The moon was in the seventh house, Jupiter aligned with Mars, the groundhog saw his shadow, and somehow we found ourselves with LG and Samsung’s very best TVs in our testing lab, sitting right next to each other, just begging to battle it out. How could we resist?
LG’s relentless pursuit to perfect OLED TV technology has culminated in the EG9600, a gorgeous, curved 4K UHD OLED TV wielding perfect black levels, brilliant color, and intense brightness as its weapons. Meanwhile, Samsung, which shelved OLED to redefine what was possible with LCD TV technology, has produced the Js9500 SUHD TV, brandishing quantum dots for billions more colors, and a full array local dimming (FALD) LED backlight system that promises class-leading black levels, contrast, and color.
With so many acronyms, how could this not be an epic battle for the ages?
I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t comparing two completely different display technologies unfair? To which I reply: Of course it’s unfair — it’s so unfair that you would have to try to choose between the two! Seriously, the whole idea behind this head-to-head comparison is to illustrate how OLED and premium LCD/LED TVs can be so different, and yet both achieve excellent results.
For this battle royale, we set 65-inch models of each television side-by-side in our testing room and performed basic picture settings adjustments using the same tools consumers can use in their homes, accounting for brightness, contrast, color, and tint. All settings related to picture processing were matched up or disabled entirely (motion smoothing, for instance, was disabled on both sets). We then compared the two televisions using 1080p Blu-ray content that was upscaled to 2160p either by the source (a Pioneer Elite BDP-88FD) or the televisions themselves. We also used 4K clips from several different programs available through Netflix, as well as 4K content sourced from a third party.
It should be noted that, although the Samsung is equipped to handle High Dynamic Range (HDR) content via USB (and, eventually, via HDMI after firmware update), we did not account for this capability in our comparison since, presently, HDR content is not yet available, and the LG OLED is unable to process such HDR metadata.
As you’ll see in our video above, we spotted several key picture performance differences between the two televisions. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, but ultimately , both TVs came out strong. The LG OLED’s superior black levels, near-perfect screen uniformity, excellent brightness, and color luminance were its highlights, while a flashing judder effect still has us shrugging our shoulders in confusion and frustration. The Samsung SUHD TV, on the other hand, offered silky-smooth motion resolution, vibrant colors in fine shades, intense brightness, and much-improved black levels and screen uniformity with minimal backlight distractions.
User interface also played a role in our comparison, with LG sporting its second-gen webOS 2.0 OS, and Samsung its brand-new Tizen platform. We prefer webOS 2.0 by a fair margin, though we’re very pleased with the considerable improvement Tizen brings to the Samsung smart TV experience.
In the end, price held a lot of sway. The 65-inch LG EG9600 currently retails for $9,000 while the like-sized Samsung JS9500 goes for $5,000. This forced us to consider whether there would be $4,000 worth of appreciable difference between the two for the sort of consumer interested in a high-ticket television. In the end, we must leave that in the hands of the individual consumer, but for our part, we think the Samsung’s lower price and outstanding performance (albeit inferior to the LG OLED in some respects) will make it a more appealing set.
Still, when it came down to a subjective side-by-side comparison between the two, the OLED won — hands down — in every instance among those polled. There’s just something about that OLED picture quality that is undeniably appealing to the average viewer.
As expected, there is no clear-cut “winner” in a contest such as this, because what makes the “best TV” is a very personal, individual consideration. With that said, both TVs are worth seeing, even if you’ll never be able to see them side-by-side, as we did. This is a very cool time for TV tech, and it’s only going to get more exciting from here. From where we sit, both LG and Samsung came out winners in this battle.