(LG 2017 W Series OLED pictured above)
There is a whole bunch of awesomeness going on in the home theater world right now. If you haven’t been keeping up, you know I have, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision audio and video formats are growing in popularity, Active HDR (cool?), brightness cannons (seriously!), and QLED (better than OLED?) tv’s. What the heck is all of this? Let me tell you.
As expected LG released an updated OLED model this year. The changes from last year include a different design, increased peak brightness (about 400 nits brighter), and they sport a wider color gamut. The increased brightness will help HDR content pop and with the aid of a richer color gamut, make an incredible picture even more delicious. This year’s OLEDs still support HDR 10 and Dolby Vision (DV) although there will still be minimal benefit from pulling a DV signal as opposed to an HDR 10 one. The coolest update to the LG OLED line this year is the brand new “W” model. This model is literally wallpaper thin and looks incredible. It’s so thin that it doesn’t even have screws to mount it to a wall or stand, it’s light enough that it uses a magnetic mount to stick to a wall (16.8 pounds and .15″ thin for a 65″ model). Pretty incredible! It’s also able to bend slightly in the corners while mounting so it’s not an entirely rigid structure, which could mean that in a few years we could have some consumer available flexible OLEDs to ogle at. LG is also touting Active HDR. This is an advancement of HDR which allows the tv to process each frame of HDR 10 content individually to maximize its value. Not sure how this would look but in theory, should enhance all HDR 10 content which is a big plus.
Side story about LG OLED…I bought one! You’d probably think I’m still going crazy looking at the incredible blacks, infinite contrast, and an otherwise awesome tv. You’d be wrong. Two days after I bought it, I sold it. It just didn’t blow me away like I was expecting. I think it came down to two factors. One, I already had a a high end Samsung tv that was significantly brighter and two, I had seriously high expectations for the tv. The perfect blacks are awesome but I watched the 4K blu ray of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and it just wasn’t mind blowing. The lack of brightness issue will probably be resolved in this year’s OLEDs but I’ll read the reviews to find out, just like you.
Samsung is releasing a model of tv labeled as QLED. Technically this type of display is a self-emissive technology similar to OLED but we are still a number of years away from that being a reality. The 2017 Samsung QLED is basically a jacked up version of an LCD tv. It boasts 100% color volume, not to be confused with color space coverage, which is the first for any tv. This should result in impressive, vivid colors and make HDR content look even better than last year’s models. QLEDs for this year also feature a dual-pixel structure which is supposed to greatly increase viewing angles. Traditionally, poor viewing angles are one of the major drawbacks of LCD technology. The third big advantage of QLED is the brightness. These tv’s are supposed to max out at 2,000 nits, which is as mentioned above, a literal brightness cannon. The combination of the extremely high brightness and color volume scores should add up to a beautiful HDR image.
Sony is jumping in on the OLED game this year. They are using LG’s panel in their tv’s but it will be interesting to see how the tv performs in the hands of another company. Can expect similar picture performance to LG’s 2017 OLED. Sony’s design is very interesting, check out the link in the additional information section.
I explained DV in more detail in this post but it’s important to note that now Sony is releasing some tv’s with support for DV. That makes 3 of the 4 big tv manufacturers that have signed on to incorporate Vision in their sets. Samsung is the final maker to submit to Dolby but it believes that an active or dynamic HDR 10 signal can compete with DV. Currently, HDR 10 metadata is static but active HDR is supposed to be released in the next couple years and could potentially compete with Dolby Vision for HDR quality.
LG and Sony are also releasing the first UHD blu ray players that support Vision. They won’t ship with the ability to play Dolby Vision content but it is slated to be added via firmware update later this year.
Getting my first Atmos-enabled system this week and I’m pretty pumped! I did have to sell my Sonos Playbar and Sub to get it but it’s a good trade in my book. Sony and LG are releasing their first Atmos-enabled sound systems this year and will probably both be lights-out-good, with the Sony unit having an edge from first impressions at CES 2017. There is a lot more useful information from Dolby in the additional information section below but basically the sounds in every scene in a movie have a location or space. Each location is set to reveal itself through one of the 15, depending on your speaker configuration, speakers and adds an incredible amount of immersion to soundtracks. Namely that there are upward firing speakers that bounce the height of sounds off the ceiling and make things feel as if they are based in a 3D space around you. Rain falling, a jet passing by overhead, and gunfire are all sure to be incredibly realistic with this audio enhancement. There are relatively few blu rays that have Dolby Atmos encoded in them but I own 6 of them and I’m dying to try them out. (Complete list in additional information section).
HLG stands for hybrid log gamma and it will bring HDR to broadcast content. Sports, tv shows, and other over-the-air programming will be able to support HDR. The hang up for the last couple years was struggling to find a way to send a signal that supports HDR, which is a heavier data transmission, than the standard non-HDR content over broadcast. Samsung and LG have stated that their 2016 models will get the hybrid log gamma update later this year when it is available. (For LG, only their 2016 OLEDs will be getting the upgrade, not their other 2016 sets). Likely all 2017 models from Sony, Samsung, and LG will support HLG out of the box or potentially by firmware update.
These are the big updates for home theater in 2017 and it’s set to be another great step for us enthusiasts and even those who are less interested. Dolby Atmos is really starting to take off and tv technology is booming. The brightness alone is doubling for high-end tv’s and Samsung’s claim to have 100% color volume of DCI-P3 is an astounding feat if it’s true. Adding HLG support to broadcast is also cool because now virtually all content streaming, disc-based, and broadcast are capable of supporting HDR content. This might be the year to take the plunge and nab an HDR capable tv…
2017 LG OLED (2017 models are B7, C7, E7, G7 and W7)
Edited 2/28/17: Added Dolby Vision capable blu ray players and featured image