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Details Emerge on LG's 2018 OLED UHD TVs

Details Emerge on LG's 2018 OLED UHD TVs
LG's E8 Series of OLED UHD TVs features a floating "picture on glass" design.
More of the Same (Which is a Very Good Thing)

The holy grail of TV picture quality has always been "perfect black" - the ability to provide a pitch black background, from which the on screen image emerges. If you start with pure black, the actual visible portions of the image take on an almost three dimensional appearance. CRT TVs were pretty good at this, as were plasmas. LED/LCD TV? Not as much. Having a backlight behind the LCD panel makes it difficult to attain truly deep black levels.

So when LG invested in OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology a few years back, picture quality buffs like me were intrigued. With OLED's self-emissive pixels, you have the ability to turn on or off any of the 8,294,400 pixels on a 4K Ultra HD screen, and that means you can create a near perfect black. When it comes to deep black levels, OLED is hard to beat.

"How Much More Black Could it Be? And the Answer is 'None... None More Black.'" - Nigel Tufnel, Spinal Tap

Over the past few years, LG has improved their OLED TVs, while also lowering the cost. Last year's OLED TVs from LG were not only exceptionally good in picture performance, but also were reasonably priced, at least for the entry-level models. And for 2018, it's more of the same: excellent black levels, superior color saturation; and an even lower price of entry. The 55-inch C8 Series set features a list price of $2499.99, which is a full $1,000 lower than the initial announced price of its predecessor, the OLED55C7P.

We got hands-on (and eyes-on), with LG's 2018 OLED TVs last month at an LG press event and saw how they performed on a variety of tests and real world program material. We also got to see them head to head against last years' LG TVs as well as an assortment of competitive sets. In terms of color saturation, image detail, and yes, black levels, the 2018 LG OLED TVs are proof that the company knows a good thing when they have it, and they're working now on perfecting what is already great about the technology with tweaks to the image processing and user interface. The company has also beefed up the processors and the Smart TV platform, by adding AI capabilities with natural language-based voice control. They call this feature AI ThinQ (apparently "Q" is the new "it" letter).

With AI ThinQ, now you can use natural language to control your TV. Say things like "Turn off the TV when this program is over" or "Change the channel to NBC," or  "the picture is too dark" and the TV understands the command and takes the necessary action. The sets also integrate with the two major voice assistant platforms: Google Home and Amazon Alexa, so you can control the 2018 LG TVs using your existing Amazon or Google smart speaker.

In all there are nine new AI-enabled OLED TV models for 2018, including the W8, E8, C8, and B8 series. As with last year, the actual OLED panels used throughout the line are identical, with the primary difference being the chassis design or form factor. Designs include the "Wallpaper" series of Picture-on-Wall TVs (models 77W8 and 65W8), Picture-on-Glass (models 65E8 and 55E8) and the more traditional "Blade Slim" design which features a thin black bezel (models 77C8, 65C8 and 55C8 and models 65B8 and 55B8). Screen sizes range from 55 to 77 inches measured diagonally. Models in the C series, E series and W series include LG's latest "Alpha 9" L9 processor, while the B series includes the L7 processor, introduced last year.

Tim Alessi, head of home entertainment product marketing at LG Electronics USA, had this to say: "LG OLED has consistently set the standard for picture quality and design in the premium TV market since its introduction a few short years ago. The new 2018 models launching in the U.S. continue that leadership with the addition of LG ThinQ AI (Artificial Intelligence) in our premium TVs, offering consumers unmatched picture quality and state-of-the-art AI capabilities that combine to deliver an entirely new entertainment experience in the home."

The 2018 OLED TVs also carry on the company's support of Dolby Atmos audio with both on-board decoding of Dolby Atmos and support for Dolby Atmos passthrough to an external sound bar or surround sound system via HDMI-ARC (Audio Return Channel). LG has also beefed up its HDR (High Dynamic Range) capabilities with support for the major HDR formats: Dolby Vision, HDR10, HLG and Advanced HDR by Technicolor. You won't find HDR10+ support on these sets, though, as that's mostly being pushed by that other Korean electronics manufacturer.
LG's C8 Series comes in 55-inch, 65-inch and 77-inch screen sizes to suit a variety of room sizes and budgets.
We had hoped that the 2018 W8 Wallpaper TV series would include an option for a separate A/V switch box in a conventional rack-mount form factor, but they don't offer that option yet. The way the company keeps the wallpaper TVs so thin is by separating out the A/V switching, speakers and processing into a separate module. The W7 Wallpaper TVs from last year include that module in separate soundbar with Dolby Atmos support. This soundbar sends the power and picture signal to the TV panel via a thin, flat umbilical cable.

As far as TV sound goes, the W8 soundbar is exceptionally good. But we think that those who can afford a $7,000 (65-inch) or S15,000 (77-inch) TV will probably match that up with a separate surround sound system. And doing that would require having a separate A/V switchbox and processing component. But the 2018 Wallpaper TVs carry on the 2017 design with the switching and audio included in a soundbar. So that soundbar is not just included, but required in order to use the wallpaper TV. It's a nice looking soundbar, with speakers that rise from the sides when you turn on the power, but it can't easily be hidden away.
LG's W8 "Wallpaper TV" series features an ultra thin, wall-mounted TV panel and a separate soundbar that houses all of the inputs/outputs, processing and (of course) the speakers.
We learned at a recent LG press event that the reason for this size requirement is that the LG OLED TV's A/V processing unit is currently on a thin but long component board that is just about the full width of a 55-inch TV. It is the same module used on the C8, E8 and W8 series TVs. So to fit all that switching and processing on a standard 17-inch wide A/V component would require rearchitecting the A/V module. Perhaps the company will make the engineering effort required for next year's models. We believe this would make the Wallpaper TV a more attractive choice for their potential customers (a.k.a. rich people).

We expect to get more hands-on with the 2018 models soon, but our initial impressions are that they continue the company's leadership in picture quality, and the new AI ThinQ features should make both the TV operation and finding content among the various streaming sources that much easier.

All models in the C8 Series, E8 Series and W8 series are available now, except the 65-inch W8 Wallpaper TV which is expected in July. Pricing and availability for the entry-level B8 series has not yet been announced.

LG 2018 OLED TV Models and MSRP Pricing:

W8 OLED Wallpaper TV Series
  •     OLED77W8PUA - 77 inches - $14,999,99
  •     OLED65W8PUA - 65 inches - $6,999.99 - expected mid-July
E8 OLED Picture on Glass Series
  •     OLED65E8PUA - 65 inches - $4,499.99 - Buy Now (Amazon)
  •     OLED55E8PUA - 55 inches - $3,499.99 - Buy Now (Amazon)
C8 Cinema Screen Series:
  •     OLED77C8PUA - 77 inches - $8,999.99 - Buy Now (Amazon)
  •     OLED65C8PUA - 65 inches - $3,499.99 - Buy Now (Amazon)
  •     OLED55C8PUA - 55 inches - $2,499.99 - Buy Now (Amazon)

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