Last week’s 2022 Virtual CES marked a return of sorts as a physical trade show, but the lingering impact of COVID-19 variants kept many from attending in person, and thus, another challenge in determining HD Guru’s Best of CES 2022 Awards.

The HD Guru team opted to join those who chose not to attend the show in person, leaving us to gather information from manufacturers either before the event or via virtual press conferences. We didn’t have a chance for direct observations of product performance in many cases.

In addition, a few manufacturers opted out of introducing their full home theater product lineups at the show. Therefore we’ve opted to pare back our 2022 Best of CES Awards to just five home theater categories this year.

Once again, we weighed our choices using what companies told us and, where possible, by comparing product features and spec sheets.

As always, virtually every home theater/TV brand had pretty compelling presentations, technologies and product offerings this year. The following five proved to be the most compelling to us. There are no right or wrong selections here, and a lot of products may ultimately prove to be the real winners after entering the market. We hope what we provide here will convince you to take a deeper dive into what’s coming when you start looking to add or replace an 8K or 4K television or peripheral product in the months ahead.

Without further adéu, the HD GURU Best of Virtual CES 2022 Show Awards:

Best Of Show
Sony 55- and 65-Inch BRAVIA XR A95K 4K QD-OLED TVs

This is one of the more compelling new display technology introductions in recent years and the credit goes to both Sony and Samsung Display, the latter of which supplies the “QD-Display” panel, which Sony calls “QD-OLED”, to which the set maker applies its long-acclaimed video processing magic. Curiously, Samsung Electronics also showed a QD-Display based TV of its own in private demonstrations off the show floor, but product plans were not formally announced at the show and it couldn’t be considered for a CES award.

In short, “QD-OLED” technology uses a hybrid implementation combining the color enhancement and brightness boost from Red and Green quantum dot “converters” excited by photons from a self-emissive blue OLED backlight to give off a quantum effect in color vibrancy, accuracy and gamut coverage from a panel affording wider viewing angles than traditional white-light WOLD sets.

Peak brightness is also said to be higher than WOLED TVs, but we’ll have to measure this later to be sure. Samsung Display has said brightness of its QD-Display panels exceeds 1000 nits measured in a 10% white window pattern. Sony offered no numbers. It also is said by Samsung Display to offer 90% of the BT-2020 wide color space.

To this, Sony said its Cognitive Processor XR will drive the A95K’s on-screen images. Included in this is Sony’s latest proprietary XR Triluminos Max technology package, which delivers the “widest color palette and reproduces naturally beautiful shades and hues,” according to Sony. The technology uses millions of individual, self-illuminating pixels to generate bright, direct light with high color volume.

For sound, Sony will continue to use its enhanced Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology for OLED models. The application lines up the position of the sound with the images on the screen so that sounds and dialog seem to follow people and objects around as they move within the frame. The lineup also includes new features that customize and enhance at-home entertainment, including one of the first implementations of Netflix Adaptive and Calibrated Mode, which automatically adjusts image processing based on ambient light, so users’ favorite shows and films look as the creator intended, under changing room lighting conditions.

Additionally, Sony’s new Bravia Core/Netflix Adaptive Calibrated Mode will automatically adjust the image quality on screen to the filmmaker’s intention.

The Bravia XR TV will support Sony’s Bravia Core streaming app designed to deliver high quality images and sound using the television’s Cognitive XR Processing and IMAX Enhanced picture and sound processing and content.

Like all 2022 Bravia XR televisions, the A95K models will also be designated “Perfect for PlayStation 5” devices, assuring pairing a Bravia XR TV with a PlayStation 5 console will get an optimum gaming experience by automatically adjusting the picture to the best settings for the PlayStation 5 console, regardless of the type of content selected. Support is included for HDMI 4K/120fps, as specified in HDMI 2.1 guidelines, to further provide smooth and clear image movement for highly responsive gameplay.

The Sony Bravia XR A95K (pictured at top) is one TV that should be worth making a trip to the store to see.

Best Mini-LED TV
Samsung QN900B Series 8K Mini-LED NEO QLED TVs

Samsung is taking the benefits of its second-generation NEO QLED TVs even farther in 2022 in its flagship 8K QN900B series models. Samsung’s 2022 NEO QLEDs will use a new Quantum Matrix Technology to perform even more detailed AI picture analysis and auto adjustment by “optimizing the shape of light.” Samsung said this results in “the most true-to-life picture ever seen on screen.” The technology controls the brightness level of each LED with an expanded luminance scale that has newly increased from 12 to 14 bits.

Further, the display uses Shape Adaptive Light technology based on AI to analyze lines, shapes and surfaces within an image to reduce blooming. The technology adjusts the width of each individual mini-LED for greater light handling precision and more life-like pictures.
Samsung’s Neo Quantum Processor boosts picture performance from different aspects. Using new Multi Intelligent Picture Technology, the AI processing is used to determine how objects appear in the signal and enhances them with quantum processing for greater perceived depth on screen. AI Object Depth Enhancement is used to mimic the human eye’s ability to focus between foreground and background objects.

Intelligent Comfort Mode is offered to gradually reduce the amount of light for a warmer tone based on time of day, like sunrise or sunset, to assist with sleep and provide greater eye comfort, Samsung said.

The sets will similarly be able to adjust sound for realism using new Human Tracking Sound processing, Active Voice Amplifier, Object Tracking Sound, and SpaceFit Sound, all of which combine to help users experience even more immersive audio with clear dialog. The sets will pair with Samsung’s new high-end Q950B Soundbar through Q-Symphony Atmos technology to synchronize each of the soundbar’s speakers with each of the Neo QLED TV’s speakers to further enhance the overall sound immersion from every angle.

Best Big Screen TV
LG evo 97-inch G2 Gallery Series 4K OLED TV

LG’s 97-inch 4K G2 Series evo OLED TV

LG announced at CES for 2022 its largest 4K OLED TV to date in a monster-sized 97-inch G2 Series model with the company’s thin portrait-like Gallery design. The G2 Series sets will include LG’s high-brightnees “evo” technology and will add an additional “Brightness Booster”. The G2 Gallery Series models offer a new side view that appears thinner with the panel still fitting flush to the wall but giving a tighter appearance due to a reduction in the cabinet size. Bezel size has also been reduced from 10mm to 6mm in 2022.

The LG 97-inch G2 set will use a new composite fiber material which is said to be very strong and light, to assist durability in mounting and to reduce damage risk in shipping.

When first introduced last year, LG’s “evo” technology was said to have been based on a newly formulated panel with the latest OLED materials providing a more precise wavelength for light with high brightness. This year, that system has been combined with new algorithms and a more powerful Alpha 9 Gen 5 processor to improve the picture performance, while a Brightness Booster uses special materials to help dissipate generated heat and prevent artifact and image retention issues.

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In addition to adjusting images with AI technology, the OLED model produces new levels of sound enhancements from the TV’s internal processing and speaker systems. This includes a virtual up-mixing capability to create a simulated 7.1.2-channel surround sound effect with more enhanced and spatial sound from the TV’s internal speakers.

All of the G2 and C2 series OLEDs will include ATSC 3.0 NextGen TV tuners to receive new over-the-air broadcast stations. As for gaming capability in 2022, LG will continue to offer the Game Optimizer and Game Dashboard features introduced in 2021, but with a few improvements. For 2022 the Game Dashboard has been expanded to provide more information on the top screen to save a few clicks in getting to adjustments on the fly.

On the full User Interface, the Game Optimizer now adds a fifth mode for Sports Gaming, along with a Dark Room Mode to optimize the picture for gaming in darker room settings. In addition, LG OLED televisions are certified for NVIDIA G-Sync compatibility.

The sets also support AMD FreeSync Premium and generic VRR in 2022. The set’s HDMI 2.1 ports also support High Frame Rates up to 4K/120 fpa HDR10 and 4K/120fps Dolby Vision, Auto Low Latency Mode, and HGiG.

Best TV Design
TCL’s Ultra-Thin 85-Inch OD Zero 8K Mini-LED TV

The TCL 85X925Pro 8K OD Zero Mini-LED TV

TCL’s X9 (X925PRO) OD Zero 8K Mini-LED TV, which was showcased at the event to bring attention to the advanced technology and benefits it delivers. What immediately stands out is its striking appearance both from its picture and its overall package design.

Central to this is a slim panel depth of just 10mm — one of the thinnest panels ever in a big-screen LCD-based television set and befitting big-screen OLED displays. The “Zero” in the product name represents the measurement of distance between TCL’s Mini-LED backlight layer and the LCD display layer, which has been reduced to 0 mm, the company explained.

The TCL X925Pro features TCL’s third-generation Mini-LED backlight with “thousands of Contrast Control Zones.” Although the OD Zero has been discussed for several years now, TCL began making it ready for its close-up in United States.

The 85-inch TV employs advanced optics to achieve its ultra-thin screen. The set supports HDR10, Dolby Vision IQ and HLG high dynamic range profiles and utilizes the Google TV smart user interface that rides atop the Android TV OS to bring more personalized multi-user experiences and more extensive features.

The 5.1.2-channel 160 watt audio support is provided by 25 Onkyo-tuned drivers, including side-firing speakers, positioned to present a premium soundstage with Dolby Atmos 3D audio processing for engaging multi-dimensional surround sound effects. It includes an integrated soundbar and subwoofer, both of which can be wall mounted and placed vertically or horizontally. It also features a modern-design titled tabletop stand that coordinates with the set’s aluminum cosmetic.

It also supports ARC/eARC output for use with external audio systems.

The TCL X9 supports full 8K resolution with over 33 million pixels and bright screen output from the Mini-LED backlighting, capable of fine shadow detail through local dimming technology. It will also produce wide color gamut coverage using a QLED quantum dot color enhancement film layer. The 120Hz native refresh rate LCD panel is optimized for advanced game play by supporting 4K/120Hz Ultra High Speed HDMI signals, generic Auto Low Latency Mode, Variable Fresh Rate (VRR), and FreeSync.

The Google TV platform also provides a number features, including video calls using a built-in pop-up webcam using Google Duo functionality.

Best Projector
Samsung `The Freestyle TV’ Multi-functional 1080p Lifestyle TV

Samsung The Freestyle portable FHD projector.

Samsung put a new spin on portable video projectors when it unveiled the innovative new portable Lifestyle TV series projector, called The Freestyle TV, during the CES 2022 keynote address of Samsung Electronic’s vice-chair J.H. Han.

The idea behind the compact take-anywhere product is to provide multi-functional entertainment experiences at home or even on camping trips. It can be powered by a wall plug, rechargeable power base accessory of even a screw-in light socket.

The Freestyle TV serves as a big-screen video projector, 360-degree wireless music speaker, a smart speaker with built-in far-field mic and even a decorative lighting source. It will even screw into a light socket via an add on base.

It is compatible with multiple voice control platforms including Bixby and Alexa built-in.

The projector incorporates Samsung’s Tizen smart TV platform with electronic program guide and support for apps to access leading streaming services through an on-screen interface. The platform includes compatibility with SmartThings and Dex, and acts as an IoT Hub. It will accept wireless transfer of content and program visuals from PCs and mobile devices.

For video, the unit is based on a Full HD DLP microdisplay with Samsung’s “Crystal Engine” processing and LED light source (20,000 hours, 550 lumens peak brightness and 300:1 contrast ratio). Inputs include one micro HDMI with ARC/eARC and CES support. It will also connect to devices wirelessly with Bluetooth.

The Samsung Freestyle TV is capable of displaying screen sizes measuring 30-300 inches diagonally on multiple surfaces from screens to walls and ceilings.

The Freestyle TV, which is available for pre-order now at an $899 suggested retail price, offers 1920 x 1080p resolution with support for the HDR10 and HLG high dynamic range profiles.

Using a forthcoming socket accessory, The Freestyle also can be connected to a light socket adapter for use as an overhead spotlight.

The compact unit weighs less than two pounds and is highly adaptable for placement anywhere using its highly adaptable 180-degree cradle stand to putting it on a bed and projecting content onto walls and ceilings to view video screen sizes ranging from 30 to 100 inches. It auto-focuses and levels the image from any angle.

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By Greg Tarr

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