If you've been following recent TV news, you'll know that 2023 is shaping up to be a big year for TVs. CES 2023 saw some futuristic "wireless" TVs make their debut, as well as brand new screen technology in the form of Micro Lens Array, which could power a host of brighter, next-generation OLEDs.
It's not all sunshine and rainbows in TV land, though, as there is one significant disappointment here to cast an unfortunately early shadow over many of the TVs we'll see this year from the likes of Sony, Philips and Panasonic. That happens to be MediaTek's Pentonic 1000 chip, which was announced late last year and was expected to up the number of HDMI 2.1 sockets from two to four.
Bad news for gamers...
Well, it appears that's not the case after all, as we've had confirmation that the Pentonic 1000 will actually support just two HDMI 2.1 connections. Worse news is that one of these HDMI 2.1 sockets will still be the designated eARC port for connecting audio equipment. That will leave just one HDMI 2.1 port for those people using eARC for a soundbar or AV receiver. That won't be the end of the world for everyone, but it will be a serious turn-off for hardcore gamers.
The PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X / Series S and gaming PCs require HDMI 2.1 in order to unlock their most next-gen feature – 4K/120Hz gaming. 4K is obviously beneficial when it comes to detail and graphical fidelity, while 120Hz refers to achieving higher frame rates. This results in smoother and more lifelike motion, as well as giving you a competitive edge in gameplay with faster reaction times.
If you have both consoles and/or a gaming PC, you'll have to choose just one to use in glorious 4K/120Hz. Unless you're happy switching over your HDMIs every time you switch machines. Which you're not, are you?
This is a really frustrating compromise to have to make when you're spending thousands on your new TV, especially when some brands have been offering four HDMI 2.1s for years.
Can MediaTek keep up?
LG has included four HDMI 2.1 ports on its C-series OLED TVs since the C9 launched way back in 2019. Samsung also jumped on the bandwagon back in 2019 with the Q90R offering HDMI 2.1 features across all four ports, even though they weren't officially certified. In other words, MediaTek has had four years to catch up, making it all the more baffling that it's still behind.
So why don't the likes of Sony, Samsung and Panasonic develop their own HDMI chips in the way that LG and Samsung have, rather than continue to rely on MediaTek? It's almost certainly down to resources. LG and Samsung are vastly larger entities with far bigger budgets.
Perhaps the bigger question is why LG and Samsung don't sell their HDMI chips to these other brands. After all both companies sell TV panels to them. It's also a bit surprising that another third-party manufacturer hasn't sought to upset MediaTek's apple cart with an HDMI chip of its own. Doesn't Qualcomm, for example, want a piece of the action?
LG and Samsung feature TVs within their respective ranges that don't include HDMI 2.1 on all ports, but the higher-end sets are fully equipped, with the upcoming C3 and G3 OLEDs from LG and the S90C and S95C from Samsung both getting the full HDMI 2.1 treatment. This means the latest Panasonic, Philips and (in all likelihood) Sony sets will launch to an almost immediate disadvantage. We've already considered how the LG C3 and Philips OLED808 will compare with one another, and the LG is immediately the clear choice for gamers with multiple consoles and/or a PC.
All of this is extra frustrating in the case of Sony, seeing as it has a major stake in the gaming sector with the PS5. But perhaps the company doesn't like to entertain the thought of gamers having Microsoft consoles and PCs.
What does this mean for 2023 TVs?
So where does that leave us? Will the Sony, Panasonic and Philips TVs that launch this year all flop? Of course not, but they'll have to go the extra mile to appease serious gamers. We've reached out to MediaTek for comment so stay tuned for an update, but expect to see us complain about the lack of abundant HDMI 2.1 ports on many of our 2023 TV reviews.
Looking ahead to 2024, we really hope that MediaTek has a step-up version of the Pentonic 1000 with four HDMI 2.1 sockets up its sleeve. More fully-featured gaming TVs would mean more choice for gamers, and that can only be a good thing.
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