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CES TVs Preview: What To Expect From The Big Screens Of 2018

- Jan 08, 2018 -

For those of us who care about new TV technology, Christmas comes in January.

CES 2018 in Las Vegas presages the coming year of TV tech with the latest in display innovations, and if previous shows are any indication, there'll be plenty of massive, jaw-dropping screens to go around.

At CES 2017 we saw the first wallpaper TV and another TV that used the screen as the speaker -- and both went on sale this year. At CES 2016 we saw a concept TV that could be rolled up like a piece of paper and a concept modular TV that can get as big as you can imagine. At CES 2015 there was the introduction of HDR and Samsung's quantum-dot-infused SUHD. At CES 2014 the buzz was all about concept TVs that got bent.

If the pattern holds, the most notable TVs at CES 2018 will probably populate the "concept" bucket. So how weird it will get? Transparent, paint-on, holographic or completely ephemeral? Huge, massive or bigger than your actual house? 4K, 8K, 16K or InfinityK? We'll see.

In addition to crazy concepts, CES also debuts plenty of TVs that will actually be on sale in 2018, laying out the trends for the year. At the time of this writing I haven't been briefed by any of the manufacturers (yet), so here are my best trend guesses.

4K and HDR are for all and ho-hum

In 2017 TVs with 4K resolution and high dynamic range are available in the US as cheap as the $300 TCL 43S405. So yeah, those two features are thoroughly mainstream. This year we saw just about every TV maker phase out non-4K TVs in sizes smaller than 50 inches, and in 2018 that resolution, along with low-quality HDR that costs very little to implement, will make its way into even smaller and cheaper TVs.

Local dimming as the LCD differentiator

All of my favorite LCD TVs for 2017 used local dimming, a technology that allows the screen to brighten and dim in different areas independently, significantly boosting the picture. It's particularly valuable with HDR. Sony, TCL and Samsung expanded the number of TVs that utilize dimming, and Vizio continued to set the pace, with dimming-capable TVs available in every series. In 2018 local dimming will become even more common, if only to separate the cheap 4K HDR TVs from the slightly less-cheap ones.

Samsung dominant, TCL rising

The biggest domestic brand in China and now the No. 5 brand in the US, TCL will make even bigger inroads in 2018. In explaining its inexplicable decision to drop the 50- and 65-inch sizes of its excellent P series, TCL representatives said, "We'll be shifting our focus ... to the next-generation P-series portfolio featuring new, cutting-edge technology." In other words, it wants to take share from the four brands above it.

According to NPD sales data, TCL has indeed made big gains lately, but it's largely in cheaper models -- even cheaper than Vizio. Here's a comparison between the top five brands in 2016 and 2017, showing market share considering price (dollar share) and the average selling price for each during the January through October time periods (the latest available when I asked).