12 Feb Display Technologies Ruled At CES 2019
One of the big trends that people may have overlooked at CES this year was the plethora of new displays and display technologies on, well, display. This year’s conference brought a raft of new 4K HDR displays and the chips and connectivity to drive 4K HDR as a base-level standard—refreshing since we really haven’t seen a lot of new technology in the display world over the past couple years. I believe that we will see 4K HDR replace 1080P as the standard for media consumption in the coming years. Furthermore, I believe that the big growth trends for 2019 and 2020 will be flexible displays, more adaptive sync technologies, more OLED and 8K. Let’s take a closer look at the announcements from CES 2019.
Samsung Electronics led the display innovations at CES with its Wall 219” modular display, which can be built to almost any aspect ratio. When pressed on details for resolution and pricing, Samsung only stated that the ‘Wall’ product starts at 75” and 4K resolution and goes up to 219” in size. While it’s unclear how high resolution this display can get, I’m not entirely sure it matters to most consumers; this technology will primarily be a very high-end product for ultra-wealthy consumers and for enterprises.
In addition to the Wall, Samsung showed off what I consider to be the most exciting gaming display at CES—its updated 49” Gaming display, the CRG9. Expected to replace last year’s CHG90, this new model brings an amazing 5120 x 1440 resolution (compared to the CHG90’s 3480×1080). This is almost exactly double the pixels (3.7 million pixels vs 7.3 million pixels). With the new 49” monitor, you’re effectively getting the resolution of two 27” 1440P monitors, side by side, as opposed to two 1080P monitors, which I consider a major upgrade. In addition to the impressive resolution, the monitor features HDR 1000 capability, which means that it adheres to VESA’s highest standard for HDR brightness in displays. It also comes with AMD’s Radeon FreeSync 2 technology, which means it supports VESA Adaptive Sync technology and can variably change the frame rate to smooth out tearing and improve gameplay experience.
Last but certainly not least is Samsung’s Space monitor. The Space Monitor comes in two sizes, 27” and 32,” and is designed to save space on your desk by going flush against the wall. This design has a minimal footprint compared to traditional monitors and will help declutter a lot of desks. I believe it will be very popular in cubicles, tight office spaces, and co-working areas where desk space is at a prime. This is less of a display innovation and more of a mechanical engineering innovation, but the idea of a monitor that takes up almost no desk space is brilliant. I expect others will copy.
LG’s big announcement was its line of rollable OLED TVs, which roll into their bases and out and upward into display mode. These got a lot of buzz, because they showcased the flexibility of OLED displays at a size that wasn’t previously possible. The company also showed off two 8K displays with an 88-inch OLED and 75-inch LCD—proving LG’s capabilities with large-format OLED continue to grow while its competitors play catch up. LG also added support for HDMI 2.1, which so its TVs can finally display content at 4K 120 Hz.
Dell surprised many at the show with its display technologies—although it shouldn’t really have been much of a surprise, given the fact that the company is the #1 display manufacturer in the world. Dell reaffirmed its leadership with its new 55” Alienware OLED gaming monitor with adaptive sync and 120 Hz capability. The company also showed off a curved 49” display, which is designed for office and productivity applications and can be used to display two computers at the same time, with one keyboard and mouse, via a built-in KVM switch. In addition to these two big-time monitors, Dell also announced that OLED options will be coming to more of its laptops this year. This is a welcome development—I have an Alienware 13” notebook with an OLED display option and it considerably improves the gaming and video watching experience.
HP ’s big announcement is that it is finally bringing (in partnership with NVIDIA ) its 65” big format gaming display (BFGD), the Omen X Experium 65, to market, after showing it off at last year’s CES. This display is a big deal because it has a 144 Hz refresh rate, HDR, and 4K, all in a 65” display. It also features NVIDIA GSync technology for adaptive refresh to enable smoother gameplay. At $5,000 apiece, this is without a doubt a major halo product. Still, it is an absolutely beautiful gaming display, and it can also be used as a TV for streaming 4K HDR content.
The biggest announcement from NVIDIA, other than the BFGD’s availability, is that the company has decided to open the G-Sync standard to non-NVIDIA hardware displays. This means that NVIDIA will have a new class of G-Sync-ready displays, tested to meet a certain subset of the most important G-Sync parameters. If a monitor meets these specs, then it will be considered G-Sync-ready. Lots of the press and industry misinterpreted this as NVIDIA completely opening up G-Sync, with the implication that all FreeSync monitors would suddenly be able to do G-Sync—but its far from that. NVIDIA created a new class of G-Sync called “G-Sync Ultimate”, which means that it has NVIDIA hardware in both ends and supports the full G-Sync spec. NVIDIA published a full list of G-Sync HDR, G-Sync, and G-Sync HDR displays.
Lenovo announced at CES 2019 was that it will be bringing a 27” G-Sync compatible monitor to market, which wouldn’t be a big deal, except for the fact that it features 1440P resolution and 240 Hz refresh rate—pretty much unheard of today. In most cases, you must drive down the resolution to 1080P in order to get a 240 Hz refresh rate. In order to make a 1440P monitor capable of 240 Hz worthwhile, you’ll need a powerful enough GPU to drive your games at 200 FPS+. I am excited to see Lenovo bring this monitor to market this year, and I hope to see more companies follow suit with higher resolutions at higher refresh rates—even if there are only a few GPUs currently capable of actually driving 1440P at 200+ FPS.
Lenovo also introduced its own ultra-wide screen 44” HDR monitor, the ThinkVision P44w, which can display from multiple sources and charge two smart devices simultaneously. It also has dual USB 3.1 ports and DisplayPort 1.4 ports.
One of the quieter pieces of news at CES 2019 was VESA’s announcement that it is almost ready to announce the specifications for the new DisplayPort 2.0 standard. DisplayPort is finally getting a major upgrade from the 1.xa/b naming scheme, and it will likely, again, put DisplayPort ahead of HDMI for the foreseeable future.
The new DisplayPort 2.0 spec, which VESA reports will be released during the first half of this year, will help usher us into the future with support for 8K 60 Hz without compression. Supporting all these high resolutions and capabilities without compression allows for more wiggle room in the future to support higher resolutions with compression. Also, the improved bandwidth and capability of DisplayPort 2.0 with Type-C means there most likely won’t be any need for the VirtualLink standard. VirtualLink was more of a stopgap measure for VR, allowing for enough bandwidth and power over a single cable without having to repurpose pins.
Display technologies were front and center at CES 2019, and nearly every major company had something new or interesting to show off. OLEDs are going to be a very big trend in TVs and PCs this year and I believe that we’ll see OLED start to gain on LCD outside of smartphones. HDR is becoming standard—which is good because many smartphones already support it and the experience outside of the smartphone needs to be just as good or better nowadays. Display technologies and innovation have been in a kind of plateau for the last few years at CES, so it is really good to see the industry starting to wake back up.