In addition to OLED TVs, LG also makes LCD models. At the top of that product category are the LG Super UHD TVs, which were first introduced last year. And like last year, the 2018 models are based on Nano Cell technology, which LG says is “similar to quantum dots.”
In fact, Nano Cell technology is similar to quantum dots only in the size of the particles it uses—about 1 nanometer in diameter. However, instead of emitting light, these particles absorb light at wavelengths between green and red, forming more distinct peaks in the spectral distribution. This replicates the effect of quantum dots, which also form more distinct red, green, and blue peaks than conventional backlights.
In the pre-CES press briefing, Nano Cell was claimed to help maintain accurate colors at wider viewing angles. However, in subsequent conversations, I learned that the use of IPS (in-plane switching) panels is the primary factor here. Nano Cell does reduce reflections of ambient light by as much as 44% over conventional displays, which helps the off-axis performance somewhat.
By using IPS panels, the new Super UHD TVs are said to maintain virtually 100% of their on-axis color expression when viewed from as much as 60° off axis. According to LG, the color reproduction of VA (vertical alignment) QD-based panels degrades as much as 58% at that angle. Why is this important? LG claims that less than 20% of TV viewers routinely watch at 0°—that is, on axis—while close to 100% watch at up to 60° off axis at least some of the time.
Perhaps the biggest news about the 2018 LG Super UHD TVs is that the top two model lines feature full-array local-dimming (FALD) backlighting instead of edgelighting as all of last year’s models did. This is said to lower the black level by a factor of 2.5 and increase lighting control over 10 times. Of course, it also allows areas of high and low brightness to coexist in the same image without bands of light extending across the entire image from the LEDs along the edge of the screen. I heartily applaud LG’s decision to implement FALD backlighting, which is superior to edgelighting.
The LG Super UHD TVs incorporate the Alpha 7 processor, and all three model lines support HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG high dynamic-range (HDR) content; Technicolor HDR will be added in a firmware update. Even better, they apply LG’s proprietary dynamic tone mapping, now called 4K Cinema HDR, to all HDR formats. This doesn’t do much for Dolby Vision, which already includes dynamic metadata, but it greatly improves the look of HDR10, which uses static metadata, and HLG, which uses no metadata at all. In addition, last year’s HDR Effect feature expands the dynamic range of SDR content.
New for 2018 is the ability to accept and display frame rates up to 120 fps. There is no consumer content available at that frame rate yet, but these LG Super UHD TVs are ready for it via USB. However, they do not implement HDMI 2.1, so they cannot accept 120 fps via HDMI. In addition, they cannot render 4K HDR and HFR at the same time.
Also new this year is support for Dolby Atmos, which is said to provide some improvement in performance from the TV’s speakers thanks to object-based audio. However, don’t expect miracles from the TV’s speakers! The big advantage here is that the TVs can send a Dolby Atmos bitstream from the internal apps to an outboard sound system via HDMI ARC.
LG’s smart-TV functionality has also been improved with the addition of Smart Assistant. The latest version of webOS now offers voice control by integrating Google Home—no external device required. Voice commands are picked up by a microphone in the included Magic Remote.
The SK8000 will be available in 55″, 65″, and 75″ screen sizes using edgelighting. The SK9000 and flagship SK9500 use FALD backlighting with 55″ and 65″ screen sizes. Pricing was not announced, but these TVs are expected to be available in March or April.
Check out my interview with Tim Alessi, Senior Director of Product marketing, about the LG Super UHD TVs as well as its new OLED TVs and AI processing: