Each year as manufacturers roll out their new product line-ups, they each pick some feature upon which they wish to focus. This year with LG it is mostly about Artificial Intelligence. Specifically ‘ThinQ’, LG's smart voice interface. But there's a lot more to this year's line-up than just that.
First, an overview.
There are eight ranges of UltraHD model TVs out from LG this year.
The top three are OLEDs, then there are four ranges of 'Super UH'D TVs below that, and one range of (non-Super) UHD TVs.
The difference between a Super and regular UHD TV?
The Super UHD uses LG's Nano Cell Technology. It's kind of like Samsung's Quantum Dot technology in reverse. Instead of the backlight using nano particles to create specific light wavelengths, Nano Cell Technology uses nano particles designed to absorb specific light wavelengths, getting rid of them, thereby leaving only the wanted wavelengths and a consequently purer picture.
The top three Super UHD ranges (SK80, SK85 and SK95), feature both HDR and Dolby Vision. Neither the entry Super UHD (UK75) nor the non-Super UK65 do, suggesting they use 8-bit panels, while the others use 10-bit panels.
The top two ranges (SK85 and SK95) re-introduce something that's been sorely lacking lately in LG's line-up: Full Array Dimming. That's a grid of individually-controllable LED backlights, allowing relatively precise dimming in darker parts of the picture. Short of OLED, that's the technology best able to deliver good black levels in modern TVs. At the product launch LG noted that the only real advantage of edge lighting is to allow thinner panels. Indeed, it boasted that this year it had 'made TVs thicker', but the backlit ones didn't seem unduly thick.
LG declined to say how many lights there were in the grids. The SK85 has 'Full Array Dimming', while the SK95 has 'Full Array Dimming Pro', so I guess the latter has more.
Sizes & pricing
The Super UHD SK95 (piactured above) is available in 65 inches ($4999, which is $1400 less than the entry level 65-inch OLED).
The LG Super UHD SK85 range is available in 65 inches ($4799) and 55 inches ($3099).
The next range down, the SK80, comes in 75 inches (price TBA), 65 inches ($4199) and 55 inches ($2749).
I'm not sure why half the UK75 Super UHD models are tagged UK rather than SK. Still, they come in 65, 55 and 49 inches, priced at $3599, $2399 and $1899.
The non-Super UHD UK65 range comes in nearly every size it seems: 43 inches ($1399), 50 inches ($1649), 55 inches ($2149), and three biggies yet to be priced with screens of 70 inches, 75 inches and 86 inches.
Oh, and there's also a 32-inch HD model for $699.
OLED, of course
There are three OLED ranges. The 'entry level' is the C8, and this year it is available not just in 55 inches ($4099) and 65 inches ($6399), but also 77 inches ($14,990). The next step up is the E8 series — 55 inches at $4999 and 65 inches at $7699). There seems to be little in terms of performance that differs, but it comes with a bold new styling which LG calls 'Picture-on-Glass'. At first glance you see a low, quite narrow stand, and a large panel TV floating mysteriously some centimetres above it. Only closer inspection reveals that there's a ful- width transparent glass panel underneath the TV itself. It looks impressive.
The W8 is the 'Wallpaper' model, intended primarily for very close wall mounting. It comes in 65 inches ($9999) and 77 inches ($19,990).
Oddly, there was almost no talk of any developments in OLED picture quality, but afterwards the LG people shared that the panels are in fact new for 2018 and enjoy a boost in peak brightness to a thousand nits. Perhaps as importantly the OLED models all feature a new processor, called the Alpha 9 (or α9). LG says this offers much greater processing power to allow a four0step noise reduction system, and to support high frame rates of up to 120fps (from USB only, not HDMI, at this stage).
All of these TVs — OLED and LED/LCD alike — are 'Netflix Recommended TVs' and come with LG's Magic Remote and the latest version of webOS. This time it's called 'webOS with AI'. The main thing the AI seems to be offering at this point is more natural voice control and context awareness. The former is thanks to an increase in key phrases which do the same thing. The latter means that the TV pays attention to, for example, what movie is playing so that if you ask for more information it will limit its responses to that movie.
This stuff is still under development. Later in the year Google Assistant functionality is going to be added to the range via a firmware update. In the meantime, I asked an LG representative how the system works. It seems that the voice recognition engine is from Nuance (the company behind the Dragon voice recognition software), while the language processing and understanding is LG's own using its ThinQ technology. Apparently all the processing work is done on servers back in Korea, and the data pipes are so fast that there is effectively zero latency.
When Google Assistant integration comes in, the voice recognition will switch over to that.
LG's ThinQ is about far more than just TVs. It's the company's entry into things like home automation and control and the so-called Internet of Things. But that's going beyond our ambit here.
Naturally, we shall report further when we can start getting our hands on the new LG TVs.
More info: www.lg.com.au