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8K TVs Coming From Samsung, LG & TCL

Also: Sony upgrades headphones

With 4K pricing suddenly sinking perilously close to commoditization, Samsung, LG and TCL all announced next-generation 8K TVs at IFA 2018 in Berlin this week. Sharp has already started selling its previously announced 8K model in Asia and Europe.

While no pricing was officially announced on any of the new 8K models, expectations are sets will initially sell in the $8,000-$10,000 range. With no available native 8K content, and none likely in the foreseeable future, all three vendors touted the upscaling qualities of their new models.

“It’s the start of a new era,” pronounced Samsung’s visual display VP, Guy Kinnell. “We know 8K content will grow over time.” While obviously still in its infancy, LG projects the 8K market will grow to more than 5 million units by 2022.

On the audio side of the market, the expansion of the “smart” voice-enabled speaker market continues, with Netgear and Harman Kardon combining on a networked smart speaker, while Sony unveiled a new Google Assistant-integrated party Bluetooth speaker and new noise cancelling headphones soon-to-be-imbued with Amazon Alexa.

8K Is On Its Way

Just as 4K TVs offer four times the pixels of 2K HD, 8K again quadruples the number of pixels from eight in 4K to a whopping 33 million (7680 x 4320), producing a stunning near-real image, especially from native 8K content.

Samsung seems the most aggressive in its 8K offerings, unveiling four sizes of its QLED ultra Ultra HD sets: 85- , 82- , 75- and 65-inch versions. According to a Samsung spokesperson, the 85-inch will be available globally in November, the 82-inch in Europe and selected other markets, both priced at $10,000-plus, and the 75- and 65-inch sets will start shipping globally in October.

Samsung’s full-array quantum dot sets will offer 4,000-nit brightness and meet 100 percent color volume certification from VDE, will feature HDR10+ and an upscaling quantum processor capable of intelligently optimizes content upscaling “from any resolution,” according to Kinnell. In its IFA booth – and presumably in its upcoming CES space – the company will be demonstrating upscaling from a variety of sources and resolutions.

LG’s plans for its 88-inch 8K OLED model are a bit vaguer; the company did not reveal when or how much, or even a model number. But the company is clearly hoping to couple 8K and OLED to continue to perpetuate a more profitable premium market.

TCL was more specific about its plans for its 75-inch quantum dot 8K set, a special FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Edition, which measures a mere 20mm at its thinnest point. No pricing was revealed, however. The FIBA 8K set will include an integrated Dolby Atmos Onkyo smart soundbar with Google Assistant, which can provide voice information and home control even if the set is off.

Smarter Speakers, Headphones

Netgear and Harman Kardon have combined on a logical next-step for smart speakers with Netgear’s Orbi Voice. Not only is the Voice a full Amazon Alexa smart Wi-Fi/Bluetooth speaker, it also can be used as a node in Netgear’s Orbi Wi-Fi Mesh system.

Available in mid-September for $429 bundled with an Orbi router or at the end of September as a standalone for $299, the fabric-covered Voice is equipped with a 3.5-inch front-facing woofer and a 1-inch tweeter along with a four-microphone array and far-field voice recognition so users can be heard from across the room. The Voice’s volume can be adjusted on the unit – a user waves a hand over its top to reveal the touch controls – or via the Orbi app, which also adds treble, bass and EQ adjustments.

As a Wi-Fi mesh system, the Orbi and Voice can cover a 4,500-square-foot area with up-to 3Gbps Wi-Fi, and is equipped with two Ethernet jacks to directly jack-in connected gear such as a media streamer. Netgear plans on adding intercom capability with a software update and, next year, multi-room capabilities.

For more portable smart sound needs, Sony’s SRS-XB501G Bluetooth party speaker ($299, October) has Google Assistant built in, is IP65 water-resistant and dust-proof, a built-in handle and tripod mount, and will play for 16 hours on a single charge.

For more personal smart listening, Sony has upgraded its WH-1000XM2 noise cancelling headphones with the new WH-1000XM3, now USB-C quick charge, which provides up to five hours of battery in just 10 minutes of charging, hi-res 40mm drivers and Adaptive Sound Control and Optimizer to automatically adjust sound to compensate for ambient noise.

To smarten up the headphones, Sony will, at some as yet unannounced point, add Amazon Alexa capabilities with a firmware update.