HD Guru Reveals Best of CES 2019 Awards
CES 2019 is now behind us but the expectations and anticipation for the dozens of revolutionary new products announced there will linger into the months ahead.
This year’s show stretched the limits figuratively and literally to our collective traditional vision of what a television and home theater entertainment are and do.
CES 2019 marks the official launch pad for 8K Ultra HD TVs focused on the consumer market, while at the same time showing us that TVs can be rollable poster-like screens that can be easily tucked away when not in use, or massive wall-sized screens made up of ultra-thin, interconnected video tiles that achieve some of the highest levels of picture quality yet presented.
At the same time, TVs are becoming center hubs for a new world of connected smart home devices that take their orders by spoken commands relayed via artificial intelligence platforms.
To celebrate these numerous innovations and achievements, we proudly present the HD Guru Best of CES 2019 video and home theater award winners:
CES 2019 Best of Show
LG OLED65R9PUA Signature Series Rollable 4K Ultra HD OLED TV
It’s finally here. LG set the stage for CES 2019 by introducing one of the coolest TV design implementations ever seen — the world’s first rollable 4K Ultra HD OLED TV. This beauty offers a 65-inch flexible screen that rolls up into a supporting cabinet like a retractable projection screen, without the projector. The stylish contemporary cabinet design can be placed in almost any environment from a living room to the foot of a bed. In addition to containing the screen, the cabinet supports an advanced sound system with built-in Dolby Atmos decoding.
The TV fully utilizes the power of LG ThinQ AI voice-control technology that now ties in with not only the built-in Google Assistant system but Amazon’s “works with Alexa” capability as well. The heart of the system is the new LG a9 Gen 2 intelligent processor with deep learning AI algorithm that delivers lifelike imagery and sound with support for both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos among all the latest enhancements in the 2019 LG OLED assortment.
Viewers can use spoken commands to control the television to perform functions like raising and lowering the the super cool screen. Voice interaction extends to the use of network-connected smart home devices on several popular platforms. Newly added is support for Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit. With AirPlay 2 users can play music, photos and videos directly from Apple smart devices. Apple HomeKit will even control the LG TV using the Home app or by asking Siri, LG said.
Depending on the elevation point, the LG Signature OLED TV R will transform the screen into three different viewing options – Full View, Line View and Zero View.
Full View fully deploys the 65-inch screen to present images enhanced with LG’s flavor of AI picture and sound optimization powered by the new (Alpha) 9 Gen. 2 processor running new deep-learning algorithms.
Line View involves lowering the LG Signature OLED TV R screen partially to present specific applications that don’t require the whole screen. This includes features like “Clock Mode” to check the time and weather, “Frame Mode” to display photos from a smartphone, “Mood Mode” to create a more relaxing atmosphere and other functions including “Music Mode” and “Home Dashboard”.
Zero View rolls away the entire screen into the supplied base. In Zero View the OLED TV R will still be able to play music and other audio content through a 4.2-channel, 100 Watt front-firing Dolby Atmos system that are all part of the package.
Finally, what really stands out is just how cool the 4K OLED TV R looks in any mode. LG put a lot into crafting the design of the unit including bringing in the expertise of Danish design-house Kvadrat. The contemporary styling includes use of a brushed-aluminum case and wool speaker cover.
CES 2019 Best 8K TV
Samsung 98-inch 98Q900 QLED Smart UHD TV
Samsung rocked us with the introduction of the first consumer 8K LED-LCD TV in the 85-inch 85Q900 late last year. The company took that one step further at CES 2019 to adding a range of screen sizes to the series including the mammoth 98-inch Q900 that makes a huge statement in favor of 8K resolution when used in very large screen sizes. Mind you, the benefit on 65-, 75- and 82-inch versions that are also being added, will be harder to discern. But at 98-inches both the message and the picture were made very clear. Make no mistake, in this form factor and resolution level high brightness is a big plus. At the show, Samsung saw 8K introductions and prototypes from numerous rivals, including LG, Sony, Hisense, TCL and others. For now at least, they all must follow Samsung’s lead. Despite these introductions, we don’t expect anyone to be rushing out native 8K movies or broadcasts anytime soon. But this is nothing new. In fact, it’s the equivalent of the first 1080p Full HDTV introductions that arrived with limited native content support and continue to lack any Full HD over-the-air broadcast stations. Regardless, 8K resolution will slowly take over the TV industry just as Full HD 1080p and 4K Ultra HD did before it. That said, without native content, 8K TVs must have top-notch upscaling systems to maximize the presentation of lesser content to fill the massive 7,680 x 4,320 pixel screens. From what we’ve seen and tested, Samsung’s Q900 series TVs fill the bill.
First, Samsung adds its Quantum HDR technology along with full-array LED backlight with local dimming to enable high peak brightness output significantly exceeding 2,000 nits and deep blacks that don’t crush out fine shadow detail. Further, the technology accounts for the brightness levels of the room and adjusts highlights to the best viewing experience.
Samsung has redesigned it’s upconversion system for 8K using its 8K Quantum processor and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve texture, smooth jagged edges and reduce noise and blurring. According to the company, the system uses a database of millions of sets of low- and high-resolution images and machine learning to develop algorithms that will compare these images and optimize adjustments for the best results. It will also continue to get better over time as Samsung adds updates with additional formulas that the TV can access remotely. If that’s not enough, the Quantum Processor 8K also helps the TV optimize sound for each scene from the very good on-board sound system.
To accentuate the cool factor, the Q900 series features Samsung’s popular Ambient Mode that uses a photo of the wall pattern behind the TV and plays it on the screen when not in to make the TV seem to blend into the background. The feature can also be used to display information like news highlights, time, date, or to overlay decorative art and personal photos. The TV incorporates Samsung’s SmartThings Hub, our favorite AI-assisted platform this year, with interactive voice control through Bixby allowing spoken control of TV functions as well as compatible smart home appliances and devices through TV interface. Especially important for any 8K TV, the company said its 2019 8K Q900 TVs will support 48Gbps input capability, along with 8K/60 and 4K/120 frame rates through an upgrade to the forthcoming HDMI 2.1 connector. No pricing was available, but if you have to ask…
CES 2019 Most Innovative TV Technology
Samsung 219-inch The Wall 4K Ultra HD Micro LED TV
We’ve seen the future of television design and it’s called Micro LED. Slowly, this amazing technology is creeping toward our living rooms and after a few mass-production hurdles are passed, it should be a highly cost-efficient display technology to produce. That means TVs are going to get bigger and less expensive. It’s also very power efficient. Samsung is leading the way into the consumer market with its “The Wall” Micro LED TVs, which understandably are targeted at the professional and custom installation channels today. Last year, Samsung introduced its 146-inch Micro LED “The Wall” and eclipsed that in 2019 with a 219-inch version. The massive screen is comprised of a number of smaller interconnected tiles, each packed with tiny direct-emitting Micro LEDs that offer very high brightness levels and deep blacks, delivering the best benefits of both LED-LCD and OLED technology. At the same time, the Micro LED avoids issues with burn-in and haloing, while providing a very wide viewing angle, high peak brightness, a very wide contrast ratio, a wide accurate color gamut, and a fast response time. Micro LED also eliminates the need for bezels, making screen dimensions almost impossibly thin.
Samsung demonstrated at CES 2019 that it can reduce the pitch, or spacing between pixels, to produce panels with greater pixel densities capable of presenting full 4K Ultra HD resolution in screen sizes as small as 75 inches. The exact resolution of the 219-inch version of the The Wall was not specified, but it is actually higher than the 4K Ultra HD level in the 146-inch version shown last year. One of the beauties of Samsung’s Micro LED technology is its modular nature, which allows assembling panels of varying shapes, sizes and aspect ratios, a concept the company is addressing with “The Window” Micro LED solution also demonstrated at the show.
The new 219-inch “The Wall” TV produces 2,000 nits of brightness for excellent HDR performance. The display incorporates Samsung AI upscaling technology capable of producing clear colorful images from sub-4K content. The system will also properly balance peak lighting performance to the surrounding light levels as well as make the screen blend in with the rest of the room decor.
CES 2019 Best AI Smart TV Platform
Samsung continued to expand the capability and ease of use of its SmartThings platform this year by bringing a host of new features that transform the TV into a defacto SmartThings Hub — the company’s highly versatile AI smart speaker. SmartThings enables operating an ever-expanding range of devices and smart device platforms through Samsung’s own home control platform, which is built into Samsung smart TVs, mobile phones, SmartThings hub speakers and SmartThings Family Hub major appliances. The heart of the SmartThings system is Samsung’s improved Bixby voice control AI tech, but the company has partnered with other voice AI companies to make voice interaction more flexible than ever. This year, Samsung has added compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant devices, enabling consumers tap into smart speakers they may already own. Also among the announcements at CES 2019 was the addition of support for Apple AirPlay. This will make Samsung’s SmartThings-enabled TVs some of the first to have access to an iTunes streaming TV app that lets users play their music and movie libraries straight through the television.
This year, Samsung said it has consolidated all of its Internet of Things (IoT) apps into one, simplified and streamlined SmartThings app. At the same time, while the number of SmartThings-compatible devices has doubled to include products from partnerships with Amazon, Google, Plume and Ring.
On the appliances side, Samsung continued to expand the convenience and flexibility of its platform by building additional features and functionality into its major appliances. The company announced its Family Hub refrigerator that like the TV, will let the family control smart devices in the home from the kitchen, as well as from the living room.
CES 2019 Best 4K OLED TV
Sony Master Series 77-Inch A9G
Sony continued to improve its 4K OLED performance with addition of the Master Series A9G that will include the 55-, 65-, and 77-inch screen sizes. The new OLED models are thinner, and ship with a new tabletop stand that positions the screen at a 90-degree angle instead of the tilting bases that were included with the previous series. In addition, when paired with Sony’s optional SU-WL855 wall-mount system, the TV can be placed as much as 50% closer to the wall surface than prior models. The A9G models also include a new panel controller, with “Pixel Contrast Booster” circuitry that steps up both color and contrast in bright areas of the image. Sony has also improved its already very good HD and SD upscaling circuitry to reduce artifacts and sharpen edges. This year, the series improved upon the Acoustic Surface OLED panel technology that vibrates the thin OLED panels using actuators to have the screen serve as a massive stereo speaker. This year’s Acoustic Surface Audio+ includes two actuators and two subwoofers for clear sound that appears to follow on-screen subjects around. In addition, for those with home theater systems, the A9G sound system can be set to serve as the center channel in a multi-channel speaker setup.
Like other Sony TVs, the A9G series is based on the Android TV OS, with Google Assistant, and is compatible with Google Home, and Amazon Echo smart speakers. It also ships with a newly redesigned remote control with RF technology. As part of the Master Series, the A9G models also feature Netflix Calibrated Mode and IMAX Enhanced Certification.
IMAX Enhanced utilizes existing standards and technologies for home entertainment to make the most of the unique video and audio grading and mixes to as closely as possible replicate the big-screen IMAX experience at home. This includes the use of high dynamic range (HDR) profiles like HDR10 and HDR10+ HDR, and specially prepared surround sound tracks for big-speaker IMAX multi-channel surround sound.
IMAX Enhanced performances requires IMAX Certified content containing the alternate IMAX picture and sound information on a 4K UHD Blu-ray disc or embedded in a streaming single. IMAX Enhanced content is rolling out now on special 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs and on content streamed through Fandango. Sony Pictures is getting into the game as well with IMAX Enhanced titles for Alpha, Venom, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, as some of the first titles slated. IMAX itself will be releasing documentaries from its own library with IMAX Enhancement.
Sony Electronics also was the first TV maker to market sets that have earned IMAX Enhanced Certification through its Master Series models and select 4K SXRD projectors. TCL announced it would be joining the IMAX Enhanced TV party later this year.
Pricing and availability for the A9G models will be announced this spring.
CES 2019 Best Value 4K Ultra HDTV
The 2019 Hisense range of TVs includes the H8F ULED TV, which is a 4K full-array LED backlit LCD TV with local dimming that will be available in the 50- ($399.99), and 65-inch ($749.99) screen sizes. The series incorporates the Android TV operating system with Google Assistant voice-control built-in and “works with Alexa” voice command capability. It is said to produce up to 700 nits of peak brightness and supports both HDR10 and the Dolby Vision HDR profiles. Hisense also has widened the viewing angle without sacrificing overall color and contrast. The Hisense H8 series has been one of our best value picks in the past, and it’s only gotten better in 2019. The set certainly looked impressive on the CES 2019 show floor, and if it performs as well as past H8 series lines, this will be a great bargain, indeed. For those who prefer the Roku TV platform, Hisense will be offering a similar R8F version of the TV later in the year, although the 50-inch R8F will have a slightly higher retail price than the 50H8F.
CES 2019 Best 4K Ultra HD Projector
Hisense 100L7T 4K Smart TriChroma Laser TV
The Hisense 100L7T 4K TriChroma Laser TV is a short-throw DLP projector that combines separate red, green and blue lasers to produce pure white and a very wide color gamut. How wide? Hisense said it is sufficient to cover about 96.6% of the REC.2020 color space, which so far only the best professional cinema-grade laser projectors can achieve. The 100L7T boasts a 32-microsecond refresh rate serving 8.3 million pixels, and includes a built-in Harman Kardon sound system with 110 watts of power. This includes an external wireless subwoofer. The system also bundles a 100-inch screen, although systems with other screen sizes might be added. Another advantage of using three separate RGB lasers is that they eliminate the need to use any color wheels with the DLP chip. This will both improve brightness output and eliminate the dreaded “rainbow effect” some viewers can see from single-chip DLP and color wheel applications. Additionally, the laser engine will out last conventional bulb-based lamps, helping to keep the unit in action for thousand of hours without interruption. Brightness levels aren’t to flat-panel levels, which makes it tough for HDR, but the colors make the image shine just the same.
The company hopes to have the package ready for a U.S. market introduction late this year, though it might not make it here until 2020. Hisense plans to test it first in the China market before taking it elsewhere. Regardless, we thought enough of this projector and its astounding color performance to make it our favorite projector of CES 2019. Like flat-panel TVs approaching 100 inches, expect pricing to be steep and in line with the “wow” factor the Laser TV will deliver.
CES 2019 Best Roku TV
TCL 8-Series 8K Roku TV
TCL surprised showgoers by bringing to CES 2019 its first 8K Roku TV in the TCL 8-Series, which is due to arrive at an unspecified time in 2019. At the start of the show, Roku announced that is was working with TCL to deliver the first 8K Roku TV using its very easy to use Roku TV smart OS platform. The advancement suggests that pricing on 8K televisions might become affordable faster than we had previously expected. However, TCL didn’t reveal its pricing plans at this time.
The 8 Series 8K screen sizes are expected to measure 75-inches and up, will be based on new full-array mini LED-LCD back lighting tthat packs in more ultra-contrast control zones than previously used in the company’s 6-Series 4K televisions.
TCL said this will produce bright pictures for a wide contrast range, while the use of QLED (quantum dot) wide color gamut color enhancement film will enable pictures approaching 100% of the DCI-P3 color space. TCL said the 8 Series will allow for wide off-angle viewing and will be accented with a thin panel design. The TVs will also support the HDR10 and Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) profiles. Expect to hear more about the TCL 8 Series availability and pricing later this year.
CES 2019 Best Sound Bar
LG SL9YG Sound Bar
In addition to OLED TVs, LG applied a little of its transforming design magic to the sound bar category by introducing the SL9YG sound bar that can be mounted flat against a wall for maximum stealth and aesthetics or flat on a supporting surface with up-firing speakers for optimal surround sound characteristics in either position. Like other sound bars this year, the LG SL9YG was developed in collaboration with Meridian Audio and combines advanced sound quality, smart functionality and elegant design styling.
The SL9YG is perfect for either tabletop or wall mounted applications, offering 4.1.2-channel performance with 500 Watts of system power. It can also be paired with LG’s optional SPK8 wireless rear-channel speaker kit. The sound bar was designed to achieve accurate speaker balance with minimal distortion, and clear dialog and vocals.
Collaboration with Meridian Audio brings to the sound bar advanced digital signal processing and hardware design to expand image height and widen the sound field. In “stand” mode, the SL9YG supports object-based surround sound with an up-firing speaker, and in wall mount mode supports 4.1.(2)ch Dolby Atmos with a down-firing speaker.
The sound bar supports playback of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based surround sound formats that immerses listeners in sound seemingly coming from all directions. Built-in Artifical Intelligence (AI) tech assists in smart connectivity and voice control using the built-in Google Assistant platform. Listners can use spoken commands to operate the sound bar or operate Google Assistant-compatible smart products throughout the home.
The SL9YG measures 2.24 inches deep when mounted flush to the wall for maximum space saving under the TV. Accurate surround sound directionality is preserved using an integrated gyroscope sensor to measure sound and make the necessary adjustments for the optimal listening experience for the room.
CES 2019 Best 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony has long been the leader in the Blu-ray player market and it stepped up its game by updating the popular UBP-X800 player with the new UBP-X800MK2. This version of the 4K Ultra Blu-ray player brings universal disc playback, with support for both the SACD and DVD-Audio multi-channel disc formats, among others, making this fit right into the high-end universal 4K Blu-ray player segment of the market vacated by Oppo last year. The new Sony UBP-X800M2 continues to offer a slender and sleek design, and includes support for the mandatory HDR10 high dynamic range profile and the voluntary Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) profiles as well. The Blu-ray player also offers built-in streaming options for Netflix and YouTube. The UBP-X800MK2 will passthrough Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio flags to be used by a connected AVR and will upscale non-4K content for use with 4K TVs that need a little help in the picture processing department. Look for the UBP-X800MK2 this spring.
2019 CES Best 4K Ultra HD Camera
Panasonic Lumix S1R Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera
Panasonic introduced its first mirrorless camera based on its 35mm full-frame image sensor in a pair of models including the S1 (24 megapixels) and our pick for best camera of CES 2019, the Lumix S1R (47 megapixels). The full-frame duo were first announced at Photokina 2018 but made their first appearance at CES this year before retail release in late March.
The camera is billed as the world’s first to support 4K 60p/50p video recording in a full-frame Digital Single Lens Mirrorless camera, and the first full-frame camera equipped with a Dual I.S. (Image Stabilization) system.
At CES, Panasonic revealed the S1 and S1R cameras will include a High Resolution mode. This works along with Body Image Stabilization to capture eight consecutive images while rapidly shifting the sensor. Using a new Venus Engine image processor, the camera then merges the eight images into a single high-resolution result.
Both full-frame cameras are also expected to have a High Dynamic Range mode, called HLG Photo. This enables shooting images with a wider dynamic range to capture more light and detail in both the highlights and shadows than is normally reproduced. HLG Photo will also boost color reproduction. Files produced with the HLG mode will be playable via an HDMI connection to an HLG-supporting 4K TV.
Other features include a double card slot for XQD and SD memory cards, rugged triaxial tilt LCD and L-Mount compatibility with supporting lenses from Leica and Sigma.
By Greg Tarr
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