CES 2019 preview: LG, Samsung, Sony, 8K OLED TV, Alexa headphones

CES 2019 preview: LG, Samsung, Sony, 8K OLED TV, Alexa headphones

What Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage is to musicians, CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is to technology brands: an annual world stage on which to capture the attention of millions.

Every January, for the last 51 years, the Convention and World Trade Center in Las Vegas (and ten other locations around the city) is transformed into a display and demo showcase of the latest in technology and innovation from over 4,500 exhibitors. 

In recent years it has been all 5G, smart cities, self-driving cars, artificial intelligence and robotics too – and of course, that year’s consumer electronics due to globally grace the shelves in the following months.

CES 2019 will be held on Tuesday 8th to Friday 11th January, with the ‘Media’ days (when you can expect the majority of the big reveals and news at whathifi.com) taking place on the two days prior to the show opening.

So what do we know already and what can we expect?

CES 2018: The highlights

CES 2018: The highlights

At CES 2018, 4K OLED TVs continued to hog the spotlight, with sets from LG, Sony and Panasonic catching the eye with their dazzling screens. Samsung’s reply: 8K QLED and monster MicroLED displays. 

Elsewhere, smart speakers and truly wireless headphones claimed CES in much the same way they have done in the consumer bubble the rest of the year. Dolby Atmos and ‘3D’ soundbars from Sony and Sennheiser made their debut, and we were even able to take five in an all-new AV-enhancing ‘smart’ chair.

Audio highs – which comprised our Stars of CES 2018 winners – spanned Technics’ flagship SL-1000R deck, the now-five-star Chord Qutest, Arcam’s new HDA hi-fi component range, Denon and Marantz’s 13-channel flagship AV amps, and the JBL L100 Classic speakers the US brand revived from the ‘70s. 

As is tradition, we'll be at CES's hi-fi haven, The Venetian, to dish out our Stars of CES 2019 awards to our favourite audio products of the show, so watch this space.

MORE: Stars of CES 2018: The best audio products of CES

CES 2019: What can we expect this year?

CES 2019: What can we expect this year?

8K and 4K TVs

Death, taxes, new TVs at CES: nothing’s surer. What’s less certain, however, is whether 8K will dominate the scene. Despite CES 2019 being a likely stage to show off Samsung’s current 8K line-up and to mark the debut for LG and Sony’s 8K models, which we’ve only seen prototypes of so far, it’s unlikely 4K will be left out.

We expect The Top TV brands – with 8K-TVs or not – will have curtains to draw on new 4K fare, ahead of their inevitable 2019 spring and summer launches. LG has already teased some specs of its next-gen 4K OLED TVs, and as far as we know Panasonic’s immediate 8K ambitions are limited to cameras.

HDR10+

We should probably be watching HDR10+ content already. There has been a trickle of news throughout the year on the latest HDR format, spanning the start of its licensing and logo certification program and the first waves of compatible TVs. HDR10+ currently supported by Panasonic and Philips sets, in addition to those from its co-founder Samsung. 

But where's the content? 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. both slated title releases by the end of this year – but with time running out, expect to hear more updates at CES. Meanwhile, Rakuten's TV rental service says it will provide HDR10+ content too, and in the US, Shout! Factory is set to release We, The Marines on Ultra HD Blu-ray with HDR10+ and HDR10 on December 11th.

Smart headphones

Chipset manufacturer Qualcomm recently announced its new hardware/software package that it hopes will encourage more brands to make Amazon-Alexa-powered headphones, such as Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II (above). 

We could, therefore, see the ‘smart’ (ie. voice-controlled) focus switch from wireless speakers to headphones, although we’ll bet on there being a raft of new Alexa and Google Assistant Bluetooth speaker announcements. Maybe even a Bixby smart something-or-other too.

True wireless headphones

Are we in for another true wireless treat? It’s certainly an area of the headphone sector we believe could do with a quality boost. We’ll be keeping our eyes and ears out for something with potential to rival Sony’s excellent WF-1000X - especially on the Sony stand.

The much-anticipated second-gen Apple AirPods will likely land in 2019, but Apple will inevitably continue its CES boycott and unveil them at one of its own events later in the year.

And then of course there are other headphone innovations that may be on the horizon? How much tech and artificial intelligence can we cram into earbuds? Sound personalisation don’t appear to want to die, and how about language translation? The Mars true wireless earbuds caught our eye in January last year for their person-to-person real-time translation.

Sony

Will Sony reveal a new flagship 4K TV at CES? If last year is anything to go by, perhaps not. Sony announced its AF8 4K OLED range at the show, but it wasn’t until July that its top-billing Master Series TV range (AF9 4K OLED and ZF9 4K LCD) was revealed. Still, we’d expect at least some new TVs on display – maybe a replacement for the AF8? And, fingers crossed, that 85in 8K HDR LCD display we saw at IFA. 

Aside from TVs, we can take a punt at new headphones (including the true wireless variety) and AV amps. Sony’s CES launches are always prolific, so visit whathifi.com following the press conference on Monday 7th at 5pm (GMT-8) to find out the latest news.

Samsung

Rumour has it that Samsung could be debuting a notebook computer with a 4K OLED panel. 

As for TVs, we’d typically expect an update to the current 4K QLED TV range, which has really seen QLED TVs come into its own this year, bagging a handful of five-star reviews. 

Could 2019 be the year QLED trumps OLED? After all, the battle is becoming increasingly close. Released only a few months ago, Samsung’s (and the UK’s) first-ever 8K TV range will presumably sit loud and proud on its stand for all to ogle.

LG

Last CES, LG announced a 2018 update to its OLED TV range that saw it winning a What Hi-Fi? Award and Product of the Year Award for its OLED65C8PLA and OLED55C8PLA respectively. Its OLED models should be getting even better for 2019, too. LG has teased some specs ahead of the launch, such as the next-gen version of the Alpha 9 (α9) processor found in all but one of its 2018 OLEDs. The a9 2nd-gen brings advancements across the board, in part thanks to its improved mapping, colour correction and noise reduction algorithms.

Despite announcing a mammoth 88in 8K OLED TV a few days before CES 2018, LG didn’t present it there. We saw it in prototype form at IFA in September, though, so it should make its CES debut in January – maybe even in production-ready guise, too.

Panasonic

2018 was a big year for Panasonic. The company turned 100 years old, and kicked off a year of celebrations at CES by announcing new OLED TVs, 4K Blu-ray players (including the Award-winning DP-UB9000) and a flagship Technics turntable

Panasonic's dedicated ‘100 Years’ exhibition won’t return to its CES floor space in January, then, but we can no doubt expect a 2019 TV range, perhaps new 4K disc spinners, and maybe more Technics goodies too.

Cambridge Audio

CES isn't always the best place to find the latest hi-fi kit but one slice of two-channel we are aware of is the Cambridge Audio Alva TT turntable. The company has shown the spinner in prototype form, but now appears ready to give it a full launch. It's the first turntable to be built completely in-house at Cambridge Audio so we're excited to get our hands on it at CES 2019.

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