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LG's 2019 TVs at CES 2019: 88-inch 8K OLED, Alexa and HDMI 2.1

OLED, the best-performing TV tech, gets a lot bigger.

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

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you care about new TVs, CES is the biggest tech reveal of the year. And LG's OLEDs are the best TVs.

The Korean company just unveiled its latest big-screen creations at CES 2019, and as expected there are plenty of those sweet organic light emitting diode displays on tap. The coolest rolls up and disappears into a piece of furniture, but even the ones that don't roll up get some improvements. Here's the rundown.

Two 8K models: an 88-inch OLED and a 75-inch LCD. 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 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.

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."

Now playing: Watch this: LG's 2019 TVs include an 88-inch 8K OLED monster
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New OLED TVs include an A9 Gen 2 processor... with "AI." The main image quality boost LG made to its industry-leading OLED models last year 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.

LG will stick with similar series differentiation as in 2018. 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, successor to the C8. Just like in 2018 there will also be a less-expensive B9 model, successor to our Editors' Choice B8, with earlier-generation processing. 

Beyond processing and HDMI 2.1, the 2019 OLEDs are basically the same as last year's versions, with the same light output and other image quality characteristics. 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 and select LCD models finally include the latest version of the HDMI standard: 2.1. They will be the first TVs to support the full spec. 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). They also 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.

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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.

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.

Editors' note: This article was first published Jan. 3 and has been updated with additional photos, video and details.

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