So the new year is here, and you’re looking to add a statement to your living room. How does a large 4K TV sound? Here are three of the very best 4K TVs you can buy today.

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LG Signature W8 •  Samsung Q9F •  Sony Bravia A9F
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The highest-end model in LG’s 2018 TV lineup, the Signature W8PTA (simply called W8 henceforth) is the direct successor to the 2017 W7T. Appearance-wise, the W8 looks the same as the W7: it uses a “picture on wall” design so the main unit is literally a sheet of OLED panel. And all the chips and ports are housed in a separate, Atmoscapable speaker bar (4.2-channel, 60W) that you connect to the TV with a flat ribbon cable. This means there’s no way to tabletop-mount the W8 - you can only wall-mount it.

Under the hood, there are several important changes. The W8 uses LG’s new Alpha 9 TV processor. This is the chip responsible for the new fourstep noise reduction process and color correction algorithm that supposedly expands the reference color coordinates sevenfold compared to the previous processor.

Like LG’s other OLEDs announced in 2018, the W8 also supports 120 frames per second high frame rate for a smoother picture than what’s possible on 60fps sets. But because the TV doesn’t have HDMI 2.1, you can only get HDR (HEVC) content from the TV’s built-in streaming apps instead of from external HDMI connected sources.

In addition to the baseline HDR10 format, it also plays nice with Dolby Vision, Hybrid LogGamma, and Advanced HDR by Technicolor. You may also see LG using words like “HDR10 Pro” and “HLG Pro” to describe their TVs - these are just marketing terms for HDR content that have gone through additional on-device processing.

Dolby Atmos object-based surround sound processing is also supported on the W8, which is something you don’t find on Samsung’s and Sony’s TVs. The W8’s supersleek wallpaper design and its Atmos soundbar definitely play a part in driving up the TV’s price, which means there’s a case to be made for you to consider other TVs if these two features aren’t your priority.

Powered by WebOS 4.0, you get a launch bar for easy access to apps such as Netfiix, YouTube, Toggle, and features such as Miracast Overlay and Screen Share. But, the biggest addition is what LG calls “ThinQ AI”. At present, ThinQ AI refers mainly to their intelligent voice control system. You can use voice commands to change TV settings and conduct simple web searches, but LG has promised a firmware update that will enable more advanced searches. (For example, you can say, “Show me all the movies with Tom Cruise”, and the TV will display results from the web, YouTube, Netfiix, etc.) Support for Google Assistant is also promised, but this has yet to be activated at the time of writing.

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"The W8 is perfect for watching movies in the dark."


The W8’s picture settings aren’t very different from what we’ve on the W7, so my usual recommendations are still applicable: without calibration, the ISF Expert Dark (for SDR) and Technicolor Expert (for HDR) picture modes will get you the most accurate image. Depending on your room’s ambient light, the brighter ISF mode or Cinema mode may also work well for you.

Image quality-wise, everything that I liked about the W7 still applies for the W8. Thanks to OLED’s inherent characteristics, perfect blacks, super-high contrast, and very wide viewing angles are pretty much a given on the W8.

If most of your TV watching is done in a room with high ambient light or you’re constantly dealing with refiections with your current TV, the W8 may not cope as well as, say, top-tier LED-LCD TVs that can easily output in excess of 1,000 nits. That said, unless your room is unusually bright, I don’t see the W8’s comparatively lower brightness as a deal breaker. I also got very saturated colors from the W8, though they were slightly less accurate at high brightness, especially when compared to colors from Samsung’s Q9F QLED TV.

LG’s A9 processor also brings about a couple of observable improvements. For instance, I find it to quite effective at reducing noise and color banding. I saw this in action more in streaming videos and some of my older non-4K rips; for 4K Blu-rays, the effect wasn’t as pronounced. At around 800 nits, the W8 has a higher peak brightness than the W7 in HDR mode, though it’s not immediately obvious to the casual viewer. Still, in a dimmed room, the W8’s HDR picture quality remains top drawer. My go-to videos for this test are Life of Pi and Planet Earth II on 4K Blu-ray and Okja on Netfiix, and in all instances, I’ve never wished for a brighter TV or noticed any missing details in the shadows. The only time it faltered was when the picture was very bright, say, a snowscape or a room with white walls. In such cases, Samsung’s super-bright Q9F performed better.

It’s worth highlighting that the TruMotion User menu now has a new setting called Motion Pro, which when enabled, uses a black frame insertion technique to improve motion resolution. Sadly, the resulting brightness dip and image flicker are too much for my liking so I don’t recommend turning it on.

With an input lag at about 21ms (in Game mode), the W8 is as good a gaming display as the W7. Even with 4K HDR, this only goes up to 30ms. However, unlike the Samsung Q9F, the W8 doesn’t support FreeSync.

Finally, the W8 offers built-in Dolby Atmos decoding and comes with a soundbar with upward firing speakers to better virtualize Atmos’ height effect. Overall, sound is powerful enough to fill a living room, but in terms of directionality, it’s no match for a home theater setup that uses inceiling speakers and physical rear speakers. Unfortunately, because the brain of the TV is inside the soundbar, you can’t do away with it entirely if you want to use your own AV receiver and speaker package.

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Perfect blacks and saturated colors are the hallmarks of the W8.
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Instead of jumping onto the OLED bandwagon, Samsung is sticking to LCD technology for its high-end TVs. More specifically, Samsung’s QLED TVs are LED-lit LCD TVs enhanced with metalcoated quantum dots. The biggest gain from adopting QD is that it allows the QLED TVs to achieve a 100% color volume. This basically means colors are able to maintain their accuracy under different conditions, such as across different levels of brightness, which is something OLED TVs struggle with.

Like the 2017 Q9F, the 2018 Q9F QLED TV is still an Ultra HD Premium certified TV, so you can be sure that it supports 10-bit color depth signal, wide color gamut with at least 90% coverage for DCI-P3, and has at least 1,000 nits peak brightness.

The biggest change in the 2018 Q9F is that it uses direct fullarray LED backlighting (Samsung calls it Direct Full Array Elite). In general, TVs with full-array local dimming backlights exhibit deeper blacks and purer whites, with less “blooming” effects than their edge-lit counterparts. The Q9F also has an additional anti-refiection film (Ultra Black Elite) covering the display to reduce glare and enhance contrast.

The Q9F supports HDR10+, which means it can do dynamic tone-mapping (i.e., adjust color and contrast levels scene by scene) to get even better picture quality than the baseline HDR10 format. The chief problem with HDR10+ is the lack of content. For now, Amazon Video is your best bet, though Samsung did say that over 100 titles from Warner Bros. are coming in 2019.

The Q9F also comes with a One Remote Control, a smart remote that’s able to automatically detect, connect, and label other connected devices; and One Invisible Connection, a single cable that carries video/ audio signals and power from the One Connect Box (which is the external box you connect your A/V devices to) to the TV. One minor complaint, though: because it now takes on TV power supply duty, the 2018 One Connect Box is quite a bit bigger than the 2017 One Connect Box.

Another new feature on Samsung’s 2018 QLED TVs is Magic Screen, a mode that lets you put other content such as photos, time, and weather on the screen when you aren’t watching any shows. Samsung is keen to stress that the TV can operate in this ambient mode 24/7 without suffering from burn-in.

Last but not least, one important feature we don’t see on other brands’ TVs in 2018 but is on the QLED TVs, including the Q9F, is FreeSync support. If you’ve a PC with a compatible AMD/Radeon GPU or a gaming console such as the Xbox One X to take advantage of VRR, you’d get a smoother gaming experience.

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The Q9F is a very bright TV, making it a great SDR and HDR TV for a bright living room.
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Like the 2017 Q9F, I found the Movie preset to be the best picture mode for the 2018 model. Even if you aren’t going do any calibration, I will still recommend this picture mode for most content, including live TV and Blu-ray movies.

The Q9F performs well in both bright and dark room settings. The anti-reffective treatment on the display is truly effective, and helps to further reduce sharpness, contrast, or color problems in ambient lighting. Local dimming performance is also very good, which translates to not-very obvious “blooming” and generally very deep blacks even in a dark room. Unfortunately, contrast dips and color shifts were quite apparent when I veered from the center sweet spot.

The Q9F offers a very wide color gamut that’s able to cover nearly the entire DCI-P3 color space. And the high color volume at high brightness characteristic bodes well for users who watch a lot of HDR/wide gamut content.

Because the TV can easily hit 1,000 nits peak brightness, it’s very good at producing realistic and bright specular highlights, even when the overall scene is dark. Colors in HDR mode look great as well. Using just out of the box settings without any tweaking, however, LG’s W8 OLED TV’s colors looked the richer of the two, and jumped out a bit more due to the contrast advantage. But I’ll give the color accuracy advantage to the Q9F because it’s less affected by luminosity changes.

Motion performance on the Q9F is also very good. My only comment is that the LED Clear Motion feature may increase visible flicker (which you may or may not notice), though the upside is that motion will look clearer and the image sharper.

The Q9F’s panel has a very fast response time, which is great news if you want to use the TV as a gaming display. Along with the improved backlight and motion interpolation, all the Xbox One X games I’ve tried on this TV looked awesome, with excellent sharpness and nary a trail when things were flying around onscreen. In addition, the Q9F supports FreeSync, which is something not found on other TVs. When gaming at 1080p, this enables the QLED TV to match the source’s refresh rate in real time up to 100Hz. For 4K, it varies the refresh rate up to 50Hz.

Finally, in the audio department, the Q9F’s speakers have a power output of 60W. Bluetooth audio and Dolby Digital Plus formats are supported natively.

Thanks to the decent woofer drivers, the TV speakers sound good across different types of content. That said, unlike the LG W8, the Samsung Q9F doesn’t support Dolby Atmos. If you’re into this object-based surround sound format, you should be looking at getting external speakers or at least a soundbar, such as the $2,399 Samsung Harman Kardon HW-N950. The good news is that the Q9F and HW-N950 combo still cost less than the LG W8 OLED TV.

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With One Invisible Connection, you will only have one cable that comes out from the back of the TV.
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Thanks to the direct full-array backlighting, the Q9F’s local dimming performance is excellent.
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According to Sony, its goal for the A9F is a TV that can truly deliver the creator’s artistic intent in a living room setting. To do so, Sony has resorted to a lot of proprietary technologies the company has gained from years of making Hollywood movies and professional reference monitors.

One key piece of tech is the new X1 Ultimate picture processor. Twice as powerful as the X1 Extreme used on other Sony premium 4K TVs, the X1 Ultimate chip continues to have dual databases for noise reduction and upscaling processing, but it can now do fine-grained objectbased HDR processing to improve resolution, color, and contrast. The X1 Ultimate’s huge bandwidth also enables the panel controller to maximize the screen’s dynamic range by widening the area of color reproduction at high brightness (Sony calls this feature Pixel Contrast Booster). This is important for HDR because OLED colors are known to get less accurate as you pump up the luminosity levels.

Advanced users will be glad to know that the A9F has a comprehensive color management system that gives you full control of each color. It also has native support for CalMAN’s AutoCal, so calibrations take less time. For the A9F, SDR calibration is done first and the results are carried over for HDR calibration. Take note however, you still need the CalMAN software to be installed on your PC, a pattern generator, and a colorimeter or spectrophotometer to do the calibration, all of which are separate purchases. One feature that’s free though is the Netflix calibrated mode, which is a toggle that will override all other TV presets when viewing content on the TV’s Netflix app. In terms of audio, the A9F sports Sony’s Acoustic Surface Audio+, an upgraded version of the audio-from- screen tech we first saw on the A1. Using six actuators behind the TV and two subwoofers on rear angled stand, this 3.2-channel setup delivers 98W of total power. Because the woofers are now mounted on the sides, in theory, you won’t get muffled audio when the TV is mounted on the wall. If you’ve your own multi-channel speakers and receiver, you can even set up the TV speakers to be the center channel.

Software-wise, the A9F runs Android 8.0 with Chromecast features, and comes with 16GB of internal storage. This means you can easily access the Google Play store to get apps, use Google Cast to get video from your phone to the big screen, and use voice search to find content. You can also connect the TV to a Google Home smart speaker.

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For the A9F, I used the Custom picture mode as a starting point for my calibration. If you don’t calibrate your TV, Cinema mode is a very decent preset for watching movies. When you’re watching HDR content, just check that all the settings in the Video options menu (HDR mode, HDMI video range, color space) are set to Auto so that the TV can apply the correct settings automatically. Brightness is best left at maximum for HDR.

The A9F is an excellent TV, offering super-deep black levels and super-high contrast in every scene. Coupled with a wide viewing angle with no magenta cast when the screen is hit by light, the A9F makes for a good night time and daytime TV.

With a peak brightness of 750 nits, the A9F’s peak brightness in HDR is good for an OLED TV but a touch dimmer than LG’s W8 (800 nits). If you find the A9F’s pictures too dim for your liking, you can play around with the Contrast and Gamma settings.

Like the LG W8, the Sony A9F’s wide color gamut performance is excellent, covering nearly 100% of the DCI-P3 uv space. While its color volume can’t reach the heights of the Samsung Q9F, it’s better than the LG W8. This means it’s able to display more colors accurately at different brightness levels. I also observed fewer instances of “banding” (i.e., rough transitions between shades of a single color, like in scenes with a large patch of sky) on the A9F than the W8. If you still see the posterization, try adjusting the Smooth Gradation setting.

Also, the A9F handles motion superbly thanks to its near-instantaneous response time and lack of flicker. Again like the W8 and Q9F, it creates additional black frames between frames to make motion appear sharper. Unlike the Q9F though, BFI (controlled by the Motionflow settings) on the A9F doesn’t seem to go above 60Hz. The TV also doesn’t support variable refresh rates.

The A9F is a decent gaming display but trails the LG W8 and Samsung Q9F in terms of input lag performance at 1080p/60Hz (about 27ms vs. 21ms). All four HDMI ports are full-bandwidth HDMI 2.0 ports and support HDCP 2.3, and one of them even supports eARC, allowing you to send higher-quality audio from the TV to a receiver or soundbar. For those who want to use the TV as a PC monitor, it’s able to fully reproduce 4:4:4 chroma.

While the A9F supports Dolby Vision HDR, it doesn’t support Dolby Atmos audio. For the most part, the speakers are loud enough to fill a room, and I appreciate that they can be used purely as a center channel. The lack of speakers (visually) on the sides of the TV is arguably the biggest benefit of Acoustic Surface Audio: it makes the whole setup look neat and ensures your eyes only fall on what matters most - the screen.

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Like the W8, you can expect perfect blacks from the Bravia A9F. 
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The A9F has excellent wide gamut and holds the colors well at high brightness.
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The rear stand props up the TV and has a compartment to hide the cables.
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Let us be clear that all the three 4K TVs features here are top-notch TVs, which means you should be perfectly happy with any of them. But if you must choose one, we recommend that you understand your priorities first.

The Samsung Q9F QLED TV is the brightest TV of the trio, and is great if you watch a lot of HDR content and/or do most of your viewing in a bright living room. It is also the most affordable of the three.

The LG Signature W8 and Sony Bravia OLED TVs trump the Q9F in the picture quality department. If you watch a lot of movies in the dark and are seeking super-deep blacks and high contrast, look no further. Both OLED TVs also work with Dolby Vision, and I fully enjoyed watching HDR on them despite their lower peak brightness compared to the Q9F. However, my vote goes to the Bravia A9F for its better wide color performance across different luminosity levels. I’m also impressed by the Acoustic Surface tech and think that Sony has nicely balanced design and practicality with the A9F.