Prior to the start of the big CES technology show this weekend, LG has announced its flagship TV series in 2019.
Leading LG's lineup this year is the first 8K TVs, 88-inch Z9 OLED and 75 – inch SM99 LCD, which boasts four times the resolution of the current 4K displays, or sixteen times full HD. The entire flagship also supports Alexa on launch in addition to Google Assistant, and they are the first TVs to be announced with support for the latest HDMI standard, version 2.1 and high frame rate (HFR) for better rendering of sports, documentaries, and action movies.
Last year, you could only control LG's TVs with Alexa using an external smart speaker. In this year's models you can access the voice assistant using an Amazon Prime Video button located directly on the TV's remote control. So if you have a smart home based on Alexa or Google Assistant, your LG TV should work as a hub to control it.
Overall, LG has announced six different TV shows. Four of them, Z9, W9, E9 and C9, are OLEDs, while SM9X and SM8X are LCDs. All the OLED models and the simple 8K display will be powered by the second generation of LG's Alpha 9 processing chip, which is equipped with AI as LG laws, will adjust the set's brightness and sound based on the TV's content and environment.
LG's 8K TV is not the first to market (the price goes to Samsung's 85-inch Q900R), but they are the first to support HDMI 2.1 out of the box. It's important because using the old HDMI 2.0 standard limits 8K signals to only 30fps, while version 2.1 increases this to a maximum of 60. Samsung's 85-inch 8K Q900R TV is expected to be upgraded eventually to support the standard, but was not available at the launch of the TV.
Even LG's 4K set will benefit from HDMI 2.1. 4K content will benefit from support for high frame rates of up to 120 fps, resulting in smoother motion, less blur and more detailed overall. This will be especially useful when you look at fast sports and other content where tracking is more important than movie quality. Meanwhile, eARC means that more audio data can be transmitted, and the auto low latency mode should reduce recorded layers and make the games feel more responsive. Finally, the variable refresh rate will provide the same functionality to what we have seen with G-sync and Freesync on the PC, eliminating the screen tear when a game cannot maintain a stable frame rate.
You may have to wait a bit to make use of some of this functionality though. Outside tests in Japan, the availability of 8K content is still very limited, and it is a similar story for 120fps high frame rate video. Most of the content today is still 30fps or below, with even 60fps content being the exception instead of the rule. The 8K and 120fps video are likely to become more accessible now, so hardware that can play it starts, but it is likely to suffer from this chicken-and-egg problem a little longer.
Not mentioned today is some update on the rollable OLED TV concept that LG showed up last year. The TV, which will eventually become an actual product in 2019, was first shown at CES 2018 along with an early prototype of its 8K TV. With the 8K TV set now on the market, the scrollable sibling may not be too far behind.
LG is not yet in detail how much the flagship of TVs will cost, or when they are available, but we do not expect them to come cheap. For context, the 77-inch model of the company's flagship W7 OLED costs $ 14,999.99 when released last year, while Samsung's own 8K started at the same price.