CES 2019 - THE BEST TVS, PROJECTORS, AUDIO PRODUCTS
In no particular order, here are the sound and video products that caused a scene at the consumer tech’s biggest show, CES 2019 in Las Vegas.
TVs and Projectors
Panasonic’s new flagship model is an OLED described by its makers as “the world’s most cinematic TV”, principally due to its picture settings being tuned by a top Hollywood colourist (who worked on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World, among other films) for impeccable colour accuracy.
It’s also the first television to support both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, as well as Hybrid Log Gamma, covering all the major types of HDR and ensuring a level of HDR future proofing not found on many rivals.
Looking for another world first? The GZ2000 also comes with upward-firing speakers enabling it to deliver Dolby Atmos’ spherical soundstage and immerse the viewer in directional audio. The general sound is also tuned by Technics, the Panasonic-owned hi-fi maker, which promises to keep it clean and refined.
It’s coming in 55-inch and 65-inch options, but Panasonic has yet to reveal when it’s arriving, or how much it’ll cost when it does.
LG OLED TV R
The award for most technically astonishing display at CES undoubtedly goes to the OLED TV R, LG’s rollable screen. This impossibly thin 65-inch 4K panel swiftly and silently retracts into a rectangular cabinet at the touch of a button, making it the most compact big-screen TV in history.
The cabinet doubles as a Dolby Atmos-equipped soundbar. Clad in eye-catching acoustic wool from Kvadrat of Denmark and boasting a 4.2-channel, 100-watt speaker system, it’ll even function as an independent music player with the TV R is fully rolled up inside.
The webOS-based smart TV system supports Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri via HomeKit and Apple AirPlay 2. Furthering the TV’s smart home ambitions, its screen can be partially rolled out to reveal only its on-screen clock, music controls and the like.
There’s no confirmed price or release date for the OLED TV R currently, but we’re confident in predicting that, whenever it arrives, it’ll be very much aimed at the premium early adopter market – and priced accordingly.
Samsung Micro LED 75”
Undoubtedly Samsung’s most impressive screen on the show floor, this concept works by an unusual principle: instead of relying on traditional backlighting to illuminate its pixels, it uses panels of tiny, self-emissive LEDs – millions of individual, microscopic red, green and blue lights, essentially.
With no backlight therefore necessary, it’s possible to make a Micro LED display extremely thin indeed. The fact that each LED can be individually turned on or off is also significant, as it means that the TV should be able to deliver perfect blacks, high brightness and an ultra-wide colour gamut.
If you think it sounds like an inorganic alternative to OLED, you’d be right – but Samsung says its LEDs are superior to OLEDs in that they don’t suffer from a relatively short lifespan or risk permanent screen burn-in.
Samsung’s 2019 TV range is primarily based on its excellent QLED Quantum Dot technology, but Micro LED is a glimpse at its future ambitions. Even though we may not see an actual Micro LED on the market this year, it’s heartening to see there’s still room for major innovations in home display tech.
Lenovo Legion Y44w
Pitched at hardcore PC gamers seeking the ultimate display, the Legion Y44w from Lenovo boasts a 43.4-inch ultra-wide screen with a 3840 x 1200 resolution, HDR and support for FreeSync 2 – meaning it can display games running at variable refresh rates up to 144Hz.
It also offers a removable Harmon Kardon speaker and picture-by-picture, and with two HDMI 2.0 ports it’s even possible to have two inputs on-screen at once, so if you want to binge on your latest Netflix crush while stomping Fortnite foes, this might be the monitor for you. It’ll be available in April, priced at US$1,199.
Or, to give it its full name, the LG OLED88Z9PUA. This is LG’s flagship television for 2019, the company’s first 8K TV, and the first OLED 8K model on the market.
The 88-inch screen will upscale anything to 8K resolution, using LG’s ThinQ AI deep learning to add the extra detail while reducing noise. Indeed, the AI’s algorithm’s come into play whatever you’re watching, as it’ll analyse incoming audio and video sources, feed the subsequent data to its deep learning system via the internet, then adjust settings on the fly to suit them.
Also on board are Dolby Atmos sound, Dolby Vision HDR and both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Pricing and availability for the Z9 are yet to be announced.
LG CineBeam Laser 4K HU85L
Projectors didn’t feature particularly heavily at this year’s CES, but among those on display LG’s short-throw HU85L was the standout. This compact, portable model is capable of creating a 90-inch 4K image from just two inches away from your wall or screen, or a 120-inch image from seven inches away.
The projector (price and availability TBC) supports voice commands – well, it’s 2019 after all – and a webOS smart interface able to run apps from YouTube, Netflix and the like.
Hisense Laser TV 100L7T
LG wasn’t the only Asian company debuting a short-throw projector at CES 2019. Hisense, the Chinese manufacturer best known for its budget-friendly TVs, unveiled the 100L7T, a “Laser TV” able to create a 120-inch 4K picture when placed just seven inches from a wall or screen. Sounds strangely familiar …
The 100L7T also supports HDR, various video streaming apps and, via Alexa, voice controls, and has an integrated speaker and matching subwoofer made by Harmon Kardon. So it’s likely to be, in many ways, a direct rival to LG’s HU85L – and probably coming in at a slightly lower price, if we know Hisense.
TCL X10 Quantum Dot 8K TV
Likely to be the first budget (relatively speaking, of course) 8K television to the global market, Chinese manufacturer TCL’s 75-inch X10 uses the same Quantum Dot display technology as Samsung’s current flagship models.
Running on the Android TV platform and featuring Google Assistant for voice controls and smart home control, it also features an Onkyo-designed soundbar speaker with Dolby Atmos support.
TCL says that the TV will be available in selected markets in the second half of 2019, but has yet to confirm pricing.
Sony ZG9 8K Master Series TV
Launching in 98-inch and 85-inch options, Sony’s 2019 flagship TV is its first 8K effort, and comes with a powerful new X1 Ultimate image processor to upscale other content to super high-resolution.
The TV also features a brand new sound system with four front-facing speakers – two below and two above the screen – to create a soundstage that seems to emanate from the screen itself rather than from below. Dolby Atmos isn’t on board at launch, but Sony says it will be added via a downloadable firmware update in the near future.
Sony AG9 4K OLED Master Series TV
While the ZG9 may have the highest resolution of any Sony model this year, the AG9 4K model may well offer a punchier overall picture due to its OLED display tech, which promises deeper blacks, more colour detail and an ultra-wide viewing angle. It also comes with Netflix Calibrated Mode, so cord-cutters can be sure they’re getting their favourite series and films in the quality the creator intended.
Coming in 55-inch, 65-inch and 77-inch sizes, the AG9 has an incredibly slim profile and, like the ZG9, runs on the Sony Android TV platform. You can expect Google Assistant, apps for YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, and support for Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit.
Pricing and availability for all Sony’s 2019 TVs have yet to be confirmed.
Speakers, Turntables & Headphones
Sony PS-LX310BT turntable
Pitched at those aiming to get into vinyl but put off by high turntable prices and the need to invest in an amp, pre-amp and speakers, Sony’s PS-LX310BT comes with Bluetooth (as well as a built-in pre-amp and standard line outputs) to make setup super simple.
The inclusion of Bluetooth means that the turntable can be swiftly paired with wireless speakers, soundbars or headphones at the touch of a button and that, twinned with the low cost of US $299, makes the PS-LX310BT sound like the ideal entry-point for vinyl newbies. It will be on sale from May 2019.
Audio-Technica AT-LPW30TK turntable
Japan’s Audio-technica is particularly renowned for its studio microphones, but has built a solid rep for excellent turntables too – and the upcoming AT-LPW30TK is built to charm the eyes as well as the ears.
With its teak veneer finish, this turntable recalls the classic hi-fi components of the 1970s, but the makers claim the high-density wood construction makes a difference sonically too – by damping down potential low-frequency feedback. The turntable also features an aluminium tonearm, built-in switchable pre-amp, Dual Moving Magnet cartridge.
New Zealand prices are yet to be confirmed, but the Audio-Technica AT-LPW30TK will be priced at £299 in the UK when it starts shipping this Spring.
Are you looking for the perfect audio accompaniment for the weekend barbecue or beach trip? Sony’s hulking GTK-PG10 might be just the ticket, seeing as it’s splash-proof, equipped with handles for portability and a battery delivering up to 13 hours of music playback per charge. Oh, and it even has a table on top and cup-holders for your tinnies.
With Bluetooth, line-in, USB and karaoke microphone connectivity, plus a built-in FM tuner, there’s no shortage of inputs, while the unfolding top panel switches the speaker output from indoor to a wider outdoor mode via up-firing tweeters.
The Sony GTK-PG10 is “coming soon” priced at US $250 - New Zealand pricing and availability are yet to be confirmed.
HyperX Cloud Orbit S
It might look like just another gaming headset, but HyperX’s Cloud Orbit S is particularly noteworthy for being the most affordable way to get Audeze’s positional audio in your ears.
Audeze’s tech creates a believable three-dimensional soundstage, with 360º head-tracking included – so as you move your head around, the sounds move with you. The effect is like VR for your ears, particularly useful in increasing video game immersion, and previously the cheapest way you could get it was through Audeze’s own Mobius headphones, but the Cloud Orbit S is a fair bit less (US $330 to the US $400 you’d pay for the Mobius), while being well built, comfortable and offers excellent audio quality.
It’s out in the first quarter of 2019 in the US, but availability in other regions is yet to be confirmed.
There’s no more iconic DJ turntable than the Technics SL-1200, and CES 2019 saw the unveiling of its seventh incarnation since 1972 – the first with a coreless direct drive motor to avoid cogging rotational irregularities and full reverse play (a nod to its roots in hip-hop and dance music).
The MK7 shares a similar elegant, utilitarian look to previous SL-1200 models, albeit with a new matte black finish and construction that blends aluminium with fibreglass to increase rigidity and reduce vibration.
Technics has yet to confirm either a price or release date for the SL-1200MK7, or if it will even become available in New Zealand.
Another impressive Audio-Technica announcement was the manufacturer’s first pair of premium over-ear noise-cancelling headphones, built to compete against the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM3 and Bose QuietComfort 35 but priced a little lower.
Built to be lightweight and comfortable, the 40mm driver-equipped headphones use four microphones to pick up exterior noise to then be cancelled out, leaving the wearer in an oasis of near-silence. The effect can be toggled on and off by holding your palm over the left earcup, which is ideal when you need to have a conversation then quickly zip back to your music. The makers say the internal battery delivers up to 35 hours of Bluetooth audio and active noise cancellation per charge.
The headphones support wireless audio via Bluetooth 5, but an included cable gives users the option of a wired connection, which is necessary for Hi-Res Audio playback.
NZ pricing is TBC, but the ATH-ANC900BT will launch in spring priced at US$299/£269.
Klipsch Bar 48W
In terms of voice assistants and wireless audio, soundbars don’t come much more fully loaded than the Klipsch Bar 48W, which is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple AirPlay 2, opening up a vast variety of ways in which the user can control it and supply it with music to stream.
Designed to ape the classic hi-fi look of Klipsch’s Reference speaker series, the 48W can be purchased with or without a separate matching subwoofer and supports DTS Virtual:X surround sound. It will be available in the Spring, with pricing TBC.
Sony LSPX-S2 Glass Sound
A speaker that looks like anything but – in fact, it looks more like a candle – the Sony LSPX-S2 Glass Sound can project 360º sound via new Advanced Vertical Drive technology. An actuator located inside “taps” the glass tweeter from below to create sound, and Sony claims its wide surface area compared to regular speakers creates a loud, clear sound. It’s even compatible with Hi-Res Audio, suggesting Sony’s claims hold some weight.
The speaker features both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless tech and can be networked with up to ten other Sony wireless speakers in a single location. Additionally, it can operate without mains power thanks to a rechargeable battery that delivers up to eight hours of playback per charge.
The Sony LSPX-S2 Glass Sound will be available in New Zealand from July, but pricing is not yet confirmed.
This little-known brand produced what we believe to be a world-first at CES 2019: a pair of true wireless headphones with a wireless range of 100 feet – about three times what the Apple AirPods can manage.
The extreme range comes courtesy of the new Qualcomm QCC3026 chip, but you’ll only get its true benefits when using a smartphone packing one of Qualcomm’s recent Snapdragon 845 or 855 processors.
Mavin claims the Air-X offers about twice the battery life of the AirPods to boot (10 hours, with a further 40 added by the charging case), which makes them sound excellent value for their US $179 asking price. There’s no word just yet on an NZ launch date or price.
NAD Masters M10
Those searching for a compact high-end home audio system would do well to cast their eyes over the new Masters M10 from NAD, which comes equipped for hooking up home cinema and hi-fi sources, while also supporting both Apple AirPlay 2 and BluOS Hi-Res multi-room wireless streaming or LAN-based streaming from a networked storage device.
The digital amplifier inside delivers 100W per channel, which seems fairly impressive for the tiny size of the unit, which looks suitably elegant thanks to its design by the renowned DF-ID agency.
Look out for the Masters M10 from February, and local pricing is expected to be NZ$4,999 RRP.
Having been covering consumer tech since phones were dumb and TVs weren't flat, few things in the gadget world still have the power to surprise Sam – which is why he loves writing about those few things that do. A Londoner transplanted to New York, and now returned to the English coast, he’s a photographer and loving what drones have brought to the hobby.
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