Among the OLED TVs coming our way this year are the new LG C4 OLED, LG G4 OLED and LG M4 OLED (pictured above) — the latter two of which will be outfitted with LG's new a11 AI Processor. The C4 and the lower B4 OLED model will still have some new tricks up their sleeves thanks to the A9 and A8 AI processor,s respectively, but only the two high-end OLED TVs will get the top-of-the-line super chip.
So what exactly does an AI super chip do?
- Genre & Scene Analysis: The a11 AI Processor can detect what kind of content is playing and change the picture settings to match.
- AI Super Resolution & Noise Reduction: Increases sharpness to HD and sub-HD video by object analysis.
- Dynamic HDR: Divides images on the screen into small blocks that can then be enhanced via LG's tone mapping technology.
- Object Enhancing: Can detect which objects on-screen are in the foreground and background, then adds extra separation for a deeper picture.
- AI Director Processing: "Better matches director's intentional color tone" and "enhances color perception".
According to LG, who spoke to Tom's Guide ahead of CES, it's all about noise reduction and dynamic HDR tone mapping that will improve upscaling and color reproduction. Using AI Picture Pro (LG's umbrella term for AI picture processing), the new OLED TVs will have genre and scene analysis that will recognize the content on-screen and optimize picture settings for sports, movies and games, as well as AI Sound Pro that enables virtual 11.1.2-channel audio — though how good it will sound coming out of the M4 and G4's smaller speakers remains to be seen.
The nebulous nature of AI-enhanced picture
According to LG, the AI processor delivers a 4x increase over previous generations and provides "a 70% improvement in graphic performance and a 30% faster processing speed compared to its predecessor".
That sounds impressive, but we're not sure it means much. It's unclear exactly how — or even what's — being measured in that statistic.
Our understanding, at this point, is that through repeated scene analysis, the processor will be able to recognize objects on-screen and properly apply LG's Dynamic HDR tone mapping to them. In turn, objects in motion should have less motion blur and colors should have a more natural tone.
As far as pricing details and release dates for the LG C4, G4, M4 and B4, there's no word yet, but that will likely come in February or March as we get closer to their potential launch.
Analysis: Is AI going to be a big deal?
At the end of the day, all cinephiles want is the best version of a film, show or sporting event. We want motion to be artifact-free and for colors to look vibrant, but still ultimately realistic. There's hope that AI — used in tandem with panel-side improvements — could move the needle closer to "perfect" picture.
What's telling about all this, though, is that these TVs will have an option to turn off AI picture processing. That tells me that it's possible that all this additional processing pushes us further away from a director's intended vision and not closer to it, because if it was so perfect, why include an option to turn it off?
Until we can see them for ourselves at CES on January 8, we're cautiously optimistic — not because of the strange metrics we've been given, but because AI has already changed the way we think about asset generation in photography and videography.
If TVs are next in line for that kind of improvement, well, I'd like to be first in line to see it in action and I'll be sure to bring you along for the ride.
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Nick Pino heads up the TV and AV verticals at Tom's Guide and covers everything from OLED TVs to the latest wireless headphones. He was formerly the Senior Editor, TV and AV at TechRadar (Tom's Guide's sister site) and has previously written for GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade. Not sure which TV you should buy? Drop him an email or tweet him on Twitter and he can help you out.