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Navigating the Latest TVs

2021 brings tantalizing new displays to market.

What’s a CI integrator to do? CES 2021 presented lots of eye candy in the form of new TVs from an array of top manufacturers such as Sony, LG, and Samsung.

“Our recently introduced BRAVIA XR TV lineup for the premium sector is built around the world’s first cognitive processor,” says Jeff Goldstein, vice president of sales, CI Channel, Sony, “What this means is that we go above and beyond what AI processing has been able to offer previously. While conventional AI can only detect and analyze picture elements like color, contrast, and detail individually, the new processor can cross-analyze an array of elements at once, just as our brains do.”

The new Cognitive Processor XR understands and presents video content based on the way our eyes and brain are programmed to receive images, he notes. “For example, imagine a human face depicted with a background of explosions going off on the screen. The human face will be prioritized above the rest because that part of the total image is what our brains react to first.”

Sony’s latest BRAVIA XR TVs feature its Cognitive Processor XR, which understands and presents video content based on the way our eyes and brain are programmed to receive images.

This new processor is the cornerstone of Sony’s premium lineup for 2021. “While it offers a significant improvement in picture quality, it also includes impressive advancements in sound,” Goldstein says. “Cognitive Processor XR can analyze sound position in the signal so the sound matches precisely with what’s on the screen. It also upconverts any sound to 3D surround sound, for the ultimate home theater experience.”

The new BRAVIA XR TVs will also feature BRAVIA CORE. “In collaboration with Sony Pictures Entertainment, BRAVIA XR model users can enjoy a selection of classic titles as well as the latest Sony Pictures premium titles, and the largest IMAX Enhanced movie collection,” he says. “BRAVIA CORE is the first in the industry to feature Pure Stream technology, achieving near lossless UHD BD equivalent quality with streaming up to 80 Mbps. This service will be available when the devices hit the market this spring.”

There’s a lot to be excited about in TV technology in 2021, agrees Tim Alessi, head of home entertainment product marketing, LG Electronics USA. “As consumers gravitate towards larger and larger screen sizes, they still demand the most realistic and immersive picture quality,” he says. “LG OLED is the gold standard in home theater picture quality as it’s still the only display that can provide perfect blacks, bright HDR highlights, and the vivid colors that are the cornerstone of a great viewing experience. Now available in an 83-inch screen size, customers will not have to compromise when installing an ultra-large TV.”

In applications where an LCD may be a good choice, there are huge leaps forward in performance as well, he notes. “For example, LG’s new QNED MiniLED models combine two color-enhancing technologies: NanoCell+ and Quantum Dots for superb color performance. Add that to the use of MiniLED backlighting, which utilizes smaller LEDs and can achieve higher brightness, more detailed control over the screen, and you have the best performing LCD sets ever.”

Samsung Neo QLED
Samsung’s Neo QLED has new features developed for consumers spending more time at home such as Google Duo video calls right from the TV and a virtual Smart Trainer update to Samsung Health.

Samsung’s new TVs from CES 2021 empower installers with a suite of picture quality, design, and smart feature enhancements, says Jim Mayo, senior director of custom install sales and strategy, Samsung Electronics America. “In addition to new MicroLED sizes with pre-fabricated sizes, including 110, 99, and 88 inches, for simplified installation, we have our Neo QLED technology being applied to our 8K line and much of our 4K line. This means enhanced picture quality benefits for better brightness and contrast, and with Neo QLED also comes new features developed for consumers spending more time at home such as Google Duo video calls right from the TV, a virtual Smart Trainer update to Samsung Health, and other new features to enhance working from home and gaming experiences. Our TVs will also ship with new sustainability-minded Eco Remotes, and more of them will feature the Eco Packaging that we introduced to our 2020 lifestyle TVs. Speaking of our lifestyle portfolio, The Frame for 2021 is nearly 50 percent slimmer, and new bezel colors and styles help it blend into the home better than ever before.”

Samsung is proactively bringing products to market that reimagine the display screen and how it fits into consumers’ living spaces, he adds. “The Frame is just one of our five lifestyle TV options to equip installers with versatile, design-forward TVs to address any challenge or end-user preference. The Terrace and The Terrace Pro TV outdoor displays bring a name brand to the outdoor AV category that has been underrepresented for too long, and consumers will likely continue to spend time at home and outside well into 2021.”

The CI Channel

CI dealers need to be able to choose from a wide breadth of product options due to the varied nature of every job requirement, and for those products to have the ability to integrate seamlessly into the systems they design, says Joseph Colombo, CI technical manager, LG Electronics USA. “LG has always offered many display options to choose from covering best-in-class OLED sets, LED/LCD models, and projectors to cover every room and screen size.

“For example, there has been a great demand to add larger screen sizes in OLED and specific CI-centric features,” he explains. “We’ve added more ultra-large size options and have received great feedback for our Gallery series OLED TVs, which, when installed using our proprietary flush wall mount, looks breathtaking. Recently, LG has also placed increased focus on providing CI dealers with the necessary tools so that our products can easily be integrated within their projects. Since 2018, our 4K TVs have added several CI-centric features such as Public Display Mode, HDMI Diagnostics, and IP control, as well as compatibility with all of the most commonly used home automation systems such as Crestron, Control4, Savant, and others. Last but not least, we developed a dedicated support hub, LG’s CI Portal, that gives dealers instant access to resources like CAD drawings, spec sheets, install videos, trainings, etc.”

It’s no surprise that the pandemic brought about changes, and the CI market has seen a boost due to the current homecentric period, with consumers rushing to improve their home entertainment, Sony’s Goldstein notes. “The addition of home office spaces, upgraded networking, and larger screen sizes has provided a big boost for the industry. It’s amazing that 2020 saw such positive growth, which Sony also enjoyed. As we look forward, there’s no indication of a slowdown in customer demand.”

Sony also sees a subtrend with home centricity for entertainment and work-from-home becoming normalized, he adds. “As consumers migrate from cities and close suburbs to further reaching areas, we expect the current strong real estate market to continue to bolster the need for upgraded home entertainment and digital infrastructure. This trend in turn increases the demand for custom installation work.”

LG’s OLED is now available in an 83-inch sized model.

Partnership is another important theme for Sony, Goldstein notes. “We make significant efforts to ensure that the dealer relationship goes beyond the last Sony product they sold. Our new co-marketing campaign for our Diamond Dealers enables them to leverage this partnership to communicate to their existing customer base and to extend that customer base in their operating area. What’s also important for us in the CI channel is to guide dealers on how to apply the new BRAVIA XR TV technology in delivering the best picture and sound reproduction regardless of source.”

Jayson Savage, Sony technical sales specialist, and a former custom systems integrator, provides support for these dealers. “We host regional trainings, nationally, on various CI topics and on all new product launches,” he says. “It’s two-sided; there’s the marketing side of things, as well as information on how to use features in relation to integration projects. An integrator may want to use an OLED for a light controlled room or an LED for a very bright room, for example. We can highlight new and key features that are integrator-centric such as network capabilities, including enhanced stability for IP control. It’s these little tidbits that really help integrators.”

The challenge, Savage says, is in picking the right shoes for the right feet. “If a customer only watches the news on a particular set, they probably don’t need OLED as support. Suggesting the best practices using Sony equipment and making the most appropriate suggestions for customers are the lessons we try to reinforce. This is a relationship business, with key business ethics and acumen. We train dealers to represent their own brands to the highest level possible because the Sony brand is part of their image.”

The CI market is traditionally a premium/early adopter market, and in 2021 Samsung has plenty of innovation to address just that, Mayo says. “Neo QLED brings our 4K and 8K displays into the next era of immersive home viewing experiences. Our new MicroLED prefabricated displays are designed for the high-end customer who simply needs the most cutting-edge display available. Beyond products, 2021 will be another growth year for Samsung in the CI residential market due to our partnership programs. Most notably, the Samsung Platinum Direct Partner program addresses all of the top CI dealer needs, including increased profitability and improved access to products, to fully support CI dealers.”

Samsung is bringing its line of commercial panels to CI dealers right where they shop, he adds. “By expanding our Platinum program to include LFD panels, we’re helping CI dealers who increasingly find themselves doing more and more commercial installations as their businesses grow. Further, we’re making the product more accessible to the dealers who actually execute the install projects. Through one program, one simplified set of price sheets, and all products at the same regional and national distribution locations, we’ve created a simplified job quoting process for CI dealers. As a result, Samsung and its rep firms can partner even more effectively with CI dealers on any and all projects they have in 2021.”

Sony is very excited about launching this new lineup in the CI channel because this technology is another tool to help integrators deliver amazing home entertainment, Goldstein says. “We’ve been a part of CEDIA since the seminal days of the industry. And I was part of those early days in establishing Sony as a key player. I am thrilled to be back at Sony to continue to steward the brand in the CI channel.”

TV Enhancers

Add-ons to your television sales.


DISH Custom Integration Program

The DISH Custom Integration Program pays a recurring monthly revenue (RMR) incentive per qualifying account. Launched in September 2016, the DISH Custom Integration Program gives integrators the ability to easily create accounts for clients, provides access to skilled technicians for on-site surveys and complex installs, and includes a dedicated support hotline managed by an award-winning VIP concierge team. The new RMR benefit is additive to the existing margins available to custom integrators.

SANUS Soundbar TV Mount

Compatible with most displays from 50 inches to 90 inches, the SANUS Soundbar TV Mount for the Sonos Arc (WSSATM1-B2) attaches directly to TV mounts, allowing the sound of the Arc to move with the display in any direction. Four inches of depth adjustment ensure the Arc’s Dolby Atmos speakers and mics are clear and working properly, while active height adjustment with an easy release latch provides access to I/O and power ports.