Since shortly after their arrival on the premium consumer TV market, OLED TVs, which are almost exclusively made by LG, have shown themselves to represent what is basically the pinnacle of display performance and overall picture quality. This reputation only improved further with the introduction of HDR OLED TVs with previously unheard of levels of peak brightness in late 2015 and 2016 in particular.
While there were many truly superb 4K LCD TVs released as of 2015 with the arrival of the first HDR models from Sony and Samsung in particular, and even better LCD models released in 2016, none of them quite matched the performance specs of their LG HDR counterparts in virtually any metric except peak brightness. LG’s OLEDs consistently have shown themselves to outperform their LCD cousins in their color rendering, vibrancy, superb motion handling and most importantly of all, the absolutely exquisite pixel-perfect local dimming/luminance capacity they have due to the nature of OLED technology (which can illuminate or completely dim content on the screen right down to the level of individual pixels).
Not even Sony’s Z9D LCD HDR TVs, which emerged on the market near the end of 2016 and offered an unprecedented number of local dimming zones and unprecedented backlighting/dimming precision, could quite match the overall performance of their 2016 premium OLED counterparts. And the Z9D models were the best LCD TVs ever made up to 2016.
Heck, even when it came to peak brightness, while LCD models like the KS9800, the Sony Z9D TVs and Sony’s X940D could all reach levels of 1400 nits or more, LG’s 2016 OLED TVs still delivered superior contrast and brightness PERCEPTION simply because they completely outclassed the top performing LCD HDR TVs with perfect black levels. Furthermore, the peak brightness of LG’s OLED could reach as high as 750 nits in some models and coupled with that already-mentioned perfect black, this number counted for more than it would in an LCD TV –not to mention that many LCD HDR TVs can’t even reach 750 nits of peak brightness.
Thus, at least for 2016, the final verdict on the rivalry between OLED and LCD HDR almost unanimously handed victory to OLED.
Samsung’s new QLED 4K HDR LCD TVs promise unparalleled picture performance
Now, for 2017, Samsung and Sony in particular have unveiled their new QLED and XBR-E Series premium TVs which exceed almost all of the display specs of their best 2016 cousins, while LG has also released their 2017 OLED models, which promise to do the same over their 2016 cousins, And the question once again has to be asked, has LCD finally caught up with OLED?
To be sure, the LCD displays of this year are promising whole new improvements over what LCD display meant even in 2016 (never mind over 2015 LCD 4K TVs). These impressive new enhancements include peak brightness levels that promise to reach between 1500 and 2000 nits almost across the board for all of Sony and Samsung’s premium XBR-E and QLED models while conserving color vibrancy more accurately than ever. Furthermore, Samsung in particular is promising new “metallic quantum dot” technology in its QLED models for a level of DCI-P3 color coverage that the company claims will reach 100%. The 2016 SUHD quantum dot models maxed out at just over 1400 nits of peak brightness and wide color gamut (DCI-P3) coverage of about 94% on average. Thus, these new promises mean genuine enhancements if they pan out. Sony is offering something similar in terms of brightness and HDR color performance
However, the bottom line for both brands’ TVs is that they still won’t deliver a technology which fundamentally diverges from LED backlit LCD panels. What’s more, from what we know by now, the majority of Sony’s 2017 XBR-E TVs and Samsung’s new QLED models will still only be edge-lit like most of their respective 2016 cousins. In other words, only the top TV models in each series from both companies will come with the kind of multi-zone full-array backlighting that came closest to delivering OLED-like black levels and local dimming precision in TVs like the 2016 Sony Z9D models or Samsung KS9800.
Sony’s 2017 XBR-X940E 4K HDR TV
Because of these key continuing aspects of the 2017 LCD HDR TVs from Sony and Samsung, we can so far at least be sure that OLED will remain completely unmatched in its local dimming precision and black quality (two crucial specs for high-end picture performance). Furthermore, while we have no doubt that both Samsung’s and Sony’s 2017 premium TVs will come with virtually perfect motion handling, LG’s 2016 OLED models already offered nearly perfect performance in this area, leaving little room for competition. The same goes for color performance.
LG for its part is promising that its 2017 OLED models will be even brighter than its 2016 models and that they too will deliver higher than ever wide color gamut DCI-P3 performance. Since the 2016 models already reached close to 100%, we can safely assume that the 2017 versions will perform about on par with Samsung and Sony’s top-shelf LCD TVs.
LG’s 2017 OLED W6 flagship 4K HDR TV
So what does this leave Samsung and Sony with on their LCD TVs? Well, they will without a doubt be stunning performers in terms of picture quality and overall performance and they will without a doubt completely outdo OLED in their sheer capacity for peak brightness but OLED is looking to continue dominating on sheer black level and local dimming quality no matter what LCD throws at it this year. And as far as motion handling, color performance and overall smart usability are concerned, the LCD models and LG’s OLED 4K TVs will likely be matched extremely closely with a possible slight edge for OLED as we saw in 2016.
We’ll be able to say with absolute certainty which TV type does better at what when we get to review several of the new 2017 Samsung, LG, Sony and other 4K TVs on the market for this year but for now, we’re betting that even if the best of Sony and Samsung LCD 4K HDR comes closer than ever to matching OLED, the latter will remain king for 2017.
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