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How to Talk Like a Gear Head at CES

1/09/2012 10:53 AM

Well, the holidays blew by and the calendar flipped to a new year. This can only mean one thing: Consumer Electronics Show!

If you’re heading there, know going in that tablets and connected TVs will (again) dominate the scene. Beyond that, here’s a lingo guide to the larger CES trends, so that you can maneuver the whole scene with panache.

Let’s start with “OLED.” It stands for “Organic Light-Emitting Diode.” (People tend to say it as its constituent letters, thankfully.)

Think about what you draped around your tree, house or fence this season. LEDs, in general, are in a renaissance.

The “organic” in OLED doesn’t mean anything was grown in biodynamic soil or left to graze out of the cage. In this case, it’s about molecules and polymers, sprayed in layers on semiconductor chips. When electricity is applied, the polymers phosphoresce. (The gear-head way to say it: electrophosphorescence.)

OLEDs aren’t new. Sony and its ilk started showing them off five or more years ago - first with a phone-sized screen, then a laptop-sized screen. Small-ish OLED TVs dotted the CES scene last year.

This year, part of the buzz of the show is LG’s 55- inch OLED - biggest yet.

If you follow CES, you know that 55 inches is almost half the size of the “world’s biggest HDTV!” of years past, when we shouldered in to see the 100-inch-plus doozy on display from Panasonic.

Alas, the “world’s biggest!” hype lost its tech-sexy over the last few years, as reality hit about wall sizes and product weight. (As in: Wow, that is a huge TV - too bad it pulled the wall off your house!)

That’s why OLEDs are hot. They’re substantially lighter, use way less power, and ultimately can be rolled up like a scroll.

Also high on the gear-head meter at this year’s CES: connectivity. (Again.) Why? Vendor ecosystems collide around the best way for consumers to spill video back and forth between screens.

There’s a “DLNA House,” for instance, across from Central Hall, as well as the new-ish DIIVA effort (South Hall, No. 20656), supported by companies like LG, Samsung and Sony. Wi3 Inc. (Venetian, No. 73010) is out with a dongle-like thing that turns any coaxial jack on any wall into an Ethernet and Wi-Fi port.

DIIVA stands for Digital Interactive Interface for Video and Audio. In short, it’s about one cable that does HDMI, USB, Ethernet, power and copy protection.

And don’t forget to drop a little “4K x 2K” talk into your CES conversations. It’s the new-new thing in display resolution - 3840 by 2160 pixels, which is well beyond the 1080-pixel max of today’s best HDTVs. Great for 3D, great for medical imaging. It’s unclear how great that is for everyday TV viewing.

That’s a quick jargon guide for the 2012 CES. And remember, there’s a reason why The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Kafka refers to CES as “Pretendistan.”
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