It’s a decade since the future possibilities of OLED TV first became obvious, and now that future is here, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
Around a decade ago, I witnessed a dazzling new future in the making. At the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas in 2007, Sony unveiled the XEL-1, the world’s first TV using Organic Light Emiting Diodes, or OLED. The name is a clue to the technology: because it emits light, OLED doesn’t need a backlight, meaning it can be much thinner than LCD screens which depend on backlight. And, of course, it gives a new meaning to colour.
This display back then was all of 11″, and the price an eye-watering $2,500 – for a device the size of an iPad. But it was the sharpest image I’d ever seen on a screen, and I imagined a future where one would pay a similar price for an OLED screen three or four times the size.
That future is here and, for once, it is bigger and better than we could imagine back then.
There are a few differences, of course. For one, the machine in question is made by LG. For another, it’s curved. And you have to shop around to get it for as little as $2,500. But that, perhaps, has something to do with the fact that it is five times the size of that original 11” display.
LG took the initiative away from Sony some time ago. It became the first TV maker to mass produce large-screen OLED sets in 2014, following up with a second generation last year.
The LG EG9600 may not be the biggest of LG’s third generation of OLED TVs, but it has the most satisfying image quality of any TV I’ve yet tested. It
represents the current state of the TV art, with 4K, or ultra high-definition (UHD) resolution, delivering wonderfully dark blacks and the kind of whites that are usually only promised in washing powder ads.
The result is video quality that is frighteningly real, and almost embarassingly detailed. Sometimes you don’t really want to see every pockmark in a movie star’s face. But that discomfort is easily outweighed by the level of detail that suddenly becomes available. From cityscapes to crowd scenes at sports events, it seems as if new secrets of the world are being revealed.
As if the picture isn’t enough, the machine itself is also dazzling, with its combination of gently curved screen and absurdly thin panel – it’s no thicker than LG’s latest flagship smartphone, the G5, or most other cutting edge smartphones for that matter.
If it’s smartphone functionality one wants, then the EG9600 offers something close, the latest version of LG’s webOS proprietary smart TV operating system. Version 3.0 has an improved user interface and easier navigation, although using the remote control for cursor control remains a clunky exercise. It allows one to navigate through a band of large tabs, and choose from a range of online services, including common or garden web browsing or YouTube viewing. The menu can be personalised if one wishes.
Finally, the speakers were built by Harman/Kardon to complement the visuals. This makes for a rich, near-surround sound that goes some way to living up to LG’s statement that the machine is “geared to creating a state-of-the-art home theatre”.
The price remains the major drawback of the unit. You may be getting five times the screen for only a little more than the price of an 11” a decade ago, but that will still be out of reach for most. However, this equation points to the current high-end coming down rapidly in price, especially as 55” seems to hit a sweet spot between big picture and manageable size for the average room.
Just five years from now, this kind of TV will be the norm. Considering that most people only buy a new TV set every five to ten years, it means that the future for the typical viewer is arriving now.
Apparently, LG agrees.
“We want OLED to be the revolution of light that opens up the future we all want to live in”, said Antonio Dos Santos, national sales manager at LG Electronics South Africa, at the launch of the new OLED range.
“Without backlight and other auxiliary layers, the OLED display is fundamentally less complicated compared to LCD, and in time less costly to manufacture. I have no doubt, given its advanced features and superior performance, that foldable, wearable, flexible and transparent, OLED is the display technology for the next generation.”
Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart
Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.
As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page
KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching.
The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter.
The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style.
The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button.
The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on.
In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode.
Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.
Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.
Find them on Kickstarter here.
Taxify enters Google Maps
A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.
People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.
Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.
Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.
If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.
This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.
“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.
Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.