Best HDTV ever: $10,000 LG and $9,000 Samsung OLEDs face off

September 13th, 2013 · 4 Comments · 3D HDTV, Connected TVs, Digital Media Receivers, LED LCD Flat Panels, Plasma

Samsung KN55S9C  image 580

Never mind the sticker shock, there’s a TV technology revolution happening that will eventually make its way to your house. OLED, the first totally new direct-view technology to appear in decades, has finally arrived on our shores. With their new 55-inch models, both LG and Samsung promise the best big-screen TV images ever seen — and far and away the most expensive, too. We tested both of them and picked a winner. ¡Viva la revolución!

OLED, which stands for “organic light-emitting diode,” has a technological trick that’s destined to change TVs forever: Since each pixel illuminates itself, and is totally pitch black when its not active, you have bright images and wide-viewing angles, but with perfect contrast: completely black blacks down to the pixel. This is a capability neither LCD nor plasma has ever been able to deliver, this is why we care about TV sets that cost more than some cars.

LG OLED 55EA5800 company 580


The LG 55EA9800 introduced in late July, and sold for $15,000. Last month, Samsung debuted its KN55S9C, counter punching LG by charging a mere $9,000. (This week LG lowered their price to $10,000). Both companies managed to create sets that deliver a visual pop like never before. After a decade of promises to make every other TV tech obsolete, OLED is finally starting to make good. But which one is, you know, better?

Head to head

Physically, the two OLED TVs are very similar. They each measure 55-inches diagonally, have curved screens, and can only be used with their integrated table stands — no wall hanging is possible.

To find a difference between the two sets, you have to look into the TV’s pixels themselves. LG’s screen has over 8 million individual organic diodes, “sub-pixels” covered with a red, green, blue or clear filters. Samsung’s diodes are not filtered. Instead, it has over 6 million sub-pixels that emit either red, blue or green light. (As you probably know, when all three are lit together, you get white light.)

Even though these are different approaches to OLED, many of the tests showed how similar these TVs are, especially when compared to older TV technologies. During a black level test, for instance, we simply could not measure any light emitted from either TV. No LED or plasma could pull this off, and the result is an infinite contrast ratio with blazing bright whites. It’s like staring into a car’s high beams.

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Other tests revealed differences, however. After putting the LG 55EA9800 through all sorts of tests, we identified some sub-pixels stuck in the “on” mode. We also spotted some uniformity issues in test patterns and undesired dimming in all-white screens, but neither of those potential problems were duplicated when we used regular video content.

With content, the image delivered as promised, which was incredible. Color was right-on the money to the HDTV standard. Our only disappointment was motion resolution. It produced blur with fast motion such as seen action movies — a problem associated with LED-based LCD TVs, but not plasmas. We could eliminate the blur by engaging the 55EA9800 s Tru Motion circuit, but the trade-off there is that it produces a picture artifact that makes film look like video — the so-called “soap opera effect.”

We put the Samsung KN55S9C through the same test procedures. A white screen was incredibly bright, measuring higher than any 2013 plasma or LED LCD TV we’ve tested. And unlike the LG, there was no dimming of the test signals. We could find no stuck sub-pixels, and uniformity was perfect at any brightness level.

The color was close to the HDTV standard in the Movie mode, Samsung’s most accurate setting. We coaxed to ideal using the KN55S9C s built-in color management system, but this requires test equipment, as it can’t be done by eye. (If you spend $9,000 for a TV, however, maybe someone at the store will be kind enough to perform a calibration for you — possibly at no extra charge.)

While the Samsung’s Movie mode delivered motion blur similar to the LG, Samsung provides an extra mode they call Clear Motion which inserts black frames between live frames. When that was engaged, we got full motion resolution without the soap opera effect. The only downside is a dimmer image, potentially bad news when you’re watching a movie in broad daylight.

And the winner is …

Both OLED TVs make an image that is overall superior to any LED-based LCD or plasma TV we have ever tested (and that’s saying something!), our pick goes to the Samsung. It is the best of the best HDTV … ever.

OLED is the future of flat panel television. If cost was no object, we’d pick the Samsung KN55S9C over any other 55-inch TV on the market, because of its dynamic range from complete black to intense color and whites. And while the price is in the stratosphere today, we expect it to drop rapidly in the future. If manufacturers figure out how to produce OLED sets in large sizes and at affordable prices, we expect the technology to eventually take over the market.

OK, so even though we picked the $9,000 set over the $10,000 one, you’re maybe still feeling like it’s out of your range. If you want an affordable 50- to 65-inch HDTV today with a high-quality picture (though not one quite as good as either of the OLEDs), we recommend a plasma, especially the ST60, VT60 and ZT60 Panasonics, and the F8500 Samsungs. Street prices start at $999 — maybe you want to buy nine of them.



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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Who Knows...?

    This is what I really want:

    – 4k 70+ inch set

    – in OLED

    – with Glasses Free 1080p capable 3D

  • NLPsajeeth

    Did you happen to record the xy primaries while these TVs were in native gamut mode?

    It would be nice to add the gamuts of these OLED TVs to the following list of wide gamut displays:

  • ChrisHeinonen

    Re: Motion Blur

    One explanation I got for motion blur came from Don Munsil, one half of the Spears & Munsil test discs. The reason we see it with LCDs and other sets but not CRT or Plasma goes back to how they operate and how your eyes track motion.

    With a CRT or Plasma, phosphors are excited and the fade to black, but they exist long enough for your eyes to register and see them as being on. Use a high-speed camera and you’ll really see that most of the screen is often black at any point. Now when your eyes track a ball it moves from Point A to Point B, and during the time between updates, the screen is black.

    With LCD and OLED, the phosphors remain on at all times. So now when your eyes track the same ball from Point A to Point B, it remains at Point A up until it moves to Point B, but your eyes are still moving. This is causing you to see blur, even if that object is still, because your eyes are trying to track it between frames. This isn’t an issue with CRT and Plasma, because the screen is black.

    So even if an OLED has instant refresh times (which LCDs do not), your eyes are still moving while the object is remaining still on screen and causing that blur to occur to you. This can be fixed with black frame insertion, which Sony and JVC offer on a few displays and projectors. Now you see regular frame, then a black frame, then the next regular frame, and you don’t see the blur. You do see a large drop in light output, but OLED might be bright enough to handle this.

    Does that make sense? It deals more with how your brain interprets motion and response, and how the different technologies operate between frames.

  • Scoop

    Any thoughts on why the motion blur? One of OLEDs advantages was supposed to be that it was astonishingly fast, so motion blur would not be an issue.

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