I've been dreading this moment for the last few years. The moment a company would tell me all about its new TV and spend more time on the processor than the display itself. That moment finally came last month when I sat in on a call for LG's 2018 line up of televisions. While the company will still produce gorgeous OLEDs with some of the best picture quality available, the real distinguishing feature, as LG would have it, is the processor powering the TV.
The new Alpha 9 processor will, according to LG, allow for better colour mapping, as well as handling of High Frame Rate (120fps) content. Yet the real wow factor of the Alpha 9 will likely be its ability to handle noise reduction and upscaling -- two weak points in current high end TVs that could help a set go from "great when watching UHD Blu-Ray on a $US700 disc player" to "great when watching the nine o'clock news".
Because while TVs are capable high resolutions these days, the content available is not! Much of the content is still only available in 1080p resolution, and with none of the cool colour and lighting effects you get from newer technologies like wider colour gamut and HDR. Heck, in the US we don't even broadcast in 4K, let alone 4K with HDR. So you have a TV worth $US2000 and everything on it looks like it was shot with a potato.
The LG Alpha 9 processor could change that! And LG very much wants it too. "The panel technology is so good we're going to have to differentiate ourself with processing," Tim Alessi, head of product marketing at LG Electronics USA told said. What Alessi meant was that becauseLG makes the best looking displays you can get on a TV right now. It is the gold standard by which all other TVs compare themselves -- I know because I've sat in plenty of side by side demos from LG competitors featuring an unmarked LG OLED. Short of some sudden news, the displays found in an LG OLED television right now are as good as you're going to get for the foreseeable future.
So the company is hoping tha playing up its improved processors will be enough to entice TV buyers with deep pockets (LG's OLEDs start at $1500 usually) to spend cash on a new set with a relatively minor upgrade.
But how minor, or major, the upgrade the Alpha 9 processor provides remains to be seen. While LG has announced the new TVs today, we won't actually get to see them until next week when they're showcased new week at CES.
Besides the processor upgrade, including a faster CPU, GPU and better RAM, the new 8-series will include support for multiple versions of HDR, including Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HLG, and Advanced HDR by Technicolor, it was also continue to be the only TV brand that has Dolby Atmos built in.
And like sets from Sony, LG OLEDs can now be controlled via Google Assistant, though LG probably hopes you'll use it's own TV-based voice assistant ThinQ, which LG promises will make setting up the set and navigating content much easier than a usual remote.
We'll have a better sense of how accurate those promises are when LG shows off its televisions next week.