In the week before CES, LG’s announcements for the show keep coming.

CES is always a big show for TVs, and LG is using the opportunity to announce a new version of its TV-focused “Alpha” processor and software to further modernize its big-screen offerings. With its 2018 lineup, LG is bringing its webOS-based TV software into the growing “ThinQ” brand, denoting its AI and smart home capabilities. It’s all fueled by a new “Alpha 9″ processor, replacing the previous Alpha 7, which has even more power to handle not only advanced image processing but also all of the increasingly useful AI software.

The new, more-powerful Alpha 9 processor is designed specifically to power artificial intelligence and natural language requests using a microphone in the TV remote. With these new TVs, you’ll simply be able to tell it what to do in regular words, and it’ll handle it — things like “show me the soundtrack to this movie,” which is useful, but also lesser-seen features like “turn off the TV when this show is over” and hundreds of others.

That capability also sets it up perfectly to now run Google Assistant, where LG says it will hand off any voice requests that the TV can’t handle directly. So asking for information on a show or a schedule will be handled by the TV’s software, but Assistant will take care of knowledge base questions, timers and requests from Google services like Maps or Photos. The TV will also let you control all sorts of smart home products through both LG’s smart home platform and anything that interfaces with Google Assistant. Provided the integration works as expected, it sounds like it’d be the best of both worlds.

As for the image processing side of things, which is may not be as headline-grabbing but is ultimately the most important part of a TV, the Alpha 9 provides what LG calls “picture quality close to perfection.” It claims that the Alpha 9 processor has a four-step noise reduction process for the clearest possible picture, even better colors than the last generation, and is ready to handle 120 fps content in the future. The 2018 range of LG SUPER UHD TVs also have denser FALD (full array local dimming) backlighting, leading to deeper blacks and better control over scenes with mixed lighting.

The new processor and capabilities will debut across LG’s high-end lineup, including the B8, C8, E8 and W8 in 55- to 77-inch sizes depending on the model. Naturally LG isn’t saying anything about the pricing or availability of the new 2018 TV lineup, but we should learn the specifics when CES kicks off on January 9.

Press release:


Already Delivering Category-Leading LG OLED TVs and Impressive LG SUPER UHD TVs, LG Revolutionizes the Brains Behind the Displays

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J., Jan. 2, 2018 — At CES® 2018, LG Electronics (LG) will raise the home entertainment experience to another level with the introduction of ThinQ® artificial intelligence (AI) and an advanced image processor in its newest smart TV lineup, including LG OLED and LG SUPER UHD TVs. ThinQ allows the implementation of hundreds of voice requests utilizing the company’s own open smart platform as well as third-party AI services.

“As a leading innovator in the TV industry, LG is pleased to introduce the LG ThinQ and α (Alpha) 9 processor for an unrivaled viewing experience,” said Tim Alessi, head of product marketing at LG Electronics USA. “LG is dedicated to providing cutting-edge technology that elevates user lifestyles and offers unmatched convenience. In 2018, our ‘Best TV Ever’ gets even better.”

With AI functionality embedded in 2018 LG TVs, LG’s customers can speak directly into the remote control to enjoy all the convenient features of today’s advanced voice assistant technology. LG’s ThinQ TVs also function as smart home hubs, offering access to other smart home products such as robotic vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, air purifiers, smart lights, smart speakers and many other connected devices.

With LG’s newest α (Alpha) 9 processor powering the company’s market-leading LG OLED TVs, viewers will experience further improvements in what many already consider to be the best TV picture quality. LG Nano CellTM SUPER UHD TVs employ Full-Array Local Dimming (FALD) backlighting to provide deeper blacks and enhanced colors, as well as nuanced shadow details for more life-like images.

Transforming Modern Lifestyle Through Intelligence

LG’s ThinQ offers an enhanced interactive experience in all of the company’s newest smart TV lineup, including LG OLED and LG SUPER UHD models by employing Natural Language Processing (NLP) to deliver intelligent voice-activated control and connectivity based on LG’s own deep learning technology, DeepThinQ. With a dramatically streamlined setup process, viewers can easily connect to gaming consoles and external soundbars. Users can also search for information, images or videos featuring specific content by making a verbal request through the TV’s remote control such as “show me all of the movies this actor has starred in” or “show me yoga videos.”

LG TVs with ThinQ AI supports services based on Electronic Program Guide (EPG) to deliver real-time information or to change to a channel that offers requested content. Instruct the TV to “search for the soundtrack of this movie” or “turn off the TV when this program is over” without repeating the name of the program or entering a specific time. What’s more, users in certain countries will be able to utilize Google Assistant to control smart home devices, such as lights, or activate third-party services.

Picture Quality Close to Perfection

LG’s newest α (Alpha) 9 intelligent processor provides true-to-life images with incredibly rich colors, sharpness and depth for greater realism. A core innovative element of the α (Alpha) 9 is the four-step process of noise reduction, which boasts twice as many steps compared to conventional techniques. This algorithm allows for greater finesse in noise reduction, improving the clarity of images affected by distracting artifacts and enabling more effective rendering of smooth gradations. The processor also improves other aspects of the image such as sharpness, contrast and color.

The processor also improves color performance, thanks to the advanced mapping capabilities making colors look closer than ever to the original content; and the improved color correction algorithm that allows for more natural colors with over seven times the reference color coordinates compared to those previously used. α (Alpha) 9 is ready to support next generation high frame rate (HFR) content created at 120 frames per second for better rendering of fast-action content with smoother and clearer motion such as sports and action movies. As a result of the new image processor, 2018 LG OLED TVs will create a truly spectacular viewing experience.

Maximizing Nano Cell with FALD Backlight and α (Alpha) 7

In 2017, LG made a significant achievement toward its highly ambitious vision for producing the ultimate LCD TV picture with its LG Nano Cell SUPER UHD TVs. By combining Nano Cell, FALD backlighting and the α (Alpha) 7 processor, LG’s 2018 SK9500 and SK9000 SUPER UHD TVs offers a host of technological advantages including deeper blacks, enhanced image rendering, improved shadow details and accurate color from wide viewing angles.

This year’s LG SUPER UHD TVs with FALD allow for denser backlighting zones throughout the display, contrary to edge-lighting, where backlights are positioned on the edges of the TV panel. LG’s technology improves black levels and picture dimensions by independent control of LED light zones, improving shadow details and reducing light bleed resulting in enhanced contrast and superb picture quality.

Best Possible 4K Cinema HDR Experience

LG’s 2018 OLED and SUPER UHD TVs feature 4K Cinema HDR, which introduces a truly cinematic experience to the home, regardless of the format. LG’s 2018 OLED and SUPER UHD TVs add support for Advanced HDR by Technicolor, building on a legacy of supporting most major HDR formats, from the superior viewing experience of Dolby VisionTM to HDR10 and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma). LG’s 2018 OLED and SUPER UHD TVs process HDR images dynamically frame by frame using LG’s proprietary algorithm, Enhanced Dynamic Tone mapping. Both 2018 OLED TVs and SUPER UHD TVs come with Dolby Atmos object-based surround sound for the best audio-visual experience possible.

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Here’s a look at Sony’s smartphone lineup for 2018.

Sony has an…interesting…position in the Android smartphone space. Sony produced some darn good phones in 2017, such as the Xperia XZ Premium and XZ1, but compared to handsets like the Galaxy S8, Pixel 2, and even the OnePlus 5T, Sony’s offerings usually fall flat in one area or another that hold them back from true greatness.

We’re just now getting started with 2018, but we’ve already got a good idea of what to expect from a few of Sony’s Xperia handsets later this year. A lot of what we’re seeing so far looks to be more of the same, but there are a few interesting bits here and there. Let’s take a look.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium

As great of a phone as the XZ Premium was, there were more issues than we usually like to see for devices that cost $799 USD. We’re expecting Sony to release a sequel this year, and while exact details are still quite sparse, Concept Creator has created a video showing their idea of what they’d like to see in the XZ2 Premium.

The video shows a phone with the slimmest bezels we’ve ever seen on a Sony phone, front-facing speakers, glass back, and dual cameras. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Sony finally get on the dual camera bandwagon, and as great as it’d be to have a flagship Xperia handset with bezels this slim, we aren’t all that sure if 2018 will be the year Sony makes this jump.

Sony Xperia XA2/XA2 Ultra

If you’re going to be in the market for a small mid-ranger this year, Sony’s Xperia XA2 might be worth checking out. The phone is expected to have the same 5-inch display as its predecessor, and it’ll be just a bit shorter and wider at 141.6 x 70.4 x 9.6mm.

As for the XA2 Ultra, this will once again be a large phone with a screen that measures in at 6-inches. It’ll be slightly shorter than the XA1 Ultra with dimensions of 162.5 x 80.0 x 9.5mm, but it’ll retain the same screen resolution of 1920 x 1080. The XA2 Ultra will be powered by the Snapdragon 630 and 4GB of RAM, and you’ll have 64GB of storage for all your local files.

Both the XA2 and XA2 Ultra will keep the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio and large top/bottom bezels, but what’s interesting is that Sony is ditching the side-mounted fingerprint sensor for one that’s on the back. This would mark the first time Sony’s had a fingerprint sensor on the back of its phones, and while the implementation of it on the power button was cool, hopefully this will enable customers to finally have a fingerprint sensor on a Sony phone in the U.S.

Sony Xperia L2

The Xperia L2 falls in between the XA2 and XA2 Ultra size-wise with a 5.5-inch screen, and it features the same Snapdragon 630 processor and 4GB RAM. There’s no word just yet as to what the resolution of that display will be, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see it stay at 1280 x 720 like it is on the L1.

Android Nougat should be shipping on the L2, but considering Sony’s track records for past software updates, we don’t imagine it’ll take too long before Oreo arrives on it.

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The United States and Canada need not apply.

The first Monument Valley made its debut on Android in 2014, and despite its age, is still a ton of fun to play in 2018. Its sequel was finally released this past November so that fans could jump back into the beautiful puzzle-solving world, but if you’ve never experienced the magic that ustwo games created with Monument Valley, now might be the time to do it.

Spotted by Android Police, the first Monument Valley is free on the Google Play Store in certain countries. Markets where the game is free are apparently ones where prices in the Play Store have not be localized to match the currency of those areas, and countries that have been confirmed to offer this deal include:

  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Brazil
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Mexico
  • Russia
  • Taiwan
  • Venezuela

There are possibly many other countries where the game is also being offered for free, but ones where it’ll still cost you $3.99 include the likes of Australia, Canada, various countries in Europe, Japan, Korea, multiple regions in South America, and the United States.

Monument Valley 2 is now on sale for $4.99

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Available now as part of v7.3 of Camera NX.

It’s no secret that the Pixel 2 has an incredible camera, and one of its standout features is portrait mode. Google’s kept this locked to the Pixel 2 and likely won’t release it to other phones anytime soon, but thanks to the hard work of developer Charles Chow, you can now get portrait mode on your first-gen Pixel, Nexus 6P, and Nexus 5X.

If Chow’s name sounds familiar, that’s because this isn’t the first time he’s brought features from the Google Camera app to other phones. Some of Chow’s previous work includes bringing HDR+, Zero Shutter Lag, and Google’s AR Stickers to the above phones, but portrait mode might be one of his biggest achievements yet.

You can read the technical bits on Chow’s website about how he pulled this off, but all you need to know as the end user is that it seems to work just like it does on the Pixel 2. Open up the hamburger menu, choose portrait mode, snap a picture, and you’re good to go.

Portrait mode is available for the Pixel, Nexus 6P, and 5X as part of v7.3 of the NX Camera app, and you can download it here.

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