TVs You Should Keep Your Eye On
Big-screen OLED TVs that disappear into your wall, sets that use the panel as the speakers and big-screens that double as paintings. Those are just some of the exciting televisions we saw at CES 2017. Here are some of the coolest models coming this year.
Haier Chromecast TVs
A popular manufacturer of bargain-priced mainstream TVs, Haier is smarting up its TVs by supporting Google's Chromecast in every model. With a touch of a button on your smartphone, Chromecast lets you tap into thousands of streaming sources and entertainment feeds for your TV. In the past, Haier has offered Roku centric models, so the announcement represents a shift in philosophy. The company provided scant other details, except to say sets would be available in the spring ranging in size from 43 to 75 inches.
LG Signature W7
Taking the “you can never be too thin” credo to the extreme, LG has slimmed down its top-of-the-line 4K Ultra HD OLED sets to the point where you can almost just stick them to a wall. The LG W7 is just 0.15-inches thick. It is also flexible (but don't bend it too far or you'll break it), and it has a special mounting system with a thin zip wire connecting it to a speaker base containing all the necessary connections. More important, LG has managed to boost brightness levels to rival LCD HDR (high dynamic range) sets. So now you have no excuse not to get an OLED TV—except for perhaps price. The W7 65-inch model is available for pre-order for $8,000. A 77-inch model will be available but prices haven't been announced.
Samsung thinks it has improved on LCD TVs to the point where they now rival OLED sets. Touting them as “QLED” sets, the new Samsung Q9 looks impressive indeed, using a new quantum dot technology that deploys a different metal for the nano-sized quantum dots, enabling the LCD set to meet the 4K HDR demands for a wider color gamut (up 20 percent over last year) and still more brightness—now with peak levels of between 1,500 and 2,000 nits.
That's well beyond the official HDR specifications and the blindingly brilliant picture should suffice for any sunlit living room. The Q9 is connected by a single, thin ribbon cable that is hooked up to an external box with HDMI and sundry other ports so you can hide all those ugly wires.
Sony XBR-A1E Bravia
In the “if you can't beat 'em, join 'em” camp Sony has introduced a new top tier line of OLED TVs. You can guess who makes the panels (hint: it's not Sony), but Sony does add something extra to the XBR-A1E Bravia: Unique expertise when it comes to video processing, including its own X1 Extreme processor. The company has also joined the Dolby Vision contingent, supporting the 4K HDR format for better brightness and colors.
Topping off the technological bravado, the XBR-A1E Bravia uses the glass of the screen as a speaker (a so-called Acoustic Surface) so you don't need an external sound bar. Vibrating a glass panel to produce sound is not a new technology, but it's nifty trick that eliminates clunky external speakers.
Hisense Laser Cast TV
Hisense, known for its bargain-priced TVs, wants to bring the big picture—a really big picture—to market in the form a 100-inch set. To do so, Hisense is using a short-throw laser projection system it calls Laser Cast. It means it doesn't require a ceiling mounted projector, but rather the compact projector can be placed just a few inches in front of and below the main screen. Early Laser Cast models looked impressive with a 4K Ultra HD picture that's HDR compatible, according to the company. The one sticking point? When it comes out this summer, it will cost $13,000.
Panasonic EZ1002 4K OLED HDR TV
Once the grand purveyor of plasma TVs, Panasonic is angling to regain some of its past TV glory. The Panasonic EZ1002 4K OLED HDR TV is a step in the right direction. These sets offer all the benefits of OLED—deep, deep blacks and stunningly crisp colors—with a major boost in brightness this year. Panasonic also hinted at going beyond the current HDR formats (including HDR10) with the possibility of supporting a forthcoming broadcast and streaming format called HLG or Hybrid Log Gamma. Sets in various sizes are expected in June with prices yet to be determined.
Philips 8000 Series
A clear sign that this is the year for HDR TVs, Philips announced at CES that it would support the 4K format throughout its new TV lines. Better still, Philips will support not only the base HDR10 standard but also the Dolby Vision take on the format that boosts brightness and color intensity. The Philips 8000 series will be the company's top-of-the-line 4K model line based on LCD panels with LED backlighting. The sets won't be dumb, either, and will include Google's Chromecast and support for Google Home voice control. Expect the 49-inch model to be priced at $1,000 ranging up to a 65-inch version costing $1,700.
One of the first companies to introduce a quantum dot TV, Sharp is back this year with a flagship 4K HDR LCD set with the latest quantum dot layer. The P9500 is Ultra HD Premium certified (for a base level of HDR support) and Sharp is boasting the set includes more advanced motion smoothing to handle rapid action scenes. The P9500 with have a full-array backlight with local dimming to keep it dark (or bright) in the right spots. The company anticipates the P9500 will be THX certified (for serious movie buffs) by the time its available later this year. A 75-inch version is expected to sell for $8,000, and a 70-inch model will be $6,000.
In addition to some rock-bottom prices, TCL produced some respectable TVs last year. In 2017 it plans to raise the bar with its higher end C-Series. The 4K line with support for HDR formats—including what was previously mainly in premium brands, Dolby Vision. TCL says its newly advanced phosphors in the LCD panels will also help to deliver more realistic colors. All of this is offered in a package that is possibly the easiest smart TV to use, thanks to its Roku TV interface for streaming thousands of online entertainment sources. Models will range from 49 to 75 inches, starting at just $600.
Westinghouse 4K UHD Smart TV
This year Westinghouse is going to bring fire to TVs--Amazon Fire, that is. With support for 7,000 apps, the Fire-based LCD TV is clearly aimed at the Roku-based sets from TCL and Hisense. And the new Westinghouse model has a not-so-secret weapon that comes along with Amazon Fire's streaming services interface: Alexa. The ridiculously popular voice assistant will help you find shows and deal with cranky family members who always whine that they can't find anything to watch on TV. Models will be available this spring in sizes from 43 to 65 inches with prices yet to be announced.
Xiaomi Mi TV 4
For a TV that's set to cost less than $2,000, the Xiaomi Mi TV 4 has a lot going on. At just 4.9mm thick, the Mi TV 4 is 30 percent thinner than an iPhone 7. Its CPU, ports and speakers in a separate box, so you can upgrade your set down the road without needing to toss out an otherwise perfectly good display. To connect the two parts, all you need is a single cable.
The soundbar also has support for Dolby Atmos audio, and its two speakers point upwards so that sound gets reflected back down by the ceiling, creating true 3D audio, like you would get at the theater. Finally, the Mi TV sports Xiaomi's Patchwall recommendation engine, which uses AI to intelligently recommend movies and shows that should be right up your alley.
The one downside—and it's a big one—is that Xiaomi doesn't plan to selling the Mi TV 4 in the U.S. at this time.