The incredible vanishing TVby Peter Griffin
Televisions no fatter than four credit cards are here, but you’ll need to bulk up your card limit to buy one.
But 2017’s television advances will not be defined by the work of Korean and Japanese engineers to squeeze in more pixels, produce faster picture refresh rates and give us the blackest of black images.
No, this year is about something more prosaic: removing cable clutter. It is about turning a TV screen into a piece of art that, like a painting, is mounted almost flush with the wall rather than on a cabinet in front of it.
To get an idea of what your telly will look like in coming years, when a zero has been knocked off the price tag, visit one of the big electronics stores displaying LG’s new W7 “wallpaper” TV. At its thickest, the W7 measures 4mm, including the mounting bracket, which screws to the wall but attaches magnetically to the screen. It is the thickness of four credit cards – skinnier than LG’s thinnest smartphone.
Its electronics and connector ports are in a soundbar that sits below the screen with single ribbon cable between the two. It’s so slender it looks like a 65-inch projection screen, but with breathtaking image quality that a projector can’t achieve in a lit room.
The W7, which ranges in price from $7000 to $40,000 depending on size and specifications, is the thinnest big TV on the market. This is thanks to organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology, which is based on light-producing carbon compounds, doing away with the illuminated panel that adds bulk to a standard LED screen.
The W7’s slenderness comes with no sacrifice of image quality. Its high-dynamic-range 4K screen (3840 x 2160 pixels) produces as good a picture as chunkier but more reasonably priced LG TVs.
Samsung’s latest line-up of QLED TVs (sounds like OLED but is completely different) also have impressive screen specifications, although none is as slim as the W7. Again, it is the range’s physical design – they cost $5200-$34,995 – that stands out. Samsung has introduced the Invisible Connection, a transparent cable that goes between the screen and a separate box containing the TV tuner, processor and other electronics.
The separate-component trend isn’t new for either manufacturer, but they are now matching Apple’s style and simplicity. Samsung has also introduced a no-gap mount for its QLED TVs, so that when installed, which the company says takes about 15 minutes, they are flush with the wall.
Later this year, Samsung will release The Frame, a TV that will display art rather than a black screen when it is turned off. It will come with 100 high-definition images and accompanying bezels.
How thin can screens go? In 2015, LG displayed a 1mm-thick OLED screen that could be peeled off a wall. It was a concept model, but it showed how far the technology can go.
We can look forward to a time when the dusty cabinet can be ditched, wall-mounting a TV doesn’t require hiring a tradesman and there’ll no longer be any need to squeeze behind the TV to plug in decoders and game consoles.
Long-overdue elegance, simplicity and style, although still premium-priced, are on their way.
This article was first published in the June 10, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.
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