HDD's Best Gear of CES 2018

Posted Mon Jan 15, 2018 at 06:40 AM PST by Internet Brands
samsung wall ces 2018

Written by Michael S. Palmer with contributions by Steven Cohen

Earlier this week, the tech industry held its annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Packed with all of the latest gear and gadgets from just about every AV brand on the market, the show set the stage for many of the major home theater products and technologies we can expect to see throughout the next 12 months and beyond.

And this year, High-Def Digest was on hand at the event to play will all of the cool new toys in person. Jealous? Yeah we know, but don't worry, we've returned with a breakdown of the most impressive products from the show!

With a seemingly endless lineup of new TVs, projectors, receivers, media players, and speakers littering the exhibit space, we got to demo a wide-array of gear. But while there was no shortage of impressive tech to go around, we've broken down the very best of the best. So, without further ado, here's our picks for the best gear on display at CES 2018:

BEST TV: Samsung's The Wall 4K MicroLED TV


Key Features: Up to a 146-inch screen size; self-emitting MicroLED picture technology with micrometer (µm) scale LEDs that do not require a backlight or color filters; 4K Ultra HD resolution; modular design with support for custom sizes and multiple aspect ratios.

Pricing & Availability: No word on either yet, but the display is expected to be released this year. More details will likely be announced in March.

The Good: The TV manages to combine the color and contrast of an OLED panel with the brightness and color volume performance of a QLED display -- all with a modular design that can be configured to match projector screen sizes and multiple aspect ratios. In person, the TV offered perfect black levels, brilliant whites and specular highlights, stunning colors, and no signs of any seams between the individual modules. Vivid and lifelike, the display was simply incredible in every way. 

The Bad: To be honest, not much, though we can expect these to be really expensive and we're curious to see how customizable the modular configurations actually turn out to be. Is Samsung really going to let customers assemble their own custom displays, or is the modular capability more about making their manufacturing and assembly processes cost-effective for larger screens? We'll have to wait and see. Also, though HDR10+ support is likely a given, Samsung is unlikely to ever offer Dolby Vision capabilities.

The Bottom Line: Samsung's MicroLED technology, as demonstrated in The Wall, is, quite simply, the best display we've ever seen. This is the technology of the future and we can't wait to get there. 

Runner-Up (tie): Sony's 10,000-nit 8K Prototype Display, which was more a proof-of-concept for showing off a new processor chip, was unbelievably lifelike and required no tone mapping for its HDR implementation. Also, keep an eye out for the new Hisense 75" H10E 4K Ultra HD TV, a gorgeous 2,200-nit 4K Android TV with Dolby Vision.

BEST VALUE TV: TCL 65" 6-Series 4K Roku TV


Key Features: LCD LED panel with 120 Contrast Control Zones; 4K Ultra HD resolution; Dolby Vision and HDR10 support; NBP Photon technology with WCG support; iPQ Engine to maximize DCI-P3 coverage; HDR Pro Gamma mode; Roku OS smart TV platform; brushed metal finish.

Pricing & Availability: Exact details are still under wraps, but we can expect the 6-Series to launch this spring somewhere just under or just over $1,000 (based on the $649 pricing of the 55" 2017 model).

The Good: The display supports Dolby Vision and HDR10 formats, along with local dimming and gorgeous color rendering for a (presumably) budget-friendly price. And the comprehensive Roku OS remains a cord cutter's dream. 

The Bad: HDR10+ will not be supported out of the box (and possibly never). Likewise, though there's been no word on peak brightness specs yet, it's doubtful the set will be able to reach over 1,000 nits like higher-end models can.

The Bottom Line: The 65" TCL 6-Series just might become the best entry-level 4K dual-HDR display of 2018.

BEST PROJECTION SETUP: Hisense Laser TV


Key Features: "TV" system comprised of an Ultra-short throw projector unit powered by a Texas Instruments DLP 4K UHD DMD chip and Hisense’s proprietary light source technology with a super-thin, lightweight, 100-inch Screen Innovations Anti-Glare Screen; HDR10; up to 300 nits and 3,000 lumens of brightness on 100" model; Rec. 709 color gamut coverage on 100" model; TV tuner for over-the-air content; Hisense smart TV platform. 

Pricing & Availability: The 100" Hisense Laser TV is available now for just under $10,000. In addition, new 88" and 80" models, plus a 150" Dual-Laser TV model, will debut by the end of this year. Pricing is still pending for the upcoming models.

The Good: Blending much of the simplicity of a standard smart TV set with the immersion of a projector system, the Hisense 4K Laser TV presents an enticing option for users who want a more enveloping viewing experience without sacrificing ease of installation. The 150" model boasts the best color and contrast of the group, along with pretty good sound. The 100", 88", and 80" models look great as well, and this system does really well with ambient light thanks to the short throw laser and a specially designed screen material. Overall contrast, color, and sharpness are also pleasing.

The Bad: The price is high (though less expensive than similarly sized LCD TVs), and the 100" model does not include wide color gamut support (full specs for the new models have not been detailed just yet). And while the built-in speakers are good for casual watching, they can't compete with a full surround experience. 

The Bottom Line: The Hisense Laser TVs are a terrific projection option for anyone who actually wants to watch TV or movies in a room that isn't perfectly black. 

BEST 4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY PLAYER: Sony UBP-X700


Key Features: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray playback; HDR10 and Dolby Vision support; access to several 4K streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube; support for additional AV formats like MP4, DSD, FLAC, and more.

Pricing & Availability: Pricing has not been detailed yet, but the UBP-X700 is set to launch later this month.

The Good: This is Sony's first 4K Blu-ray player model with support for the Dolby Vision format in addition to standard HDR10 playback. 

The Bad: Dolby Vision capabilities won't be available at launch. Instead, buyers will have to wait for a free firmware update this summer. Likewise, Sony has not announced plans to offer HDR10+ capabilities.

The Bottom Line: Sony has a good track record when it comes to quality 4K Blu-ray players so it's great to finally see a model from the company with dual HDR support. We're just hoping it's competitively priced.

BEST SPEAKERS: Klipsch Klipschorn Floorstanding Speaker


Key Features: Fully horn-loaded, full range, three-way system with a patented folded-horn 15" woofer, 2" midrange, and 1" tweeter compression drivers; available in a high-quality Walnut, Cherry, or Black Ash wood veneer finish

Pricing & Availability: Available now for $6,000 each.

The Good: The speakers feature gorgeous craftsmanship with ultimate transparency, insane clarity, and deep bass. In fact, when set up correctly with a hi-fi or vinyl recording, the Klipschorns are downright TRANSPORTIVE. If you close your eyes, it's like being inside the recording studio or concert venue. It's so incredible, words just won't do them justice. 

The Bad: The impressive performance comes with a hefty price tag, and the speakers' design and size will define your living space. And though high-quality tracks will sound like a dream, you'll likely find yourself unable to listen to low-fi recordings because you'll hear EVERY flaw.

The Bottom Line: If you ever want to hate your current speakers, demo a pair of Klipschorns. They may just be the best stereo speakers we've ever heard. Wow!

BEST BLUETOOTH SPEAKERS: SVS Prime Wireless


SVS Prime Wireless

Key Features: Stereo playback; Hi-Fi; DTS Play-Fi support; 200W amp; Bluetooth connectivity; Alexa compatible; 6 front-panel presets for quick access to streaming services or playlists.

Pricing & Availability: No exact word on pricing or availability yet. A full announcement is coming in the next few months.

The Good: The Prime Wireless offers room-filling, tower-sized hi-fi stereo sound out of bookshelf speakers.

The Bad: No multi-channel option (maybe SVS should reach out to WiSA!)

The Bottom Line: We can't wait to do a long term demo of the finalized version of the SVS Prime Wireless when they're available because the prototypes offered HUGE sound in a surprisingly compact package. These will be perfect for your home, office, or even a dedicated listening space. 

BEST SOUND BAR: LG SK10Y 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos Sound Bar


Key Features: 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos support with two up-firing speakers, 550W system, Meridian Bass and Space enhancements, Meridian High Elevation tech, lossless audio playback.

Pricing & Availability: No specific details yet, but the sound bar should be out sometime this spring.

The Good: We demoed the SK10Y in a cavernous room inside LG's booth with a tall ceiling that should have rendered the Atmos effects useless. But this sound bar is awesome. It filled the difficult space and made it sound like Atmos objects were above and all around you. The unit also includes a wireless subwoofer and customers can add a pair of wireless rear speakers to make it a 7.1.2 system. 

The Bad: There's no way to add more height channels for 5.1.4 or 7.1.4 support. Likewise, the subwoofer is a little small for our tastes, and the smaller sound bar drivers can't compete with full-sized speakers.

The Bottom Line: LG's flagship 2018 Sound Bar offers a realistic and immersive Dolby Atmos experience in a stylish, compact system. If you don't want a true multi-channel, multi-speaker Atmos setup, this is a fantastic choice

Runner Up: The Polk Command Sound Bar is a terrific entry-level soundbar that integrates an Amazon Echo Dot and FireTV into its design with full 4K HDR and Alexa capabilities. 

BEST AV RECEIVER: Denon AVR-X8500H


Key Features: 13.2 channel AV receiver with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support for up to a 7.1.6 or 9.1.4 speaker configuration; Auro-3D support (via a future firmware upgrade); 4K Ultra HD 60Hz video passthrough with HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG, 21:9 video, 3D, and BT.2020 support; Audyssey MultEQ XT32, HEOS technology with Amazon Alexa capabilities; HDMI 2.1 upgradable. 

Pricing & Availability: The Denon AVR-X8500H is set to launch later this month for $3,999 in black or silver.

The Good: Denon makes fantastic AV Receivers and as the first 13.2 channel option set to hit the market, this is their most-capable model so far. We haven't gotten to hear it yet, but based on our experience with the brand, and its full spec list, this is a very future-proof AVR for those who need the best of the best.

The Bad: It's big, and since it's the company's new flagship model, it's expensive. Likewise, the future HDMI 2.1 upgrade won't be free.

The Bottom Line: If you have the budget and need to put together a 7.2.6 or 9.2.4 Dolby Atmos / DTS:X system, or a multi-room A/V setup, the X8500H is poised to be the best entertainment hub Denon has ever released. 

BEST HOME THEATER TECH: WiSA


Key Features: Wireless audio transmission technology for speakers, subwoofers, AV receivers, and audio transmitters; supports up to 24bits at 48kHz/96kHz and up to 8 channels; plug-and-play compatibility between supported WiSA products.

Pricing & Availability: These details vary by brand and product type.

The Good: WiSA tech offers Hi-Fi surround sound without having to run speaker cables in walls, under carpets, or along a baseboard. In addition, the tech is now Dolby Atmos capable (there's been no mention of DTS:X yet), and includes support for Xbox One and Windows 10 platforms. WiSA is working hard with their partners so that you don't need receiver-esque control models... you will be able to use your Xbox or a Partner-TV, making set up easier than ever before. And while the spec is limited to 8-channels, you can run multiple speakers on each channel, which is perfect for multiple-subwoofer scenarios or any other time you want to duplicate a specific channel. Brands with WiSA-enabled products include companies like Klipsch, Bang & Olufsen, Axiim, Enclave, and Microsoft.

The Bad: As mentioned, the WiSA spec is limited to 8-channels, which means you're capped at Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 or standard 7.1 configurations. I wish they could do 10 or 12 channels. All of your speakers need individual wall plugs (although some systems do offer battery-powered rear surround speakers). The TV-controlled demo at the show was limited to stereo sound at the moment.

The Bottom Line: If you crave 8-channel surround sound -- be it 7.1 or 5.1.2 -- but can't (or don't want to) run speaker cables, check out a WiSA certified speaker system. 


So, there you have it. Those are top picks for the very best demos and products from CES 2018. From MicroLED displays to 13.2 channel receivers, there was no shortage of showstoppers in attendance.

For now, though, what do you think of our selection? What new gear and tech announcements are you most looking forward to? Let us know your thoughts in the forums!