this standard and look for it to be included in any gear you’re considering adding to your household. DLNA and WiFi make for a great way to move digital media around your home.
A variation of the U.S. digital TV standard, ATSC, is emerging called Mobile DTV. It’s designed to send a special TV broadcast signal to mobile devices. The programming will be pretty much the same shows you get over the air and won’t cost anything to receive. We expect to see Mobile ATSC tuners built into mobile phones, laptops, portable TVs, and other devices. Separate tuners are just becoming available but if you want to watch TV on the go, you might want to look for a device with Mobile HDTV built-in.
Ambient Light Sensors and Other Eco-friendly TV Features
One of the new techniques to make TVs more energy efficient is to equip them with ambient light sensors that adjust the brightness of the screen according to the brightness of the room or “ambient” surroundings. New TVs from Vizio, Sony, LG, and others are all coming equipped with light sensors. The top-of-the-line Sony BRAVIA LX900 not only has a light sensor, it has a “presence” sensor that detects people in the room watching the TV. LED backlighting which is becoming more and more common in HDTVs is better for the environment than CCFL backlit TVs for recycling and energy saving.
Everywhere we looked at CES 2010 we ran into TVs featuring Internet connectivity. A TV connected to your broadband service through WiFi or an Ethernet connector can offer everything from streaming services like Netflix, Vudu and even YouTube videos to Skype conference calling. Even though you’ll be able to get Internet connectivity to your TV through set top boxes and Blu-ray players we suggest you look for a WiFi-equipped HDTV set for your next TV set.
Don’t End Up Waiting Forever…
On the other hand, we should probably make it clear that the nature of gadgets is that something new is always on the horizon and if you were always waiting for the next new thing, you could end up waiting forever but we thought you’d want to know about some of these new technologies so you can consider them when you make your next gadget purchase.
Andrew Eisner, Retrevo’s director of community and content and resident hard core gadget enthusiast. Eisner comes to Retrevo from the world of computer journalism.