LG to play it safe with OLED TV models in 2022
The Koreans seem to be going down the same path as before, we're all hoping for some unexpected news at CES
CES, one of the most important tech events in the world - especially for certain product categories such as TVs - is now less than 40 days away and rumors about what every major manufacturer will unveil in Las Vegas have already been making the rounds on the Web since late summer. But it seems that we now have the first information leak, of sorts, courtesy of renowned TV reviewer and professional calibrator Vincent Teoh who unearthed what amounts to most of what LG is planning to announce in the OLED TV category in January. The problem: it does not seem like the Koreans are making changes to alleviate the feeling of many that OLED TVs have stagnated during the last few years.
Teoh managed to piece together information from several sources in order to practically confirm that LG will be offering the same OLED TV lines it did for 2021. A Korean government agency that certifies telecommunications equipment has inadvertently published online the codenames of LG's next introductory OLED TV lines, the A2 and B2, that will directly replace this year's A1 and B1 lines. Taking it from there, Teoh unearthed evidence of the C2 and G2 lines of televisions, which will obviously replace 2021's C1 and G1 lines, thus completing the entire line-up of 4K OLED TVs one should expect from LG next year. The Z1 line, the only 8K OLED one from LG - or from anyone else for that matter... so far anyway - will presumably be replaced with the Z2 line, although Teoh has not come across evidence of that.
The TV reviewer did come across a couple of interesting findings, though. First: the 42-inch "C" model, the one that LG had mentioned in the past as scheduled for release in 2021, will actually be released in 2022 (for a somewhat lower price compared to the current 48-inch one presumably). Second: the G2 or "Gallery" line will include an 83-inch model. This is important as LG did not release a G1 83-inch model in 2021 because of practical reasons: the company claimed that the traditional way of wall mounting these TVs - flush against the wall - could not safely work with such a large screen size. It appears, then, that LG has found a different way of making these "wallpaper" TVs hang against a wall, regardless of size.
Teoh's findings are in line with what French tech blog AV Caesar had also posted a few days back about LG's 2022 4K OLED TV lines, as well as the first confirmed LCD Mini-LED TVs the company will introduce next year (QNED 75QNED90UPA and 86QNED90UPA) based on information coming from the same Korean government agency. Based on what LG offered with the A1, B1, C1 and G1 lines of OLED TVs this year, one can easily make educated guesses about each new line's features, price brackets and main target groups.
That is actually a problem.
What LG set out to achieve in 2021 with (a) its new "Evo" OLED panels as well as (b) its "A" line of OLED TVs was what people have been asking for during the last few years: brighter OLED TVs that can work in a wider range of lighting conditions, as well as less expensive OLED TVs mainstream consumers can afford. It's fair to say that the Koreans have failed on both fronts. The new "Evo" OLED panels can indeed get brighter, but the difference compared to the existing ones is minimal if the OLED TVs in question are used in the way OLED TVs are meant to work (not in Vivid Mode but in Cinema/Custom where colors are actually accurate). The "A" line of LG OLED TVs, meanwhile, was indeed offered at a lower price compared to the B, C and G lines of 2021, but compromises made were simply too many for the price difference: considerably lower brightness, less effective image processing and less capable HDMI inputs meant that the A1 models should have been much cheaper. They weren't.
So learning about the A2, B2, C2 and G2 cannot be anything but disappointing. These will directly replace the A1, B1, C1 and G1 - in other words, LG's consumer strategy appears to be exactly the same instead of the company shaking things up with e.g. a new price/performance line or a differently designed line for those not interested in wallpaper TVs. Sure, the G1 and C1 will both get the new version of the a9 processor, they may even get a somewhat brighter panel than this year's "Evo", but the same form factors - and pricing, most probably - will not help OLED's case. The A1 and B1, meanwhile, would have to get a lot more affordable and cut way fewer corners if they are meant to actually succeed in the mainstream market instead of just tactfully nudging consumers towards the purchase of a C1.
There's always the chance, of course, that LG has a couple of aces hidden up its sleeve: what we now have, after all, is confirmation of what we more or less expected of the company regarding its OLED TV lineup. Nothing more. Maybe there's an "F" line the company managed to keep secret up until now. Maybe its executives have finally decided to cut prices across the board, making the C1 "kind of" affordable to many more consumers. But the Koreans have to make some changes to their lineup - to their business approach of promoting OLED in general even - in order to help this display technology evolve. That much is clear. Do they plan to surprise us all at CES after all? Cross fingers!