HD Guru’s Best Of CES 2023 Product Awards
From a home theater entertainment aspect, CES 2023 is becoming an interesting show in comparison to its original emphasis. There were fewer companies with fewer products, particularly in home audio, than we are used to seeing over thirty plus years. Fortunately, what we did see has gotten better and better.
In sight of these changing dynamics, we reduced the field of HD Guru’s Best of Show Awards to just five products or model series that were on display at the show and promised to arrive some time in 2023. That usually means the spring, but with the world upside down these days thanks to Covid-19, the War in Ukraine and runaway inflation, we won’t be surprised if some of these jewels come later in the year. Stay tuned here for updates as the year progresses.
Of course many of the most interesting new developments seemed to come from the biggest global players. That used to mean Samsung, LG and Sony, but this year it included companies like TCL, Sharp and Hisense as well. Curiously, Sony opted not to show much of anything from home entertainment at CES 2023 this year, opting instead to focus on its new Sony Honda Mobility EV car coming in 2026, advances in PlayStation 5 and gaming, and its various other company projects from Sony Pictures, Sony Music and elsewhere. The company is expected to show its 2023 home entertainment offerings a little later.
Samsung and LG, of course, had the biggest foot prints at the show, and didn’t disappoint with a boatload of new products for 2023, but hot on their heels were some of China’s biggest players including TCL and Hisense, which both made a lot of noise in Mini LED advancements, as well as other technologies that amazed us too.
We were also pleased to see the return of a big name from the past in Sharp AQUOS, which announced its global TV marketing intentions for 2023 with premium TV lines for 4K Mini LED (XLED) and even 4K OLED models coming soon to a dealer with a supporting sales staff near you. This will mark the return of the Sharp TV brand to Sharp Corp. (now majority controlled by Taiwan’s Hon Hai/Foxconn companies), which really started the flat-panel TV revolution with some of the first LCD TVs and large panel LCD factories in the world. The company is returning to market laser focused on showing the world just how good it can make TV pictures look, and we’ll be anxious to see how this evolves.
Out of all of this, we managed to pull out five top products that caught our eyes and imaginations at CES 2023. Of course, there were many more products from these companies and others showing incredible quality and performance levels in home theater video and audio systems that we’ve been reporting on. Some of those might ultimately prove to be better in our hands-on reviews to come. So stay tuned.
With that, here are HDGURU.COM’s Best of CES 2023 Awards:
Best of Show
LG M3 Wireless 4K OLED TV
LG stunned showgoers with a last-minute announcement that its 2023 OLED television lineup would include a new “Signature Series” OLED M3 tier featuring a “wireless” two-part 4K OLED television comprised of a display screen measuring up to 97-inches and a “Zero Connect” transmitter box that sends source signals for video and sound wirelessly to the display, from up to 30 feet away. The Signature 97-inch M3 is said to have most of the same specs as LG’s 2023 G3 OLED series, including higher brightness plus the ability to transmit a 4K/120Hz signal, although it will have one less HDMI 2.1 port (just three) on the transmitter box. Like the G3 series it will support the latest HDMI 2.1 gaming features including VRR, NVIDIA G-Sync, AMD Freesync, etc.
As with the G3, the TV’s brighter panel is made possible using the company’s new META technology and third generation OLED panels. META is a term used for Micro Lens Array technology that embeds a layer of micrometer-sized convex lenses in the panel to recover errant light emissions by almost 22%, while also expanding the viewing angle. There are almost 5117 micro lenses per pixel to utilize light typically lost to internal reflections, the company said. That means the 97-inch M3 model, like the G3 series equivalent size, will be 30% brighter than 2022’s G2 series. LG isn’t saying exactly what frequencies the M3 will transmit on, other than to say the signal will not get interference from other devices using common radio frequencies like typical Wi-Fi items, wireless phones etc.
The connectivity speed is said to be three times faster than Wi-Fi 6. The box can be placed out of sight, behind a couch or where ever, without impeding the signal. The M3 series models will have a “One Wall Design,” which means its integrated bracket will sit flush against the wall with no visible gap. The display will feature an art gallery aesthetic that augments the TV’s self-lit picture quality to fit the home decor. The wireless attribute will also make for a more elegant mounting solution in difficult areas like above a fireplace. The larger screen sizes like the 97-inch showcased at CES also have a floor stand option. Unfortunately, despite the wireless hype, the M3 display panel will still require one wire — the power cord — but no mess of gangling connecting source wires. For the U.S., LG is looking at three screen sizes (77-, 83- and 97-inches) to start with and reserves the possibility of adding other smaller screen sizes, and different lifestyle applications, closer to launch. Pricing and availability in the U.S. will be announced later in the year, the company said.
Samsung Premiere 8K Ultra Short Throw Triple Laser Projector
CES 2023 was filled with a slew of ultra short throw projectors from a variety of brands this year, but in our opinion, Samsung stole the show with the introduction of the company’s first UST 8K model in the Samsung Premiere 8K Ultra Short Throw Triple Laser Projector. This is an updated version of last year’s 4K Premiere, with a lot more resolution (four times that of 4K) and peak brightness (+30%). This very large screen display technology is perhaps the best way to appreciate the extra-large number of pixels an 8K signal can produce. The demonstrated 150-inch picture was produced by the Triple Laser light engine that is capable of up to 4000 ANSI Lumens peak brightness, but the company could not share the contrast ratio at the show. The image on display at Samsung’s First Look CES 2023 showroom certainly looked exceptional. Like most ultra short throw models, the 8K Premiere consists of a single self-contained box that sits just a few inches back from the projection surface seated on a table top or floor immediately below the screen.
At the show, Samsung hid the projector in a mounting case concealing the actual look of the housing, because the final cosmetic design was still in progress. Despite that extra-large screen size, the 8K Premiere is expected to be using a single DLP micro-mirror device (DMD) chip and Texas Instruments version of pixel shifting (in this case more than quadrupling the chip’s native resolution) that moves the micro display rapidly back and forth and diagonally to create what appears to the eye to be 8K pixels covering each frame at one time. The RGB triple laser system is said to cover 100% of the DCI-P3 wide color gamut and then some. The company was not issuing the coverage rating for BT-2020 at this time. To our eyes, the projector showed a beautifully bright image with impressive sound for a UST box application in the controlled lighting demo space.
The projector supports HDR (HDR10/HDR10+/HLG) images with a wide contrast ratio. For the best results, an ambient light rejecting UST-optimized screen from a third-party manufacturer is suggested for this model. These special screens create brighter images that don’t have their contrast washed out as easily as images projected on a plain white wall surface or traditional front-projection screen.
The Samsung 8K Premiere includes 5.0.2-channel built-in speakers and 100 Watts of power amplification, but a 7.1.4-channel application can be created using an optional wireless subwoofer and rear-channel speakers supporting Dolby Atmos 3D surround sound to complement the theatrical experience. That should hold up well in the absence of a full outboarded multi-channel audio system. But in cases where an external multi-channel speaker setup is used, the 8K Premiere’s internal speakers can be converted to serve as the sound setup’s center channel. It’s the first projector to utilize the top Atmos speakers to perform double duty by automatically determining the distance between the sound and the wall to make it appear as if the audio is coming from the center of the screen. This is done in part by lowering the overhead height effect to ear level. Samsung also builds into the unit its latest version of the Tizen OS smart TV platform, which brings loads of features and popular streaming apps without the need of an external media streaming adapter. The projector is expected to arrive by the end of the year, but pricing and exact availability will be announced later.
Best Sound Bar
Samsung Electronics HW-Q990C Dolby Atmos Sound Bar
The Samsung Electronics HW-Q990C Dolby Atmos sound bar was developed at the company’s U.S. based Audio Lab in Valencia, Ca., where lab engineers are said to have pushed acoustic science to the limits to come up with this next step in sound bar evolution. The new flagship HW-Q990C outputs 11.1.4-channel sound from the sound bar’s front- and up-firing drivers, rear up- and front-firing wireless surround channel speakers and a new and improved wireless subwoofer.
The package supports Dolby Atmos object oriented surround sound for lifelike immersive effects from every angle. The sound bar is designed to fully integrate with one of Samsung’s newer Neo QLED flat-panel TVs through various systems, including full control of sound bar and TV using a single Samsung TV remote. The TV remote is designed to pair easily with the sound bar to control all the necessary features, without the need for any special programming. In addition, Samsung’s sound bar and TV pair acoustically all at one time to deliver a full, accurate surround sound presentation.
The sound bar taps into the TV’s Neural Processing Unit to analyze audio signals and process each sound detail even more accurately than last year’s comparable model. Then Sound Remastering processing utilizes AI to remaster each sound object to help ensure voices are clear, environmental sounds are enveloping and that each driver component is balanced to just the right volume. During the initial setup, the TV and sound bar will play back an integrated unified sound field from speakers in both the sound bar and connected TV, automatically configuring each one to create the necessary channels and to deliver a fuller, more immersive and personalized experience.
Furthermore, signal processing using Samsung Q Symphony technology coordinates audio through both devices based on the content being watched. This year’s adaption of Q Symphony TVs will offer enhanced performance with even more accurate room calibration, Samsung said. Q Symphony was expanded to utilize every speaker on the TV in conjunction with the sound bar for greater immersion. Using the TV’s processor, the sound bar will analyze content so that dialog, such as the voice in the center channel, will be produced by the sound bar, while the surrounding audio will be sent to the TV speakers. This produces a clear, crisp, three dimensional surround sound experience that places the listener at the center of the action.
A SpaceFit feature analyzes the home listening environment and calibrates each channel level to produce optimized audio immersion. This year the analysis and optimization extends to lower frequencies for an even more realistic sound stage that Samsung said gets closer to what the creator intended. When low volume listening is desired, such as night time, the sound bar’s adaptive sound capability automatically adjusts the output to the desired volume level for clearer, crisper playback, without disturbing the rest of the house. Also this year, Samsung’s enhanced Game Pro mode lets users customize the sound effects based on the genre of game being played, such as racing, sports and other content to optimize the performance for the best tonal experience to match the action or the music being played.
Best 4K OLED TV Value
Sharp AQUOS 4K OLED Roku TV
The Sharp AQUOS 4K OLED Roku TV — Sharp Corp. made a return to CES 2023 with new lines of high-performance Sharp AQUOS TVs it will be marketing globally this year, including the United States. Part of this offering includes the premiere of the first 4K OLED TVs based on the Roku TV OS platform. This is one of our favorite smart TV platforms, due to its simple graphic user interface, vast library of streaming app services, use of the Roku Channel free and premium streaming services collection including many original programs and movies.
As the first OLED TV with the OS, the Sharp AQUOS OLED Roku TV will be able to display some of the best picture quality seen yet for this platform. This includes deep inky black level against bright HDR specular highlights on the White OLED technology screen that also offers some of the widest viewing angles possible. This should bring Roku to a new advanced level of picture and sound performance, beyond what we’ve seen in 4K and 8K Mini-LED TVs from partner company’s like TCL and Hisense. Sharp AQUOS 4K OLED Roku TVs will offer 120Hz refresh rate OLED panels, and four full-spec HDMI 2.1 inputs, including support for ALLM, VRR and AMD FreeSync VRR. The series will include models with 55- and 65-inch screen sizes. Look for the Sharp AQUOS 4K OLED TVs starting this spring at select retail partner stores.
Best 4K Mini-LED TV Value
TCL QM8 Series 4K Mini-LED TV
The TCL QM8 Series 4K Mini-LED TV lineup will be TCL’s best Mini-LED implementation to date. Due to still sparse sales of 8K TVs, the company has decided to discontinue new 8K models for now, which means it has put its most advanced features and picture and sound performance systems into this 4K Mini-LED line for 2023. The TCL QM8 Series embeds the latest Google TV smart TV OS with tons of streaming options inside. The brilliant lineup of QLED Mini-LED Full-Array backlit 4K TVs bring double the brightness (2x the nit level of 2022 Mini-LEDs) and more than 5x the number of local dimming zones (more than 2300 zones depending on screen size) of last year’s TCL Mini-LED TVs, even 8K ones. For gamers, TCL has upped the performance level this year with its Auto Game Mode, supporting Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) up to 144Hz, and AMD FreeSync Premium Pro certification.
This year, TCL is a sponsor of the “Call of Duty” gaming franchise which, along with other titles, will take advantage of the TV’s new Game Accelerator feature that can be optionally turned off or on to get double the panel refresh rate. In the case of the QM8 series, that means twice the 120Hz native refresh rate of panel using “Game Accelerator 240,” standing for 240Hz VRR gaming. To achieve this advanced speed, the picture will drop half of the vertical resolution, but none of the horizontal resolution (3840 x 1080), if the gamer desires. TCL said gamers have told them that speed is king when playing a game like “Call of Duty” and now they have the option of getting more. Importantly, TCL has enhanced the QLED color performance this year by making the picture 66% brighter than non-Quantum Dot enhanced models to ensure a better picture regardless of the content. This means exceptional color from HDR content supporting a wider color gamut, but also from SDR gaming content that will see a color brightness boost as well. The TCL QM8 series will include the 65-, 75-, 85-inch and 98-inch screen sizes in 2023.
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By Greg Tarr
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