Today is the first day of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, and although 2021 is clearly an irregular year, this has not stopped the routine discovery of new product refreshments by Big Tech companies. This includes LG, which at the moment may be best known for the OLED TVs and OLED panels it provides to other companies for their own devices.
LG’s updates to its OLED range will be modest for most buyers this year. The company advertises brighter HDR on its high-end TVs, but most people won’t brag about these devices, so we’re mostly looking at slightly expanded gaming features and response time improvements, as well as new or seemingly improved AI – managed picture optimizations. In general, no one who bought the LG OLED last year will feel as if they jumped the gun here too early.
Then the bigger story could be OLED, which makes its way to smaller and smaller screen sizes. Last year, LG introduced its first 48-inch OLED TVs, which was a significant drop from the previous floor of 55 inches. But the company looks set to get even smaller by the end of 2021, and we may even see LG’s panels finally venture into desktop monitors in the near future.
But before we get into that, let’s look at what to expect from LG’s larger OLED TVs in 2021.
LG OLED from 2021
To avoid confusion, let’s first clarify the naming convention here. The LG TVs from 2019 were number nine – so C9, B9, etc. – and LG withdrew the iPhone in 2020, going to BX or CX. Now the company has managed to spill over and wrap up to 1.
As in 2020, the C-Series (LG C1) is essentially the flagship; there are cheaper kits and more expensive, but the C1 will probably be the one that attracts the most interest in terms of price / performance ratio.
Unlike the C1, the taller G1 has what LG says is the big story for its OLED TVs this year: higher HDR brightness. It has the new brand “OLED evo” that LG has developed, and the company says it offers higher brightness. Peak brightness is related to the only basic picture quality rating in which competing non-OLED TVs have ever beaten LG, but we don’t know exactly how high the new brightness ceiling is or whether it matches the peak brightness of Samsung’s LED screens. And we probably won’t know until the reviewers get the new kits – probably sometime in the summer, if there are any indications in recent years.
The 4K G1 will be available in 55-, 65- and 77-inch sizes, while the C1 (which is also 4K) will add 48- and 83-inch options. In addition, LG offers 8K variants with the basic C1 function set at 77 and 88 inches. 8K TVs are called Z1.
Finally, some of LG’s marketing materials refer to the B1 model. In recent years, the B-Series offers the same panel as the C-Series and most of the same features, but with a weaker processor. This is reflected in AI-based features for image quality and user interface speed, among other things. LG also mentioned the A1 model. We’re not sure what this is, but it could be an even cheaper entry-level alternative.
With the new PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles on the market (although still quite difficult to find in stock), gaming is a clear focus for this iteration of LG TVs. LG has already added support for HDMI 2.1, 4K @ 120Hz and VRR (variable refresh rate) in previous models, although VRR is half-broken on LG TVs yet. So the most important squares have already been ticked. This time, LG has introduced a “Game Optimization” menu for all its TVs, allowing you to more easily access features such as VRR in one place. TVs also have multiple gameplay profiles tailored to specific genres, such as a first-person shooter or role-playing game, rather than a universal approach.
LG also claims that the new OLEDs will be the first TVs to come with Google’s built-in streaming game Stadia. Users will simply need a Stadia controller and a subscription to play games without a connected console. Nvidia’s competitive GeForce Now service also comes later in 2021.
LG has not yet announced prices or release dates for any of these TVs, but that will certainly come in the next few months.
The beginning of the OLED computer invasion of the monitor
As TVs get bigger and bigger, they often grab titles, but for OLED, the decline is slower. LG’s ability to produce OLED panels has so far focused on either the size of smartphones or the large size of the TV in the living room. In the meantime, you have smaller TVs, more suitable for bedrooms or offices (or just for people with smaller living rooms or who don’t want a TV to dominate their space) and desktop monitors.
Even the best computer monitors are known … well, just absolutely awful, to be honest, compared to the best TVs or smartphone displays in terms of picture quality on many indicators such as contrast. Instead, monitors usually emphasize response time at the expense of picture quality, which of course makes sense for many uses. In addition, it is difficult to make it impossible to cram thousands of local dimming zones into a 27-inch LCD display. All this leaves LG the opportunity to take this place through OLED, assuming that users are not too concerned about image retention.
At CES this year, LG signaled that it is ready to make this move. The company says it will introduce its first 42-inch OLED screens later this year, but also says it is ready to start offering panels between 20 and 30 inches, both for itself and for other companies that use their panels themselves widgets.
We haven’t reached 30 inches yet, but LG has announced its first 31.5-inch OLED computer monitor – 4K 32EP950 or “UltraFine OLED Pro”, which offers 99% coverage of both DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB. The ports will include one HDMI, two DisplayPort and three USB, and at least one of these USB ports is USB-C. There is still no information on prices or release date (dear, to be sure), but things are increasing: Samsung is the other major manufacturer of OLED panels in the world and also plans to start launching OLED monitors of similar size.
We assume that LG also produces LED TVs
While LG makes non-OLED TVs, the company’s OLED models get the most attention every year – and with good reason, as LG’s LED TVs are usually not much for writing at home. Not that they are bad; they just don’t do much to differentiate themselves from similar TVs made by other companies.
The biggest news from LG, which is not OLED, this year is the introduction of the new range of TVs “QNED”. They are not radically different from other LCD TVs, but they have Mini LED backlighting like competing high-end LCD / LED TVs from Samsung and others this year. The QNED branding is just marketing talk, as it shows that these TVs combine Mini LED technology with the existing and essentially meaningless “Quantum NanoCell” label.
Mini LED displays have backlights made up of multiple light dots to better isolate dark areas of the picture from bright ones – something that LCDs are very bad at compared to the increasingly popular OLED alternatives. All calculations show that the improvement can be noticeable, but there is still no competition with OLED, which can isolate black or bright whites based on a pixel.
LG will also ship modestly updated versions of its lower-end NanoCell LED TVs, but again, there is not much to distinguish these models from countless similar TVs from other companies. Like the models mentioned above, NanoCell TVs will feature the new Game Optimizer feature.
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