LG just released its shiny new 2018 OLED range. We recently spent an evening doing a side-by-side comparison with the 65-inch E8 model and one of the 2017 models. Here are some thoughts after spending an evening with it.
LG is making a big push into the AI space this year with its ThinQ engine that has been integrated into the LG Magic Remote. In addition to simple commands, ThinQ has been designed to understand a spectrum of natural expressions.
For example, if you wanted to turn the volume up, you could say "volume up", "sound is too quiet", "raise the volume" and more.
For anyone who might be worried about their TV listening to them 24/7 - it only fires up when you hit the microphone button on the 'Magic Remote'.
The other big change that LG have made this year is the introduction of the Alpha 9 processor, which has been designed to reduce noise, create more realistic colours on-screen and transfer message faster. It also support HFR video images with up to 120 fps.
Just The Specs, Please
Prepare for some scrolling...
What's It Good At?
Colour And Picture
LG continues to reign supreme when it comes to picture quality, largely due to the lack of backlight. Each individual pixel is self-lit As a result, it's able to deliver incredible contrast and the blackest of blacks without any light bleed.
OLED is also capable of showing billions of colours. These pop all the more in content supported by Dolby Vision, HDR10, HLG and Technicolor HDR. While the others are more of an investment at the present time - Netflix and Amazon Prime Video support Dolby Vision.
I watched some Chef's Table, Apex: The Story of the Hypercar and House of Cards in Ultra HD 4K and set to Cinema Mode and they all looked incredible.
The high picture quality also made the new artistic 'gallery' mode look stunning. It's similar to Samsung's Ambient Mode in that it displays scrolling artwork (complete with art gallery style frames) when the television isn't being actively watched.
But while it's beautiful to look at, I wonder at its long term practicality. I also have the same question for Samsung, which at least also offers the inclusion of a date and time stamp.
Will people continue to keep their televisions on (or turn them on) simply to have something pretty on screen whilst they're not actively viewing something? I honestly don't know the answer to that.
We also don't know how much additional power consumption these modes will take up. I guess only time will tell.
It isn't particularly surprising the Ultra-HD 4K content looks incredible on these TVs - it's what they're designed for. But what about non-optimised content like free-to-air and lower quality streaming content?
This is where LGs upscaling comes into play - which is when videos need to be enlarged to make them fit onto the likes of an ultra-high-definition OLED screen.
I was pleased to find that 720p and 1080p content in particular looked a whole lot better on the 2018 OLED compared to its 2017 counterpart. This is largely due to the new Alpha 9 processor, which means less messing around with the settings to get a non-blurry picture. That being said, you will probably want to do some tweaking.
Sadly, I wasn't able to test free-to-air due to the lack of the antenna hookup in the hotel room.
What's It Not Good At?
The AI technology is still somewhat limited when it comes to searching for TV and movies. At the time of writing it only scrapes the Netflix app, as well as YouTube and LG's in-built web browser.
I use Stan and Netflix equally, and also have a Foxtel account - so I would have liked to have seen multi-platform functionality for voice activation.
However, at the launch event earlier this year, LG representatives told Gizmodo that they are looking at further integration with other content platforms. In fact, Google Assistant was announced for the second half of 2018 just today.
I also found ThinQ impractical for simple tasks like changing the volume. It was faster for me to just manually do it with the remote rather than picking it up, pressing the ThinQ button and speaking.
However, as this is the introduction of ThinQ into the LG suite of Smart TVs, some minor issues are to be expected, and will most likely get ironed out with firmware updates and more refined in future products.
Besides, it still beats typing on a screen with your remote, which is the worst.
Should You Buy It?
LG seems to have listened to past gripes in regards to pricing - at $4,099 for the C8 55-inch (the one we reviewed is the $7,699 65-inch E8) this is the cheapest LG have gone with a brand new OLED model. That being said, at the higher end of the range you're still looking at 20K.
So while these will still cost a pretty penny, at least you're still starting from a more affordable place this year. Also it means that you could be looking at a good deal once the sales periods roll around.
You can check out the full range of pricing here.
But here's the thing - unless you're doing an intense side-by-side comparison (which we did), you're unlikely to notice a huge amount of difference compared to last year's models. There really isn't that much of an improvement in the brightness or picture quality. And this isn't a bad thing - it was already great.
But unless you're particularly interested in investing in ThinQ (which still doesn't have all of its promised features), this may be the best time to buy a 2017 model.
But if you do want a brand new model, and it's within your budget - you should consider something from the 2018 OLED range. They're beautiful televisions and I'm looking forward to seeing what they're able to do with AI in the future. I think 2019 is when we're really going to see it come into its own.