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LG 2019 OLED TVs start at $2,500, ship in April, just like last year

The new lineup adds Alexa, Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, HDMI 2.1 and improved video processing, but the pricing doesn't drop.

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LG's E9 ships next month.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In the last few years LG's OLED TVs have taken the picture quality crown, and I don't expect that to change in 2019. And the pricing isn't changing either.

The initial prices and shipping dates of LG's newest OLED TVs are largely the same as last year: Not cheap. The most-affordable so far, the 55-inch C9, starts at $2,500, the same as the 2018 C8 a year ago. The same goes for the 65-inch size at $3,500. Here's the full lineup:

LG 2019 OLED TV pricing and availability

Model Size Price Shipping
OLED55C9P 55-inch $2,500 April
OLED65C9P 65-inch $3,500 April
OLED77C9P 77-inch $7,000 May
OLED55E9P 55-inch $3,300 June
OLED65E9P 65-inch $4,300 April
OLED65W9P 65-inch $7,000 June
OLED77W9P 77-inch $13,000 June

The only OLED TVs that got less-expensive this year are the step-up models. The 77-inchers are now slightly less-astronomical, falling $2,000 this year. The E9 fell $200 for both sizes while the 65-inch W9 stays the same price.

The only difference between the C9, E9 and W9 is cosmetic. The W9 (77- and 65-inch) is a super thin "wallpaper" model, the E9 (65-inch only) has a sleek new glass stand and the C9 (55-, 65- and 77-inch) is the mainstream model. All will have the same features and picture quality.

Not included in the chart above, but confirmed as "coming this year" by LG, is the B9. It will be less-expensive than any of the ones above. Based on its 2018 predecessor, and the lack of any change in 2019 pricing, I expect it to cost $2,100 for the 55-inch size and $3,000 for the 65-incher.

Pricing and availability were not announced for the higher-end OLED TVs LG showed at CES, namely the 88-inch 8K model and the rollable OLED. Both are expected sometime later this year.

Now playing: Watch this: Watch LG's rollable OLED TV in action at CES 2019
2:04

What you need to know about 2019 OLEDs

Below I detail the changes LG makes to its 2019 TVs compared to 2018, but the main thing you need to know now is that prices will go down, maybe way down, later in the year. If you can't wait until November 2019 or later, you can still score a good deal on 2018 OLED TVs now -- and I'm guessing it will perform nearly as well as the 2019 version.

That said, here's the main differences.

New OLED TVs include an A9 Gen 2 processor... with "AI." The main image quality boost LG made to its industry-leading OLED models in 2018 was better processing -- although in our comparison the improvements were minor at best. For 2019 that processing ratchets up again with a new "intelligent processor and deep learning algorithm" that, among other claims, better adjusts the picture for room lighting.

Light output and other image quality characteristics are basically the same as last year. I asked about burn-in and LG's rep said no new features had been added to address the issue.

High-end 2019 LG TVs will have full HDMI 2.1. LG confirmed to CNET that its 2019 OLED models include the latest version of the HDMI standard: 2.1. That means their HDMI ports can handle the 48 Gbps bandwidth required by next-generation video like 8K resolution at 60 frames per second, or 4K at 120 fps (new HDMI 2.1-compatible cables will likely be required). More important for most 2019 OLEDs, which lack 8K resolution, is support enhanced audio return channel (eARC) as well as two gamer-friendly extras: variable refresh rate (VRR) and automatic low latency mode (ALLM, or auto game mode). Check out HDMI 2.1: What you need to know for details.

Alexa will join Google Assistant. LG's sets already have Google's voice control system built-in, available by pressing the remote's mic button and speaking into the clicker. 2019 OLED and LCD models will also offer access to Amazon's Alexa voice assistant when you long-press the Amazon Prime Video button. Just like with Google, Alexa users "can manage smart home devices, ask questions and access tens of thousands of skills and even set up their ideal Alexa Routine." LG says Alexa will not be made available in 2018 or earlier sets via a software update.

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Both Google Assistant and now Alexa will be built into LG's 2019 TVs.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple AirPlay 2 and Homekit are on-board: Just like 2019 TVs from Vizio, Sony, Samsung and probably Roku, LG will play nice with Apple. AirPlay 2 basically works just like the same feature on an Apple TV box, letting the TV function as a display for TV shows, movies, photos and web pages with an iPhoneiPad or Mac as the controller. The HomeKit integration lets users control the TV and their other smart home products using Apple's Home app or by talking to Apple's Siri digital assistant.

WISA allows wireless 5.1 speaker control. New for 2019, LG's TVs can work with speakers compatible with the Wireless Speaker and Audio Association standard, such as the Klipsch Reference Premiere Wireless system. The idea is to eliminate the need for an AV receiver to get full 5.1-channel surround sound. Instead, the TV acts as the controller, wirelessly communicating with the individual speakers, which only need power connections. It's a neat idea, but pretty niche.

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This 88-inch 8K behemoth is the largest OLED TV yet.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What about 8K?

Not to be outdone by Samsung's launch of TVs with 8K resolution, this year LG will sell an 88-inch 8K OLED TV, model Z9, as well as a 75-inch 8K LCD TV, model 75SM99. LG talks up "higher processing capabilities" with "8K upscaling and improved noise reduction."

I saw both in person at CES 2019 and the 88-inch 8K OLED is really impressive. The perfect contrast of OLED combined with such a massive image is a potent combination. The 8K dynamic HDR demo footage run off a custom hard drive really helped, of course. And of course LG's rep didn't even hint at pricing, but since Samsung's 85-inch 8K LCD is 15 grand, I'll be surprised if this TV doesn't cost three times as much.

Now playing: Watch this: LG's 2019 TVs include an 88-inch 8K OLED monster
3:15

Meanwhile the 75-inch 8K LCD next to it -- the smallest 8K TV officially announced in the US so far -- literally paled in comparison. LG says it hasn't improved the panel technology, but it did change the name to "NanoCell."

We're looking forward to testing LG's newest OLED TVs soon. In the meantime, here's my early 2019 TV buying advice.