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What to expect from HDTVs at CES 2014

The Consumer Electronics Show is a huge event for HDTV manufacturers, and CES 2014 will feature the newest, most advanced screens yet. In years past, we’ve witnessed advances in 1080p, LED backlighting, and 3D video, all of which are now well-established, readily available, and, in the case of 3D, regularly ignored. This year, we'll once again glimpse the future of HDTVs, though you probably won't see much of this technology in your home for a few more years.

Ultra HD/4K

Ultra HD (also known as 4K) television will be a major trend in HDTVs at CES. Expect manufacturers that haven't produced 4K screens yet to announce their first models, and companies that have already released 4K screens to announce less expensive models. Everyone is looking at the next big thing, and that will be the 3,840 x 2,160 resolution of Ultra HD. The once five-digit HDTVs will hit the low to mid four-digits, with even premium models from major manufacturers likely coming in at $3,000 (£1,800) to $5,000 (£3,000), finally putting them in the same range as high-end 1080p HDTVs

Don't expect Ultra HD to explode next year, though. While the screens are becoming more readily available, there still isn't a good way to get native 4K content on them. Some companies have streaming distribution systems with limited libraries, like Sony with its 4K Ultra HD Media Player (which only works with Sony 4K HDTVs), but there is still no physical format outside of the USB drive that can deliver your favourite movies to you in 4K.

This is very much the same problem HDTVs had before the Blu-ray/HD-DVD race and the development of HD television channels. You might be able to get a relatively reasonably priced 4K screen next year, but don't expect to watch much of anything in native 4K on it.

Smart TVs and program guides

Most HDTVs have some form of connectivity and access to streaming media services and web apps, but there is still room to grow in the world of smart TVs. Expect to see more HDTV manufacturers introduce smart TVs that integrate a program guide of some form into their interface, listing what's on live TV alongside your Netflix and YouTube apps. Companies like Samsung and Panasonic have already built this feature into their high-end HDTVs, but expect to see this integration of broadcast, cable, and satellite programming and aggregation with online services become more prevalent across most manufacturers with connected HDTVs.

Screen technologies

Unique HDTV screen technologies like OLED and curved displays will continue to be teased, but they'll remain very expensive, high-end models at best. OLED displays are supposed to be brighter, darker, more colourful, and more energy efficient than LED-backlit HDTVs, while curved displays claim to offer a more immersive viewing experience, but they're few and far between and will remain priced out of most people’s budget. With little interest seen in the technologies compared to 4K, CES 2014 probably won't have more than a handful of these specialised screens.

As always, HDTVs will get bigger and thinner. Sharp, the current leader in the massive HDTV game, will likely show off even more big-screen models, with consumer-available screens topping out around 90in and pure "see what we can do" bragging rights HDTVs reaching well past the 10-foot mark. All other HDTV manufacturers will also have their own big-screen models in the same range in terms of demonstrating the technology, but Sharp will probably have the most consumer-available big screens again this year. Anything bigger than 60in will still command a significant premium, so don't expect to see an 80in HDTV available for a couple of grand any time soon.

Naturally, we will be at CES next week, so check back regularly for all the news, HDTV and otherwise. Meanwhile, you might want to take a look at our preview of laptops at CES 2014, and our article which discusses what we're looking forward to in Las Vegas next week.