Consumer entertainment is one of the driving forces in tech. Developments in screen technology, refinements in audio, games, and even file formats we use today happen because of our need to stay entertained. In this part of our Cover Story, we’re going to be taking a look at how home entertainment is going to be this year.
The rise of 4K
There was a time when we weren’t entirely sure if 4K was going to stand on its own legs. That time has passed, and 4K video has finally, totally, hit the mainstream. With 4K TV penetration in the US hovering around the 16 million mark, and possibly 88 million standalone Blu-Ray players sold, there’s little doubt that 4K has hit its stride. As with everything, the hardware is useless with nothing to play, and possibly the one thing that has pushed 4K over the tipping point is the broadening acceptance of the format content producers. In 2016 alone, over a hundred Blu-Ray titles were released by various studios.
What we can look forward to in 2017 thanks to the broadening penetration of 4K is lower UHD TV prices. It’s the way of tech. Even now, you can get last season’s UHD TVs at a significantly lower price than at launch, so if you’re not one to be at the absolute cutting edge of technology, this is a great way to go. The idea is made doubly attractive given that the price of some of these TVs pushes well past what it would cost to make a downpayment on a car. As even more homes start jumping on the bandwagon, more and more content will be available, furthering the cycle. If there was ever a time to go UHD, it is now. The first consumer 8K TVs are also starting to peek in from the fringes, with the first showfloor-ready devices appearing at CES.
HDR for TVs is also starting to become prevalent, thanks to newer display technologies such as Quantum Dot display technology. This allows images that are closer to real-world images, thanks to more evenly balanced lights and darks, and a more balanced contrast range that’s much easier on the eyes.
Let there be light
Projectors are likewise changing for the better. From old, power-hungry lamps with limited lifespans, projector manufacturers are starting to push laser light sources into the mainstream. Offering advantages such as instant power-on, virtually maintenance-free operation, and superior contrast over traditional projectors. Switching to the newer tech is a no-brainer.
Virtual reality is finally making its way into our homes.While PS VR has been around for a little while now, we haven’t had a lot of content to go with it. There have been a few titles here and there, but this month sees the start of VR in earnest. With Capcom’s Resident Evil 7, we’re seeing the beginning of top-tier titles being playable on VR from start to finish. It’s not so much a gamble as it is an acceptance by Capcom of the reality of gaming, and it might just be the push people need to plunk down on a device that’s still a little beyond the price range of many people. It’s encouraging to see a blockbuster franchise make the most of such new tech, though to be honest, we’re a little afraid of the prospect of survival-horror in VR. ConsoVR has also started its inexorable entrales, with a more focused development cycle overall, seems better poised to deliver on the VR promise than the PC, and we’re finally starting to see it happen.
This can only be the start of the VR trend. There are more than a few titles we’d love to see in VR, and with the kind of power current-generation gaming hardware can deliver, it’s starting to look like VR is finally starting to be in the reach of the common person (though maybe with a little bit of penny-pinching first.)
Nintendo has also announced the region-free Switch—their next generation portable/home gaming console. The announcement brings with it announcement of some highly anticipated titles, such as Mario Kart, a new Zelda, and what is essentially a bundle of games that’s meant to be as engaging as Wii Sports was when the Wii was fresh and new.
Wireless audio beyond the simple Bluetooth speakers of old are starting to take over home entertainment. WiSA, an association devoted to making wireless audio devices and manufacturers play nice, and perform according to standards, is making sure the world of wireless audio is going to be a thing we can all enjoy with no problems. This year will see more, better, and easier-to-use wireless audio that can deliver high-def quality. Audiophiles will likely still go for the traditional wired options, but for the rest of that world that is perfectly happy with above-average wireless audio quality, this is a godsend. With all the usual names putting their R&D resources in their own wireless solutions, we’re going to have a great answer to the formerly tangled mess that is our home entertainment system. As with the rest of the tech in this section, prices will drop, and even today, you can pick up an excellent Bluetooth/Wi-Fi wireless speaker for less than PHP 10,000, so things are looking up for the home entertainment enthusiast.
2017 has just started, but already, we’re looking at a lot of devices that’ll keep us entertained in the comfort of our own homes. There are bound to be a lot more as the months roll by, so stay tuned. This is going to be a great year for tech.
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE February 2017 Issue
Words by Ren Alcantara