LGs 2014 TVs launch with an emphasis on simplicity

To end April, last week Samsung showed off its range of both curved and flat TVs across the 4K and Full HD spectrum. But fighting hard on the other side is LG, which this week is showing off just what it has planned in the space for 2014.

Every year, April to May is the time you can expect TV makers in Australia to update their line-up. It’s so consistent, you can literally set your watch by it.

It’s also the time for sales, with last year’s models receiving a price drop in favour of the new models which will take their place. This week, that’ll begin to happen for LG, which is now yelling to the world just what it has in store for Australia, with a new way of presenting smart TV, as well as a host of technological upgrades.

The changes to technology are certainly important, and this year, you can expect to see more push to get people to buy the future-friendly TVs that are based around the Ultra High Definition or “UHD” standard. Also known as “4K” (even though there are some technical differences there), the TVs running this technology pack in more pixels and produce a higher quality picture, and even though there’s no real readily available 4K content yet — outside of what you can produce with a 4K camera or 4K-compatible smartphone — these televisions endeavour to make Full HD content shine right now, upscaling for the moment until UHD movies and games start to roll out.

“Ultra High Definition is happening in Australia at a very high rate,” said Lambro Skropidis, General Manager of Marketing at LG Australia.

With that comment, we get the feeling that Aussies see the point of Ultra HD, and to that end, LG plans to take advantage, providing several options for people keen to see what the fuss is about.

Oh sure, you might not be able to find a 4K copy of “Blade Runner” or “Wall-E” yet, but you can still upscale, and catering to that will be two models, making up the mid- and high-end ranges for LG’s “U Series” products, which means “ultra.”

In the mid-range, customers will see the LG UB850T providing UHD’s 3840×2160 resolution at a refresh rate of 100Hz to both a 49 and a 55 inch screen, with a five-stage upscaling chip, and four pairs of passive 3D compatible gasses in the box. Pricing for these models chimes in at $2499 for the 49 inch and $3199 for the 55 inch.

Up from this is the high-end model, the UB980T. This newbie will bring the refresh rate up to 200Hz, and provide screen sizes of either 65 inches, 79 inches, or 84 inches. Later in the year, you can even expect a 98 inch model in this range, for those who need to replace their wall with an ultra high definition TV.

More than just bigger sizes and a better refresh rate, the LG UB980T will also include a slightly better six-stage upscaling process, and some solid sound credentials too, with Harman/Kardon the technological provider here and as much as 120W for the 85 inch made of 14 speakers, 90W of power for the 79 inch over 12 speakers, and 70W for the 65 inch over 10 speakers.

These models will understandably cost a little more, with the 65 inch model coming in at $5999 and the 79 inch model at $9999. Neither the 84 inch or 98 inch varieties are priced yet.

Below the 4K TVs are the Full HD ones, and there are quite a few to work with, as these make up LG’s “L Series” of tellies. Five specific series of TVs are available here, ranging in size from 32 inches to 65 inches, and supporting a range of technologies.

Where most of the attention for these sits is in either the LB5820/5840, LB6500/6560, and LB7500 ranges, because while the TVs all have internal processing, virtual surround, media support, and various big screen sizes, these are the TVs that also have LG’s new smart TV interface based on the older webOS platform.

Also included on the Ultra HD models, LG’s webOS interface attempts to cut down on the complexity that so-called smart TVs often bring to the table.

Just as it was announced at CES earlier in the year, the new interface LG is bringing to the table is one based on an established operating system, albeit a short lived one. Palm and HP’s webOS may not have lived a very fruitful life on phones and tablets, but LG has picked the dead operating system up, revitalising it for use on the company’s televisions.

Little of the old webOS can be seen in the system, with LG using it for its backbone, and making the interface easy to use with slanted icons, bright colours, and a speed that makes it much fast than what LG used in its previous smart TV operating system.

Already there’s a difference in look and simplicity of operation. But some users may cry out for the multitasking they receive on other smart operating systems, and that’s one area where LG won’t apparently be ruling the roost.

While we have only had a limited play with LG’s webOS TV interface, LG representatives were quick to point out that the system could not display two services on screen at the same time, so if you want to read Twitter while you’re watching So You Think You Can Dance, you’ll need a phone or tablet for that, as the TV won’t let you do that on the one screen.

Beyond this drawback, though, the interface has a lot going for it, thanks to the clean look and simple style, so we’ll be curious to explore it more.

Another area we’ll be keen to play with some more is with sound, and LG is pushing sound almost as aggressively as it’s doing with TVs, announcing several sound systems and even an update to last year’s SoundPlate.

For the people that like a big does of sound, LG will have four tall speakers each with vertical-firing loud speakers to create 9.1 channels of sound, arriving in the form of the BH9540TW ($1099), a home theatre with a Blu-ray player built right in.

The top part of the speakers (below) also incorporate a material similar to Kevlar called “Aramid Fibre” which breaks up frequencies differently and is said to create a more natural sound than speakers relying on other materials.

In theory, the combination of materials and upward facing speakers should make for a more realistic and louder experience when movies need it, but if you also need to hear your sound while people are asleep, a private listening mode will enable Android and iOS smartphones to connect up to the home theatre system wirelessly, letting you plug headphones into your device to hear the sound without waking anyone else up.

A new soundbar is also here — a few of them, in fact — with four models ranging from $249 to $749 depending on how much sound you need set to match your TVs. Cables aren’t even necessary with some TVs, with Sound Sync working to provide wireless sound on some TVs, though we assume the feature is only available on LG TVs.

There’s also an update to that SoundPlate LG released at the end of last year is going to go on sale, providing more power and even an external subwoofer, which based on our experience with the original is a much needed addition. This year’s model is the LAB540W and also integrates a Blu-ray player for $799.

One other area might have escaped your clutches, and that’s OLED. LG dropped the price on its OLED TV recently, down to $5999, and while it’s not unveiling an update for one of the world’s first commercially available OLED TVs, LG does say another is coming, with a 4K model arriving later this year in the form of a 77 inch.

“This revolutionary TV will literally blow the socks off anyone watching it,” said LG’s Grant Vandenberg, Marketing Director at the Australian arm of the company.

Pricing for this big flat and thin TV haven’t been announced yet, not like the other models today, but we’d hazard a guess that if you have to ask what the price is this early into the game, you probably can’t afford it.