As an AV professional, buying a new TV for my own home is always a little more stressful than it should be. Since I deal with this stuff on a daily basis, I am hypersensitive when it comes to improvements, new features, and pricing. I am not the type to buy a new TV every model year, in fact just like everyone else I am looking for the best deal.
After passing on the 2016 6 series LG OLED, I decided that the 2017 C series was the one for me. They had finally fixed the dreadful CMS and it finally came out of black much better. These were 2 things that were terribly important to me as I am constantly on the quest for the “perfect” picture. I had a feeling that the chrome bezel would have bugged me, so in December of 2017 I decided on the 55C7.
As CES 2018 was approaching, the question in the back of my mind started to linger...did I screw up by not waiting for the 8 series? Did LG come up with something that is going to blow us all away? Well Now that CES 2018 is over, we know a little bit more about the 8 series OLED and what to expect in the upcoming model year.
LG showed off 2 models that received a lot of attention. One of them was something that some of us have been predicting for years...a TV that rolls up when not in use. This is something that I can see as a practical use. I’ve always been a sucker for automation, and I love the idea that I can hide my TV when it is not being used. I also love is that this isn’t simply a show off feature. Since the TV can roll up and down freely, you could have the screen exposed in such a way that all you see is a stock ticker, weather information, and much more (maybe the Bitcoin price for those who love to torture themselves). For the cinemaphiles out there, goodbye black bars! In a theater application things can get tricky and expensive when trying to hide black bars. In this case however, it is just a matter of unrolling the screen enough so that the display is in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. For 16x9 content all one needs to do is unroll the screen all the way. I’d love to see an option to mount the unassuming white enclosure upside down on the wall or ceiling so the screen unrolls down similar to a traditional 2 piece system, but that may be wishful thinking!
Crazy display #2 would be the 88” 8k OLED. Unfortunately this is a prototype piece for CES so don’t rush out to Best Buy expecting to see it on display. The folks who saw it had nothing but great things to say about it, and if we have learned anything about prototypes at CES this may be a prediction on what we will actually see rolling off the assembly line within 5 years. Only time will tell!
So what about the rest of the OLED line? What will we see at the big box stores and on the front page of our favorite A/V websites in 2018? Luckily LG has some cool plans!
First let’s get one thing out of the way because I know you are wondering. The 2018 8 series will not feature HDMI 2.1. We are all excited about it, but it will be at least 1 more year for the LG OLED line. Not to worry though...there are still some great improvements within the line.
Luckily LG decided to not confuse everyone with a change in the structure of the model line. The entry level model will continue to be labeled a “B”, followed by “C”, then “E” (picture on glass), and finally the ultra flat wallpaper thin model keeps the “W” badge. All models will support HDR, Dolby Vision, HLG, and a format that we were surprised with in the 7 series called “Technicolor”.
Want to order an Uber from your TV? Now that is possible as all models in the 2018 LG OLED line will have the Google Assistant built in. Check out vacation photos, set timers, and more, all with the power of your voice. Still need more control? Each model will work with the Google Home, Google Home Mini, and the Amazon Echo.
LG has introduced a new processor to handle the heavy lifting. The “A9” processor claims better color, sharpness, contrast, and faster Smart TV operation. Each model will have the A9 processor with the exception of the entry level B8 model. The B8 will continue to use the A7 processor which was found in the 2017 7 series OLED TVs. More on this in a moment.
All models in the 2018 OLED line will feature HFR, or High Frame Rate. At 120fps, this is will help with blurry, quick motion without the use of motion interpolation. It is important to mention that 120fps HFR only applies to internal streaming apps and OTA, not outside sources. As previously mentioned, the entry level B8 model will use the A7 processor. Because of this technical limitation the B8 will not be able to simultaneously display HDR and HFR. This should be enough for hardcore gamers to ignore the B8 and jump straight into the C8.
Each model in the 2018 OLED line will feature Black Frame Insertion (BFI). When movies, TV shows, and video games are made, the images we see are not actually moving. When we see enough still images in a short amount of time our brains interpret these images as if they are moving. If the display doesn’t flash from one still image to the next quickly enough, we see this as motion blur. BFI helps this by inserting a full black frame in between each usable frame in the image. Some viewers are sensitive to this and describe the display as “flickering” while some do not notice it at all. Because there are now twice as many frames as before there is a bit of loss in light output, but BFI will help with motion blur without the use of motion interpolation. LG gives BFI a new name called “Motion Pro” and will be available in SDR and HDR modes.
The 2017 LG OLED TV’s featured “Active HDR”. This was a great feature as it added active metadata to HDR images, making them look more like real life. Turning the feature on was a bit confusing as LG called it “Dynamic Contrast” and it only worked correctly when set to LOW. Luckily in the 2018 models they have implemented the same feature, but now they call it “Dynamic Tone Mapping”, which makes a little more sense. Because the TV inserts its own metadata, these displays will most likely not be compatible with HDR10+.
The 2017 7 series LG OLED calibrated quite well, and the 2018 8 series looks like it will be even better with the introduction of built in Look Up Tables (LUTs). LUTs are important to calibrators as they give us much more than the typical calibration controls. Until now, a LUT could only be implemented by a rather expensive box that sits last in the signal chain before the TV, and had to be controlled by software such as CalMAN. The OLED models that contain the new A9 processor will be capable of 33x33x33 LUTs while the B8 model with the A7 processor will be capable of 17x17x17 LUTs. The display will talk directly to CalMAN, which makes things MUCH easier for calibrators as this will save a significant amount of time when calibrating the 20pt grayscale and Color Management System (CMS).
Each model will come in the following sizes:
-B8 55”, 65”
-C8 55”, 65”, 77”
-E8 55”, 65”
-W8 65”, 77”
Like the 2017 OLED line, no models will support 3D. All models will be in stores by June 2018.
Gamers and videophiles will be able to take advantage of some new features in the 2018 LG OLED line, but unless there is a significant price reduction 2017 model owners can rest knowing that they made a good decision by buying a 7 series. If you own the 2016 6 series OLED, the 2018 8 series will be a significant upgrade. Now it’s time to sit back and see what happens with pricing, which is usually the ultimate factor.
There’s been a lot of buzz in the last 2 years about QLED technology and Quantum Dots that drive it. They claim more contrast, more color, brighter picture, more energy efficient, etc. The Quantum Dot technology is very promising! If you have 4 minutes, here’s a quick video on how Quantum Dots work.
If you have an hour Scott Wilkinson at Home Theater Geeks gets really deep into it with some of the folks at Nanosys:
Sounds cool right? Well, as with every type of TV technology, there is some confusion on what is really going on. Here’s the problem…remember when “LED TVs” first hit the market? Everyone was (and still does) calling them “LED TVs”. Were they LED? Well kinda. The LED part of the TV refers the light source, or the backlight. The actual panel which makes the image is technically an LCD panel (stuff we’ve been using since the days of the electronic calculator) but now with a much better backlight solution. This was a massive improvement ESPECIALLY over CCFL bulbs. We saw some immediate improvements in contrast, color, efficiency, and all of a sudden TVs were super thin. These are all good things, but we are still dealing with the shortcomings of LCD. If we are being technical accurate these would be called LED/LCDs TVs!
Fast forward to the first QLED TVs. Quantum Dots sound really cool…even futuristic. Almost like something out of Star Trek! QDs are going to solve all of the problems with LCD right? Better viewing angles, more color saturation, better dynamic range, better screen uniformity, and the promises of world peace, right? Wellkinda…
QLED TV’s are not Quantum Dot panels…they are traditional LCD panels with a Quantum Dot backlight. This is still a big deal as the Quantum Dots can get brighter and are much more efficient than LEDs. Now the manufacturers can make the TVs even thinner and even brighter which is what the masses seem to love. But is this a good solution to overcome the shortcomings of LCD panels? Not quite.
Fast forward to March of 2017. Samsung announced the acquisition of Harman International. This was a big deal. Harman International seems to be involved with everything A/V from automotive to commercial theater applications. When the news was released I remember thinking to myself that it made sense but I hadn’t quite connected the dots until Summer of 2017.
Don’t get me wrong. I love going to the movie theater. There’s nothing like being in a room with hundreds of other people screaming in terror with the little girl crawls out of the well at the end of “The Ring”. Experiencing “Avatar” in 3D on a 70” IMAX screen was unbelievable. I swear I could reach out and grab theWoodsprites right out of thin air. And the sound in the commercial theater? I can’t even come close to that at home without a dedicated room with a six figure budget. The theater is still fun, but I have to have to be honest with myself when I say that I do not go to the theater for the image quality. Sure the screen is huge, but it doesn’t look that great, especially if you compare it to your high end flat panel at home. Sure the TV at home is only 65” but it looks much better!
I was convinced that I would never see the Holy Trinity of A/V…a huge screen, that looks great, with a bone rattling audio system.
Fast forward to July of 2017. Samsung announced their Cinema LED Screen. Is this the game changer that we have all been waiting for? Since the late 1800s we have been going to theaters and looking at the same technology…a projector with a screen. As I mentioned before, we can make some really BIG images but they never look that great. As we know from studying how our eyes work and how our brains interpret light waves, Dynamic Range is the #1 important aspect of picture quality. Simply, Dynamic Range describes the difference between the darkest and the brightest part of an image. Nobody likes a washed out picture regardless of how many pixels are on the screen. An OLED (and even some of the best LED/LCDs) can make very impressive black levels. How can a device such as a projector make perfect black like an OLED? Projectors project light pretty well but they have a hard time projecting black! The result is washed out picture with desaturated colors. Two things that our eyes and brains HATE!
Samsung’s Cinema LED Screen gives us the best of both worlds. Each pixel is its own light source that can turn off (black) or get bright based on the scene, just like OLED. The resolution is true 4k (4096x2160), HDR compatible, WCG compatible, and here’s the best part…it’s 33.8” wide! No more need for a projector and a screen as this is a true LED screen technology.
As great as this sounds it will be a while before these theaters are common. By 2020 we are only expecting to see 10% of theatres across the world adopt this technology. My guess is that it’s pretty pricey! So if we aren’t going to see this in theaters until 2020, that means that we won’t see it in the home until somewhere around 2025, right? Well kinda...
This week at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, Samsung revealed a pretty interesting new display dubbed “The Wall”. A modular 146” “micro LED” HDR/WCG display capable of infinite contrast (like OLED) but at 2000nits (like a REALLY bright LED/LCD). This sounds a lot like a residential version of the Cinema LED Screen, and the best part is that this isn’t some “made for CES” display…according to Samsung these will be shipping THIS YEAR! Now we wait to see a price…
So as always I have more questions than answers…
Will Cinema LED screens eventually replace the old 2 piece projection systems in commercial theaters? I sure hope so!
With the acquisition of Harman International mean that Samsung is taking aim at some market share in the commercial theater industry? Probably!
Will “Micro LED “ displays become the gold standard and replace OLED and LCD (QLED or LED)? Only time will tell. Will there ever be a singularity in TV technology? Probably not, but what I do know after working in this industry for a long time (19 years this year!) is that the competition is fierce. Some technologies will die (cough cough plasma and CCFL LCD) while some will thrive and lead us up to the next big thing. “Minority Report” anyone???
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