LG’s new 4K OLED and Super UHD TVs add Google Assistant, Alexa, and an even better picture

After commercially launching its wallpaper OLED TV at least year’s CES, LG’s 2018 showing was bound to be a little less flashy. And yes, the TVs themselves look largely similar to their 2017 predecessors. The best one you can buy is still the Signature “wallpaper” TV that mounts to your wall with most of its guts in a soundbar that sits beneath the ultra-thin screen.

But although design hasn’t seen any real overhaul, LG has made significant refinements to image processing and is putting a big focus on its ThinQ artificial intelligence platform. In fact, “AI” is now part of the branding for all of these 2018 TVs. To augment its own AI capabilities, LG is also adding both Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa to its latest 4K OLED and Super UHD LCD TV lineup.

LG’s 2018 OLED TVs will support both Google Assistant and (in some countries) Amazon Alexa.

Also new to the 2018 LG lineup is support for high frame rates (HFR) up to 120fps. However, the TVs themselves lack HDMI 2.1, which is necessary to receive those higher frame rates from external devices. So you’ll be limited to built-in streaming apps for HFR content. That’s a tad disappointing, but this whole point is a bit moot for now since there’s not much 120fps content in existence on Netflix or Prime Video.

The biggest changes to LG’s new TVs are in the software and image processing. A new Alpha 9 processor in the high-end models should deliver even more accurate color and “enhanced image rendering.” It also introduces four-step noise reduction and banding elimination. During a preview of the new products, LG made a direct comparison with Sony’s impressive OLED TV from last year, which used a panel from LG Display but featured the company’s own image processing. This time around, LG is confident it has surpassed what Sony accomplished.

WebOS is still the underlying operating system here, with the same colorful icons and main menu of streaming apps. But LG is making a big deal about its ThinQ AI platform and the addition of support for “hundreds” of voice commands. There aren’t any always-listening mics in these TVs or the remote. Instead, you press the microphone button and hold while speaking.

Many of the most common asks — checking the weather, sports scores, and so on — will bring up results from Google Assistant (complete with the usual Assistant animation). You can also control smart home devices with Assistant.

But not everything runs through Assistant; when I said “play videos from The Verge on YouTube,” it seemed to bring up a list populated by LG’s own ThinQ software. The experience felt a little split in some instances during my early time with a demo TV.

Voice commands are a major focus of LG’s 2018 TV lineup.

Voice commands offer deep control over the TV’s settings, allowing you to make adjustments, switch between picture modes, and so on. (Speaking of which, LG says that nearly all of the picture modes allow for deep calibration — including HDR and gaming modes.)

The Google Assistant integration means you’ll be able to control the TV from a nearby Google Home, and the same applies to Amazon Echo since there’s an Alexa skill available. You just won’t get any of the on-screen visual results when controlling the TV through Alexa.

The new LG E8 OLED features a “picture on glass” design thanks to a transparent base that the stand attaches to.

The step-down from the “LG AI Signature” OLED TV (aka the Wallpaper TV) is the E8 OLED, which features a new “picture on glass” design. That effect is the result of a transparent base that makes it look like the TV screen is floating above its metal stand. The E8 gets the same, top-end processing as the Signature model. Note, however, that the entry-level B8 OLED and Super UHD TVs all use a different processor: the Alpha 7.

LG is also giving its Super UHD LCD 4K TVs a nice upgrade with a move to full-array backlighting. This means that individual areas of the backlight can light up (or dim) to create greater contrast. If you’re not going OLED, full-array backlighting is essential when looking for a quality LED set, so it’s great to see LG making this improvement.

LG’s 2018 Super UHD LCD 4K TVs feature full-array backlighting for much better contrast and picture.

All of LG’s 2018 lineup support a wide array of HDR formats including Dolby Vision, HDR10, Advanced HDR, Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG), plus LG’s own proprietary HLG Pro and HDR10 Pro enhancements. Even when viewing HDR10 content, LG claims that its proprietary algorithms dynamically manage brightness and contrast frame by frame for an end result that is closer in line with Dolby Vision. Dolby Atmos audio is also offered on both the OLED and Super UHD models.

As usual, pricing and availability aren’t being announced here at CES. But the full lineup of LG’s 2018 TV line is included below.

LG SIGNATURE AI OLED TV Picture-on-Wall W8 Series

77-inch class (76.7-inches diagonal) model 77W8

65-inch class (64.5-inches diagonal) model 65W8

LG AI OLED TV C8 Series

65-inch class (64.5-inches diagonal) model 65C8

55-inch class (54.6-inches diagonal) model 55C8

LG AI OLED TV Picture-on-Glass E8 Series

65-inch class (64.5-inches diagonal) model 65E8

55-inch class (54.6-inches diagonal) model 55E8

LG AI OLED TV B8 Series

65-inch class (64.5-inches diagonal) model 65B8

55-inch class (54.6-inches diagonal) model 55B8

LG SUPER UHD TV Lineup

LG AI SUPER UHD TV SK9500

65-inch class (64.5-inches diagonal) model 65SK950055-inch class (54.6-inches diagonal) model 55SK9500

LG AI SUPER UHD TV SK8000

75-inch class (74.5-inches diagonal) model 75SK800

65-inch class (64.5-inches diagonal) model 65SK8000

55-inch class (54.6-inches diagonal) model 55SK8000

LG AI SUPER UHD TV SK9000

65-inch class (64.5-inches diagonal) model 65SK9000

55-inch class (54.6-inches diagonal) model 55SK9000

Comments

Is there a market for a dumb TV, that just has picture and audio settings, a Tuner, and HDMI ports?

That’s all I want.

This! Knock off a couple hundred bucks and give me NO SMARTS. I just want the best panel and I/O available. I’m gonna use whatever hot new content box is available. Has anybody used the smart features on a TV, say from 2012?? Yeah… It’s not pretty. Why will this be any different?

I will say, the best part of having a terrible interface on the smart TV for me is Netflix hasn’t been updated to the stupid auto-play videos on every title on my Samsung TV. This alone keeps me from going to the Xbox app. Otherwise I agree, the smart TV is dumb and is totally awful (I mean, the fact that there is lag and it takes quite some time to even switch HDMI inputs is infuriating…)

Sorry to hijack your post, but I completely agree with you regarding the Netflix autoplay "feature". It is a complete PITA. When I select a title, I do so because I want to read what it’s about, or maybe I just stopped at a particular episode for "reasons", not because I want to play it.

I wish there was a way to turn it off in the app settings.

Some online services like Netflix and YouTube only stream to select external devices in true 4K/HDR.

Netflix requires hardware that supports HEVC decoding, and if you want HDR10 you need to not only support HEVC but you need to also support HEVC 10-bit and not only 8-bit.

Same goes for YouTube 4K but instead of requiring hardware decoding of HEVC they use and require hardware decoding of Google’s own VP-9 codec and in if you want HDR you need to support hardware decoding of VP-9 Profile 2.

I’m not entirely sure how demanding it would be to decode VP-9 and VP-9 Profile 2 using software decoding. We had "ProTube" for iOS which was a great third-party YouTube-app that actually supported 4K (not HDR) playback and it managed this by software decoding VP-9 and it managed to do it pretty well on devices like the iPhone 6S and newer and the iPad Air 2 and newer. The question is whether the SoC in these TV’s are powerful enough to do it without hardware acceleration and the answer is probably no.

HEVC 8-bit and HEVC 10-bit is really demanding to do in software so there is no way the SoC in these TV’s are capable of doing it without supporting it in hardware. Even my server running a Intel Xeon E3-1275v2 is not even close to be able to handle HEVC 10-bit using software decoding so I had to toss a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti into it so I was able to get it hardware accelerated.

I think it really depends.. I mean I see what you mean that getting the hot new content box means you’re always updated, but buying a Roku TV or Google TV should pretty much keep you going for a few years. My cheap af Roku TV has 4K and HDR (including Dolby Vision) support from all the major content providers so the only reason i’d need to upgrade is if 8K becomes the norm, but then i’d need to upgrade the TV too.

Hell, I’d pay slightly more to at least be able to turn off the ‘smart features’ … and for the love of everyone tv design engineers, give us more than one arc port on our tvs.

Before getting my Samsung ks8000, I would have agreed with you. But since then, smart features have been excellent. Quickly toggling between netflix, my ps4 pro and youtube on the fly with near instant loading is still something I am amazed by. I also use the voice feature for searching (specifically for youtube) since typing out on the youtube app is a bitch. And sharing videos and pics directly onto my tv from my phone is also quick and easy. I think high end tvs from 2016 up at least aren’t terrible with their smart features.

Sure, but if you’re an AppleTV user, you already have all of these features built-in. What I want is the best I/O and display I can get, without the fluff. I want good display controls, and software updates that improve display "rendering" and add new HDR specifications and updates as they come out. Hold the speakers too.

Also, What’s with not including HDMI 2.1 anyways.

Yes, but TV makers have no incentive to ship one. The "smart" parts only cost the manufacturer a few dollars to add, and in exchange, they get to negotiate with content providers like Netflix to have their apps pre-installed, or even get a cut of purchases/rentals made from the TV.

What really kills me with these TVs is that LG wants you to fork over thousands for a top-of-the-line TV at a time when there’s not very much 4K or HDR content out there to take advantage of it, but is selling the TV without the necessary input to send this content to the TV in a few years when it’s available – instead, you’re left betting that LG and content partners will update their apps for TVs over the next few years as they age – which seems….. like a pretty bad bet IMHO.

I suspect that the TV manufacturers make money by including "smart" features because the content providers pay them to do so.

Just never connect your TV to the internet.

2018 lineup disappoints a ton (only new processor and AI features? Come on, LG.), but it makes me happy that I got the B7 last year. I wonder if the 2017 lineup will get any updates to include Google Assistant or/and other new features… Also, does anybody know if the Chromecast functionality will be bundled to the Google Assistant on 2018 models?

I didn’t pick up the B7 last year so the B8 being an incremental update with a newer panel, updated processor and AI is welcome for new buyers such as myself, especially ones looking to invest into Google Home too.

Beware that the B8 this year is the only model of the OLED set with a slower processor (Alpha7, instead of Alpha9). Shame. (By the way, it wasn’t mentioned in the article.)

Worth mentioning indeed. I’ve added this.

Thanks for the info!

And the B8 is likely the model that Costco will carry, alas (this year they have the B7). Since I strongly prefer to buy my TVs from Costco, that’s a big problem.

But then, the lack of HDMI 2.1 will keep me from buying one of the new models anyway,

So they are back into crippling the B series compared to the rest. Just like the 6-series back in 2016. As the price difference between B and C-series is often rather slim, especially if you are able to wait a few months for the sales to start you should really considering opting for the C-series.

I believe the processing capabilities of the newer models give some additional brightness, etc. to the panel, but I believe the actual panel itself is pretty much unchanged.

How good are these companies about updating these things? I have a couple of smart TVs and blu-ray players that weren’t cheap but not as high end as the OLEDs. With mine it seems within a couple of years they stop updating the existing apps and adding new ones.

The 2018 set is using a new process iteration. The 2016 and 2017 are on the same (older) process. This should help extensively with the ‘panel lottery’ we early adopters had to deal with.

I assume these services can be disabled and/or that the TV will function without an internet connection?

I don’t know of any television that can’t function without an internet connection.

View All Comments
Back to top ↑