Television in the Spotlight at CES 2021

Anne Corning

This year, the world’s largest trade show—CES—shrunk to about half its normal size (approximately 2000 participating exhibitors down from the 4,500 at CES 2020 in Las Vegas1) and transitioned to an all-virtual format. But there were still plenty of new products, gadgets, and innovative technology concepts to be seen. Among them were new television models offering enhanced features and performance. For several reasons, TVs have become a particularly hot product category in 2020-2021:

  • Increased Viewing – With many people stuck at home during the pandemic, the television screen has become a primary vehicle for news and entertainment—from gaming, to binge watching, to following historic national and world events. This trend has been driving increased sales of television sets in 2020 as many households upgraded existing screens or added new TVs to different areas of their home.2   
  • Working from Home – Along with viewing for home entertainment, some consumers are also reportedly purchasing televisions for business purposes such as video conferences and virtual presentations. According to Tom Campbell, Chief Technologist for Video & Audio Center stores in Los Angeles, the television is no longer just for binging Netflix but is becoming an “essential communication device.”3
  • Bigger Screen Sizes at Lower Prices – Sales of the biggest consumer TVs (65” screens or larger) spiked by 50% in the first half of 20204 and they now make up more than 20% of television sales.5 Price drops for big-screen TVs are happening in part due to expanded fabrication capacity. New “gen 10+ LCD fab” factories are optimized for making very large LCD sheets—called “motherglass”—that can be cut into bigger screen panels.6  CES 2021 virtual attendees could see a range of big-screen models, including LG Display’s Z1 OLED models at 77 and 88 inches, Sony’s Bravia X90J line that ranges from 55-100 inches, and TCL’s three new 85-inch models.
BOE fab_robot glass handler

A robot glass handler inside BOE's Gen 10.5 Fab in Hefei, Anhui Province, China. (Image ©2018 BOE, Source)

  • Smart TV Integration – More than half (53%) of U.S. households now own a smart television,7 while a recent report indicates that global sales of connected TV devices soared past 315.6 million units in 2020, a 6% increase over 2019.8 Smart TV features range from basic internet connectivity, which allows direct streaming from internet services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, to full IoT integration. Newer models can connect with smart home devices such as voice-recognition speakers, smart lights, and other sensor devices. Some smart TVs even provide an on-screen dashboard for controlling all of a home’s smart devices. 

Continued advancement in display technology is also a driving factor in television market growth, as consumers seek out better and better viewing experiences. These technologies were also in evidence at CES 2021, including microLED, miniLED, 8K, and see-through displays.


MicroLED screens are made up of millions of microscopic red, green, and blue light-emitting diodes. Because they are emissive (self-driving) they can dim, brighten, or turn off individually, resulting in nearly infinite contrast ratio, true black levels, and wide viewing angles. Unlike OLED (organic LEDs) their performance isn’t subject to decay over time. As in years past, Samsung continues to wow the market with its microLED televisions, now offered in sizes up to 110 inches.

8K Televisions
The visible difference between a 4K and an 8K display may not matter for viewing most of today’s video content, which is still in HDR/4K format, or for anyone viewing more than 1.5 meters away from the TV screen, but that hasn’t slowed market demand for the technology. More than 1 million 8K television units are expected to be sold in 2021 around the globe, almost doubling 2020 sales.9 Industry analysts suggests that the factors driving 8K sales include:  

  • Futureproofing: there’s little 8K content now, but when there is, buyers will be ready
  • The “cool” factor—wanting to be an early adopter
  • To the average retail customer, 8K just sounds “better” than 4K
  • Many cutting-edge TV sets happen to also be 8K, so any buyer seeking advanced features will likely end up buying an 8K model as a matter of course.10

An emerging display trend in recent years, miniLED technology made a big splash at CES 2021. The technology offers the performance benefits of emissive displays (OLED/microLED) in terms of brightness, color, and energy efficiency. However, these miniaturized LEDs are primarily being used to replace the traditional LEDs in backlight units to improve visual contrast and contrast control with local dimming. At this year’s CES, Sony, Hisense, TCL, and LG introduced miniLED television models.

TLC miniLED backlight tv

TCL’s miniLED backlit television screen, which uses tens of thousands of miniLEDs to offer thousands of control zones.  (Image © TCL)

Transparent OLED
One of the more intriguing TV prototypes on display was LG’s latest see-through OLED screen, now with 40% transparency. Concept applications of these screens include “a smart bed where the OLED screen rises out of the footboard, a smart subway window where the maps and schedules are overlaid on the glass, and a restaurant partition between booths where you can see large images of menu items and even watch a chef prepare your meal.”11

TV Display Quality is Paramount

With television sets taking center stage in most living rooms, consumers expect a superior viewing experience, with image clarity, high brightness and contrast ratio, a consistent appearance at different view angles, and a defect-free screen. Radiant’s automated visual inspection solutions have been helping TV panel manufacturers ensure the quality of their displays for many years. 

Our ProMetric® Imaging Colorimeters and Photometers offer high-resolution, low-noise imaging for display inspection at production-line speeds—for traditional backlit and LCD screens, as well as those using newer OLED and miniLED display technologies. A broad range of tests can be performed in rapid, automated pass/fail sequences using our TrueTest™ Software to measure and assess displays based on brightness, color, contrast, uniformity, mura, and more. 

Our systems allow manufacturers to weigh and evaluate defects based on severity and scope, which correlate to either permissible or unacceptable imperfections as perceived by human viewers. Learn more about production-line display quality inspection in this demonstration video of TrueTest Software and ProMetric imaging. The demo shows Radiant’s automated display test solution that integrates with display devices to synchronize test images with analyses, fully automate test sequencing, and determine pass/fail outcomes based on user-defined parameters.

Watch video_max_display inspection




  1. Hiner, J., “CES 2021 trends: Top 6 things we expect to see at the all-virtual show”, CNET, January 10, 2021.
  2. Five Trends to Watch in 2021”, Deloitte, December 8, 2020.
  3. 53% according to research firm The NPD Group, as reported in Snider, M., “Despite coronavirus pandemic, consumers still turned on by big-screen TVs”, USA Today, July 20, 2020.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Breznick, A., “Sales soar for TVs, especially bigger ones, in pandemic year”, Light Reading, December 24, 2020.
  6. Shih, W., “How did they make my big-screen TV? A peek inside China’s massive BOE Gen 10.5 factory”, Forbes, May 15, 2018.
  7. Willcox, J., “TV Trends to Watch in 2021”, Consumer Reports, January 6, 2021
  8. Five Trends to Watch in 2021”, Deloitte, December 8, 2020.
  9. Global Connected TV Device Vendor Market Share, Strategy Analytics, as reported in Business Wire, December 17, 2020
  10. Katzmaier, D., “LG’s transparent OLED TVs are now even more see-through at CES 2021”, CNET, January 12, 2021.
  11. Hiner, J., “CES 2021 trends: Top 6 things we expect to see at the all-virtual show”, CNET, January 10, 2021.
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