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The TVs of CES: What a data-driven analysis tells us about 4K, display sizes, and more

Ben Taylor | Jan. 19, 2015
Let's push past the razzle-dazzle of marketing speak, and tease out what real-life spec information can tell us about TV industry trends.

Samsung curved 4K TV at IFA

TVs typically make the most noise at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but cutting through the breathless marketing hyperbole can be a challenge. That said, if you look at year-over-year changes and patterns within layers of TV spec data, you can spot a few emerging trends.

We compiled specs for more than 70 TVs either demoed or announced at CES 2015, from the heart-stopping models that dominated the show floor to quieter models buried in press releases. In particular, we focused on five of the biggest brands: Samsung, LG, Sony, Sharp and Panasonic. We then compared what we discovered to data from years' past to make some educated guesses about where the industry is heading.

4K is the new normal
We were expecting to see a lot of 4K TVs at CES; we just didn't expect to see this many. Of the 71 CES TVs we gathered specs for, 92 percent had resolutions of 4K or higher. Compare that to a year ago, when 4K was more of a hot novelty than a show floor standard.

Of course, this doesn't mean that 4K TVs will make up 92 percent of each company's 2015 lineup--CES announcements heavily skew toward new technology, and standard 1080p sets will inevitably still be the best sellers at BestBuy in 2015. But the day when 4K resolution becomes the new baseline standard could be closer than you think. For example, LG confirmed that more than 60 percent of its 2015 lineup will feature 4K resolution.

See LG's CES show floor TV lineup in the chart below.

For reference, "4K" refers to the approximate number of horizontal pixels on the TV display. Normal HD sets have a horizontal pixel count of 1920 and vertical count of 1080, which is where the term 1080p comes from. Most 4K TVs double those pixel counts for each axis--for example, 3840 for the horizontal axis and 2160 for the vertical  axis. While some 4K TVs will feature even more pixels, 3840 on the horizontal axis is generally considered the minimum required amount for "4K."

TV screen sizes are holding steady
Between 2000 and 2010, the average TV's screen size increased significantly, from just more than 30 inches in 2002 to 47 inches in 2010. (Note that these averages are based on individual models on the market, not total sales.) Since then, the market has held more steady, fluctuating between 45 and 52 inches.

At CES 2015, however, the average screen size among the 71 show floor TVs we compiled was 63 inches, which seems like a big jump at a glance. Indeed, the average screen size was 52 inches at CES 2014, and 45 inches at CES 2103.


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