CES 2015 Thoughts on Color

Color, until now, hasn’t been talked about much when it comes to TVs. Sure, some company might claim some ridiculous percentage of some vaguely recognizable abbreviation, but in all, color was color and as long as it wasn’t wrong, it wasn’t discussed much.

Since nearly every LCD from the last few years has used “white” LEDs (actually a blue LED with a yellow phosphor), there wasn’t that much difference between them, color-wise, either.

That changed in a big way at CES 2015.

It seemed like, all of a sudden, manufacturers were talking about all sorts of picture quality attributes that had been largely ignored thus far. High Dynamic Range promises to drastically increase contrast ratio, a big boon for picture quality.

The big push on the color front is largely due to microscopic nano-crystals called “quantum dots.” We talked about these (and how awesome they are) when we reviewed the first TV with them, the Sony W900A.

Color is key. Not as important as contrast ratio, but up there. Accurate color is vital, reproducing what the content creators (directors, etc) want you to see with their creations. All aspects of an image are adjustable, and there are often stories-within-stories that use colors and shades lost if a TV is inaccurately creating certain colors.

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But it’s not just a question of more accurate colors, as modern TVs can be pretty accurate already. Some TVs are often spot-on the Rec 709 color space out of the box (with the right setting). Images created with separate red, green, and blue light sources just look more realistic. I noticed this during my review of the W900A, and with projectors that used separate red, green, and blue LEDs.

Basically no TVs use separate RGB LEDs (instead using the “white” LEDs mentioned earlier). Quantum dots, however, allow for the more realistic color of RGB LEDs without the cost. Nearly every TV company announced models for 2015 with quantum dots.

But it goes even further than that. Content creators and providers are looking to expand the available colors of the content. Think redder reds, bluer blues, and so on. Maybe we’ll finally get to see a realistic looking eggplant on TV. Or firetrucks.

Samsung, as an example, had a special room set up that showed off a movie (not sure if I’m allowed to say which). It’s a gorgeous movie with a lot of time spent in the ocean. One feed on one TV was Rec 709. The other was a wider-gamut feed. The difference was not subtle, and far closer to what the filmmaker had in the theater, and couldn’t have for the home Blu-ray release (due to the much narrower color gamut).

Could this be the future? Let’s hope so. Ultra HD, from a strictly resolution standpoint, offers only mild improvements depending on where you’re sitting, and how big your TV is. Expanded, more realistic color (and the content that takes advantage of that), will be noticeable on any size TV.

We’ll certainly talk more about this as the year goes on.


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