CES was very different this year. Show floors in Vegas hotels were swapped for an entirely virtual event and back-to-back Zoom presentations. That can make demoing the technology powering new OLED or 8K TVs a little tough. But from what we did get to see coming out of this year’s CES, there’s plenty to be excited about.
Sony kicked off CES 2021 by announcing new OLED, 4K, and 8K TVs in its Bravia XR family of displays, all of which will feature its new Cognitive Processor XR. The big thing to know about this powerful new chip is the way it enhances audio and video in an attempt to create an overall more immersive experience. The primary way the chip does this is by zeroing in on the natural focal point of an image and improving the quality of that object or person to make it look more realistic. The chip is also supposed to improve upscaling from formats like 4K to 8K by reducing noise and blur. That should perk the ears of anyone entertaining buying an 8K set this year, as there’s still very little 8K content of which to speak.
In addition to its fancy new chip, some of Sony’s TVs this year will feature ambient light sensors to adjust the brightness of the screen to better match the light in a given viewing environment. This certainly sounds like a neat feature, but we’re eager to try it in person and with a number of different entertainment setups, including with Hue lighting. Beyond that, this year’s Sony TVs will be powered by Google TV, an exciting upgrade from Android TV. And all of its Bravia XR displays will have HDMI 2.1 support for 4K 120fps, Variable Refresh Rate, Auto Low Latency Mode, and e-ARC — a pretty big leap from its paltry inclusion in last year’s TVs.
The Bravia XR lineup of TVs will include the X95J and X90J 4K LED TVs, Master Series Z9J 8K LED, and the Master Series A90J and A80J OLEDs, as well as a slightly differently spec’d 100-inch version of the X90J called the X92. Pricing will be announced later down the line.
Samsung announced new microLED TVs in 99-inch, 88-inch, and 110-inch display sizes — all of which will borrow their technology from Samsung’s existing modular super-screen The Wall, a product that was pretty neat but not especially suited to consumers who just want to unbox a TV the normal way rather than it needing to be installed by a professional. These new TVs will check that box.
Additionally, Samsung is introducing more customisation options for its The Frame display, the company’s most popular TV for its ability to camouflage into a room’s decor by looking more like a framed artwork than an imposing black mirror in the middle of your space. Samsung’s Neo QLED TVs, meanwhile, use more and smaller LED lights to deliver better and more controlled brightness while also minimising blooming. Lastly, Samsung is rolling out a new remote for all of its 2021 QLED 4K and 8K TV — and it charges on solar. Samsung says this remote can charge on both indoor and outdoor light, as well as through a USB-C port. That’s exciting! But we’d love to see this remote in action before getting too hype. In the meantime, we’re cautiously optimistic.
Let’s chat about TCL for a moment because this company really wowed me this year with the promise of massive screens at an affordable price point and the introduction of 8K on its popular 6-Series display (we’re big fans of it here at Gizmodo). At least three screens will ship in 85-inch variations this year, including a 4K QLED with Roku, an 8K QLED TV, and a 4-Series that will retail for $US1,600 ($2,059) in the US. That’s a steal! While the other two will definitely still be pretty pricey, TCL will likely undercut many TV makers in the space for similarly spec’d 85-inch displays. Also an 8K 6-Series? I’m looking forward to seeing that upscaling in action, but TCL’s got a lot of competition on this front. And to be clear: Just because you can buy an 8K TV doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
Panasonic is taking a decidedly more modest approach — size-wise, at least — to its marquee OLED for 2021. The JZ2000 will be available in both 55-inch and 65-inch sizes, which is definitely enough TV for most people in my opinion. Panasonic says this OLED will be brighter and feature better on-unit sound, and the TV will get support for features like eARC, auto low latency mode (ALLM), and variable refresh rate (VRR). That might make it a pretty attractive pick for gamers, but we’ll have to see how it performs first. Its My Home Screen will also be getting a refresh — though that may be less important to folks who already cut the cord and use a streaming device.
And last but not least, LG, which is finally doing miniLED. The OLED king will introduce both 4K and 8K miniLED displays this year, as well as new C1 OLEDs starting at 48-inch screens and G1 OLEDs in 55-inch displays and up. Like Panasonic, LG is also redesigning its native WebOS operating system. I’m a little on the fence about this one. Nothing about LG’s previous OS was necessarily bad, and this one looks a lot like, well, just about everything else. But we’re looking forward to a hands-on demo with this new OS version later this year.