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CES Buzz Terms for 2009: OLED, MIDs, 240Hz, more

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Now that we've seen 2009's gadget lineup, it's time to make sense of all the new features that were thrown our way. In an effort to make your shopping easier, we've created a glossary of what we thought were some of the most important terms at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. Expect to see more of these terms as the year unfolds.

OLED: Short for organic light-emitting diode, this Kodak-developed display technology is being touted as the next big thing from the likes of Panasonic, LG, and more. If the term sounds familiar, that's because it's not a new technology — cell phones and MP3 players have been using OLED screens for several years. However, those screens were small and often only a single color display; new uses for OLEDs will be for products like smartphones, digital photo frames, and HDTVs.

Unlike LCDs, OLED displays emit light organically and do not require a backlight to function. As a result, they're significantly thinner, lighter, and more energy efficient than LCDs, with noticeably brighter colors. Sony's OLED TVs are already out on the market; larger models are expected to roll out later this year. However, because OLEDs are still niche, expect to pay a major premium on products that use OLEDs.

LED backlight: Unlike LCD displays with Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps (CCFL) backlighting, LCDs with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) allow for darker black levels and a wider range of colors along with better contrasts. However, not all LED-backlit LCDs are made the same. Samsung uses two styles of LED. First there's "full frame" LED sets, which evenly distribute white LEDs across an LCD's panel. The LEDs can be controlled independently, which lets some parts of the screen go very dark, while others remain bright. (This is called "local dimming.") As a result, you'll see brighter bright colors and darker blacks. Thinner LCDs use an "edge-lit" structure wherein the LEDs are placed only around the perimeter of the display. However, this layout prevents local dimming so the contrast ratio might not be as high as it is on the "full frame" LED sets. The trade off is that edge-lit LED-based TVs are the thinnest LCDs you'll find.

Sony, LG, and Sharp, on the other hand, are using RGB LED-backlit TVs (also known as Triluminous LED.) RGB LED LCDs use red, green, and blue LEDs to improve color purity in conjunction with local dimming. (Traditionally, only white LEDs are used.) Theoretically, this technology provides the best of both worlds, although you can expect to pay a high premium for it.

MIDs: Smaller than both netbooks and laptops, Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) are handheld computers designed for multimedia and wireless connectivity. They're based on Intel's Centrino Atom processor and will feature either built-in keyboards or touch screen displays. Although they appear closely related to Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPCs), they're actually smaller and run Linux, Windows XP, or even Windows Mobile, as we saw with Mio's MID prototype. Screen sizes on MIDs will vary (there are no set standards yet), but at CES 7" to 9" appeared to be the sweet spot. In addition to extended battery life, models are expected to include built-in GPS, HD support, and WiMax.

240Hz: Originally, all LCD HDTVs refreshed at 60Hz, or 60 frames per second. However, to reduce motion blur (the streaks and artifacts displayed during a fast-action sequence), many manufacturers created a new line of higher-end HDTVs with refresh rates of 120Hz. These new sets claimed to provide a better viewing experience than their 60Hz counterparts. Now that 120Hz sets are common, manufacturers are pushing LCDs with 240Hz refresh rates, which further improve motion resolution. LG has even created an LCD with a 480Hz refresh rate. While there is a visual difference between 120Hz and 240Hz, it's subtle and may not be worth the extra money. It's worth noting that each manufacturer refers to this technology differently: Sony Motionflow, Samsung Auto Motion Plus, Toshiba ClearFrame, Panasonic Motion Picture Plus, Sharp Fine Motion Enhanced, and LG TruMotion.

Quad HD: With a maximum resolution of 3840x2160, Quad HD is the next leap for HDTVs. The technology is also referred to as "4k x 2k." The TVs use a special version of the Cell processor to upscale content to Quad HD resolutions. Toshiba, which had a Quad HDTV at CES, expects to roll out these sets in Japan later this year. They're expected to hit the United States next year.

Netbooks: These miniature notebooks are a cheaper variant of the traditional laptop. Originally developed by ASUS, netbooks were made for simple tasks like accessing the Internet, e-mail, and word processing. With screen sizes that max out at 10", netbooks are generally under powered when compared to their larger counterparts. They lack an optical drive, carry fewer USB ports, and some models substitute a hard disk drive with a solid state drive. In addition, many run either Linux/Ubuntu or Windows XP. Most netbooks are built around Intel's Atom processor, which currently taps out at 1.6GHz. Currently, most manufacturers from Dell to Lenovo carry a netbook model in their lineup, although pricing ranges from just over $200 to $1,000 and more.

Intel Centrino Atom Processor: Last year, Intel introduced its 45nm Atom processor, the company's smallest CPU. Designed specifically for small devices with low power consumption, it reaches speeds of up to 1.6GHz with a 533MHz front-side bus. Like its brother, the Centrino Atom processor was designed for small devices with low power consumption. However, this CPU will be exclusively available for MIDs.

3D TV: Although the concept has been around for years, today's top TV manufacturers are revisiting 3D technology in the hopes of laying the groundwork for future HDTVs. Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, and RCA were among the top manufacturers displaying 3D-based HDTVs at CES. With the exception of RCA's Lenticular TV, most models require that the user wear 3D goggles. Unfortunately, there's no standardized format for 3D technology. In addition, various movie studios are making the push for 3D theaters and movies. Even NVIDIA has joined the 3D craze with its 3D Vision for GeForce, a home 3D kit designed for gamers which includes a pair of 3D glasses that work in tandem with new Samsung, ViewSonic, and Mitsubishi displays.

Internet-connected TVs: Practically every TV on the CES floor had some form of Internet connectivity, whether it was the ability to stream from Netflix or access to Yahoo's Widgets gallery. Each manufacturer has a different name for this feature and not all of the TVs can access the same content. Here are a few terms you will see in the very near future:

  • Panasonic VIERA Cast IPTV: Access to Amazon VOD, Google, news, weather, and YouTube.
  • Samsung Internet@TV: Access to Yahoo Widgets, YouTube, eBay, Twitter, and more.
  • Toshiba TV Widgets: Access to Yahoo Widgets with news, sports, and stock updates. In addition, some models will integrate Extender for Windows Media Center, letting you access media stored on your Media Center PC.
  • LG NetCast: Access to Yahoo Widgets, YouTube, Flickr, and Netflix.
  • Sony Bravia Internet Video Link: Access to Amazon VOD, Dailymotion, YouTube, CBS, Yahoo, Sony Pictures' Crackle, FEARnet, Sports Illustrated, and more.

Energy Star 3.0 Certification: Practically every TV at CES met Energy Star's 3.0 certification, which means the newer models will be even more energy efficient than today's. This is particularly important for plasma TVs, which provide a better viewing experience than their LCD counterparts, but also use up more energy. New plasma TV sets with Energy Star's 3.0 certification will use as much as 50% less power than traditional sets.

tru2Way: This technology lets you receive programming from your cable company without having to rent a cable box. Unlike it's predecessor, CableCard, tru2Way supports Video On Demand and Pay Per View. Panasonic has been the first manufacturer to get tru2way TVs on the market with its VIERA TH-42PZ80Q and VIERA TH-50PZ80Q. Other companies supporting this technology include Sony, LG, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cox Communications.

Louis Ramirez is dealnews' Features editor.
 

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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