For years, as the largest maker of OLED TVs, LG has had a great story to tell about OLED’s many advantages. Things like black levels, contrast, and overall picture quality.
On the flip side, rival Samsung has battled against it for just as many years, spending millions of dollars highlighting one of the perceived drawbacks of OLED TV technology: permanent image retention (otherwise known as burn-in). So it’s not surprising, now that Samsung has finally embraced OLED tech, that LG might want to return the favor.
And that’s exactly what happened on February 28. During an invite-only online media event organized by LG and attended by Digital Trends’ in-house TV expert, Caleb Dension, the company was focused on a single message: Samsung’s OLED TVs have a burn-in problem.
To be clear, LG Display (the LG division that actually manufactures OLED panels) was the one delivering the message. But it wasn’t basing the accusation on its own research. Instead, it used a set of long-term test results from rtings.com, a review site known for its in-depth, measurements-based product evaluations.
The test in question was performed on Samsung’s first QD-OLED TV, the 65-inch 2022 S95B, a TV that uses quantum dots combined with blue OLED pixels to achieve its full-spectrum RGB color. Rtings.com found that if left the same image displayed on the S95B for days at a time, with brightness set to maximum, permanent image retention occurred. The same test also apparently was performed on Sony’s 2022 A95K — the only other model that uses Samsung’s first-gen QD-OLED panel — with similar, yet slightly less-pronounced results.
LG Display was also quick to point out that LG’s 2022 G2 and C2 evo OLED models, which were also subjected to the same punishment, appeared to come away unscathed, or at least with no perceptible damage in the photos that were shown to attendees.
LG Display explained that the reason its panels fared better is thanks to its use of white subpixels. The deeper meaning of this explanation was lost on no one. Samsung has made LG’s white subpixel a prime target in its promotion of QD-OLED panels, claiming that the white subpixel reduces color accuracy by washing out the adjacent subpixels.
For its part, LG is now striking back by saying that without the brightness boost afforded by those white subpixels, Samsung is pushing its own OLED pixels too hard and that burn-in is the consequence of doing so.
Is LG Display right? Yes. But it might not matter.
The problem with image retention tests like the ones performed by Rtings.com is that they necessarily represent a worst-case scenario. Leaving the same news channel on an OLED TV for days at a time with its brightness maxed out feels like an edge case at best. In that way, they’re a little reminiscent of phone bend tests. Don’t leave the same image on an OLED TV for days at a time. Also, don’t sit on your phone.
Not to say that no one uses TVs this way (gyms, airports, and some bars are all places that might do just that) — but if that’s your intent, you should be staying away from any OLED TV — not just Samsung’s.
The truth — whether LG wants to admit it or not — is that all OLED TVs can suffer the same fate as the S95B and A95K if you push them long enough and hard enough. Burn-in happens when some OLED pixels age at a faster rate than their neighboring pixels, which can happen when a logo or other graphic stays on-screen for a long time while the rest of the screen continues to show an ever-changing set of colors and brightness. LG’s use of a white subpixel doesn’t change that fact.
What’s more likely, in our opinion, is that LG (which has far more experience producing and controlling TV-size OLED displays than Samsung) has simply evolved its OLED TV software and hardware to mitigate the worst effects of burn-in when under extreme use. It hasn’t always been this way. We’ve received example images from readers who have older LG OLED TVs that have experienced burn-in.
Our takeaway from LG’s “I told you so” is that owners of Samsung and Sony’s first-gen QD-OLED TVs should exercise the same caution we have always recommended when using OLED TVs: avoid prolonged, high brightness display of any consistent image elements. Our other takeaway: just as LG has improved its ability to fight OLED burn-in over time, so too will Samsung, and we have every expectation that its next-gen QD-OLED panels will be less susceptible to burn-in than the ones it was making a year ago.
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