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Samsung, Sony, LG, TCL, and Panasonic: A CES 2018 TV Wrap-Up

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During the CES 2018 Press Day, the big TV manufacturers were all about making connections.


LG's press conference was strong on AI and robotics (which became a problem when cute little home helper CLOi decided not to answer questions from presenter David Vanderwaal, vice president of marketing for LG Electronics USA).

LG announced its ThinQ AI technology, which will create a network of home appliances that can talk to each other, understand spoken commands, and learn user preference and behaviors over time. Google Assistant is built in, bringing Google services, such as weather, maps, translation, and photos, to the network.

This intelligence enhances LG's upcoming AI OLED ThinQ TVs, which let owners do things like call up sports scores (they show up on the bottom of the screen and don't interrupt whatever's showing), launch a game console, call up photos, and even get more information about the current show or its cast—all by voice. LG has a partnership with Trip Advisor, so owners choose a destination and plan a vacation through their TVs.

This TV can control other appliances on the network, such as an LG air purifier, vacuum, or lights. The OLED set uses a new Alpha 9 intelligent processor, explained LG Electronics USA head of product marketing Tim Alessi, which offers strong improvements in color, clarity, and depth. It also brings improved noise reduction, smoother color gradients, and 731 percent more color points. It's ready to support 120fps content when such content exists. It's a 4K set with support for Dolby Vision and Technicolor Advanced HDR. LG will offer five OLED lines in 2018.

LG also showed upcoming LCD improvements in its Super UHD lines, which offer strong color displays at wide viewing angles. The LCDs use the Alpha 7 processor and also support Dolby Vision and Technicolor HDR. LG will offer 3 LCD series in 2018. This line also supports ThinQ voice controls.

Curiously, LG didn't mention the 65-inch roll-up OLED concept TV it showed the press two days ago. While undeniably impressive and futuristic, there's no indication it will go on sale this year.


Panasonic announced streaming video news for fliers. The Panasonic Avionics Corporation is introducing the third generation of its satellite connectivity system, which provides online access to aircraft via satellite modems. Tom Gebhardt, Panasonic's chairman and CEO, said it delivers bandwidth 20 times greater that what's available now, making Skype video calling and perhaps video streaming a reality. Planes from United and Southwest will begin testing the system in Q1 2018. What they'll charge for access remains to be seen.

Panasonic introduced four OLED TVs which all support HDR10+, the open standard created by Amazon and Samsung. This demonstrates important industry support for HDR10+, as Samsung until now was the only TV maker to use it. 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. have also announced support. Panasonic's FZ950 and FZ800 OLED TVs use the Panasonic HCX video processor for color accuracy, and an Absolute Black Filter that absorbs ambient light and reduces screen reflections. The FZ950 has a Technics speaker in its pedestal. Panasonic also announced two Blu-ray Players, the UB420 and UB820, which offer ultra-HD resolution and HDR10+ HDR support, and are powered by the HCX processor. 


Last week, Roku announced the creation of the Roku Entertainment Network, a smart home platform that links connected audio products running the Roku OS. TCL is the lead partner on the project, and announced the first supported product at its CES press conference today.

The TCL Roku Smart Soundbar will debut in Q3 2018. Besides working as a standard soundbar, it will respond to spoken commands. The presentation hinted that speakers and headphones will later be part of the line, but didn't announce any other supported products.

TCL introduced two new lines of TVs, the 6-Series and 5-Series. Both lines will use a new iPQ engine for better, more realistic colors, and HDR Pro Gamma for accurate brights and darks in any lighting conditions. Both series support Dolby Vision HDR and 4K video. The 6-Series offers a brushed metal exterior with a thin bezel for a more upscale appearance. All 6-Series models and some in the 5-Series will come with a voice remote that works with the Roku Entertainment Network. 


Samsung teased its micro LED TV called The Wall at a preview event yesterday, but only showed it on-screen at its CES press conference. Billed as the world's first modular TV, the size of this 146-inch giant is customizable, as owners can add or subtract panels as needed (there's no bezel around them). The screen is made with self-emitting micro LED technology, which needs no backlight or color filter. Samsung says it avoids the trade-offs of OLED TVs. It's based on the technology used in arena jumbo screens. Samsung hasn't yet announced a price or sale date, but said it will be available this year.

Samsung spent far more of its event talking up its SmartThings connected home platform, which links all compatible devices on one system. It will become available in the spring, and all Samsung devices will be compatible by 2020. Not just a wireless network, SmartThings will understand which family member is talking to it and learn their preferences.

Samsung's TV are getting smarter and more useful. The Universal Guide, part of Samsung's 2018 connected TVs, will recommend movies and TV shows for each person in the household. Sets will use Bixby, Samsung's intelligent assistant, to understand spoken commands and control other devices on the network (such as dimming the lights before playing a movie). Samsung is also taking the pain out of setting up a new TV with one-click setup. This system uses NFC to learn from Samsung phones, inputting Wi-Fi and Spotify passwords, for example. The setup also works with Facebook, Vimeo, and Hulu, with more services to come. Other helpful TV features include notifications when a selected program is about to start and compatibility with a Samsung video doorbell (see who rang right from the living room TV).


Sony president and CEO Kazuo Hirai kept things brief in the day's final press event. Sony is offering a new line of OLED TVs this year, the 4K OLED Bravia A8F series. It uses an X1 Extreme image processor and the company's Acoustic Surface technology, where the audio comes directly from the TV's screen.

Sony's new LCD line, the X900F series, also supports 4K video and uses the X1 Extreme processor. It uses a new technology called X-Motion Clarity to reduce blur in scenes with fast action.

These lines will be available in the spring. Sony is also displaying two prototype TVs that use the X1 Ultimate processor, which doubles the processing power of the X1 Extreme. One of these sets processes 8K HDR video, and uses a special backlight technology with a peak brightness of 10,000 nits. It's a stunning display well worth a look by anyone visiting the convention center's Central Hall.


David Vanderwaal, vice president of marketing for LG Electronics USA

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