Sony vs. Samsung: Whose TV belongs in your living room?

sony vs samsung tvs
Who makes the best HDTV: LG or Samsung? Samsung or Sony? Toshiba or Panasonic? We hear these questions all the time. So, if those questions are so common, why are the answers so uncommon? Well, the trouble is that such queries are extremely broad. Answer one way or the other and you can count on getting branded as a fanboy.  You can’t just say “brand X is the best.” That’s ridiculous. The best at what? Everything? We don’t think so.

But we recognize that anyone asking these questions clearly needs some kind of nudge in one direction or the other, or maybe just some guidance with their research. With that in mind, we’ve decided to pit one brand against another in an ongoing series until we’ve exhausted as many variations as possible; because the truth is, different brands do exhibit distinct characteristics and understanding those characteristics can help make a buying decision easier. Here we go.

Sony vs. Samsung

Sony was once the undisputed king of televisions; its older Trinitron and newer Bravia series are often regarded as synonymous with the concept of a premium TV. But then along came a little South Korean company called Samsung, which has worked its way up to become the number one TV manufacturer in the world, snatching a little over 26 percent market share.

Just because you’re the biggest doesn’t necessarily make you the best, though. While Samsung may be a TV titan, Sony hasn’t lost its chops, and over the past few years, its prices have come down a little. Aside from all that, these two companies make very different products. Let’s take a closer look at what differentiates the two.

Aesthetic design

Samsung has a sort of obsession with making the thinnest possible TVs with the thinnest possible bezels. The company’s F8000 LED/LCD televisions are virtually bezel-free, and, with an average depth of just 5/8-inch, they are about as thin as you can get. This changes some as you move down Samsung’s line-up, but you can usually count on Samsung to deliver a smallest-in-class bezel and cabinet depth. That doesn’t always play to Samsung’s advantage, however. We’ve seen some of the company’s mid-level televisions showing more edge light bloom because of their skimpy bezels.

samsung un55f8000 front stand macro 1486x991Sony makes a sexy TV, but it tends to show a lot less skin than Samsung does. Put another way: If Sony’s top-level TV’s wear miniskirts, then Samsung’s wear microskirts. Take a look at Sony’s W900, for example. Some might argue that a half-inch of difference in bezel width is splitting hairs, and we might tend to agree. For most, the bezel on Sony’s is plenty slim, and we’ve found that as you move down Sony’s line, the small amount of additional bezel can help hide some edge-light blooming.

When it comes to the TV’s stands, we’ve become indifferent. It used to be that we preferred Sony’s to Samsung’s considerably because Sony supplied higher-quality glass stands with its top-tier models. Now, both companies tend to use chromed-up plastic stands in various swooping shapes. Meh.

Picture quality

For LED LCD televisions:

This would be so much easier if we were only comparing the aforementioned top-of-the-line models from the two manufacturers. In that sort of head-to-head, we would praise Sony for its outstanding color accuracy, but give a nod to Samsung for its above-par black levels. The thing is, the outstanding black level the F8000 achieves is thanks to an advanced local dimming technology that you don’t get with lesser models. And although Samsung’s black levels tend to be very good from model to model, the difference between it and Sony is much less stark without the local dimming involved.

sony-kdl-55w802a-review-front-angle-on-2We will say this: Sony’s televisions have always had a certain look to them that is distinctly Sony, and a lot of folks love that look. If you’re one of those people that’s always loved the look of a Sony TV, then you should know that Sony’s still got it.

On the other hand, Samsung makes TVs that can get exceptionally bright, and sometimes that brightness is necessary to combat lots of ambient sunlight. If you need an eyeball-scorching TV, Samsung’s LED backlit sets will usually do the trick.

For plasma televisions:

Sony does not make a plasma TV anymore; it quit the plasma biz in 2006. That being the case, Samsung wins this battle by default. In terms of picture quality, plasma absolutely dominates LED/LCD technology. As a bonus, it’s less expensive, too. Side note: Samsung’s F8500 plasma is one of the five best TVs you can buy this year.

Smart TV

We’re going to give this category to Samsung. Sony’s smart TV interface is mostly centered around the Sony Entertainment Network interface. You can access some more popular VOD apps such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant from a more simplified app menu, but actually using these apps will require that you register your device with Sony, and that means a trip to Sony’s website. It may sound like a little thing, but we’ve always found it to be a hassle. Also, Sony’s smart TV’s don’t support some key apps, such as VUDU. Oddly enough, Sony’s Blu-ray players support apps that its TVs do not – VUDU being one of them.

samsung un55f8000 front media 1486x991Samsung, on the other hand, has put a ton of effort into its smart TV interface, and it shows. Year after year, the visual aspect of the interface gets better, as do its app offerings (even though you won’t use half of them…ever). Also, Samsung offers a universal search option to help you find content across all available VOD apps (the downside is that you must use voice search) and it includes a recommendation engine which some find helpful in discovering new content.

User interface

Not only does the user interface vary from tier to tier within each manufacturer’s line-up, but the term user interface is itself very broad. So, for the sake of this piece, let’s say the user interface has to do with the experience of navigating through a TV’s various menus in order to make changes to the settings. In that regard, the contest is a draw. Both companies provide a menu navigation experience that is intuitive enough to get through, and both leave something to be desired in terms of explaining what certain menu options actually do. Neither has reached perfection, but considering how complex these TVs can get, we’d have to say both brands have done a decent job. There are some manufacturers with pretty lame user interfaces, and we’ll be getting to them later in this series.

Remote control

Unfortunately, this category gets decided on which remote we dislike the least. That’s right, if we’re to pick the lesser of two evils, we’re going to pick Sony and its remote controls. To be fair, this would be a draw, but Samsung decided go with this whole trackpad remote approach for its upper-tier televisions. And while we acknowledge it as being a very forward-thinking idea, it doesn’t work for us in practice.

The remote is also light on buttons, leaving most of the TV’s functions to be accessed with a virtual remote pad on the TV. Maybe we’re just old school, but we’ll take a wand loaded with buttons any day. And while we’re expressing our preferences, let us once again state for the record that all remote controls should be backlit. This is the 21st century; there are no excuses.

Internet connectivity

At this point, both Ethernet and Wi-Fi connections are standard on both Sony and Samsung Smart TVs. This really shouldn’t be a consideration.

Now go look at some TVs, will ya?

We hope you’ll walk away from reading this with some sense of how Sony and Samsung compare with each other. But we think the most valuable takeaway here is that you get out there and go put your hands on a TV and its remote for a while to get the feel of things. In our home-theater crash course, we suggest you forget about the sales guys on the floor and just start playing around. That’s what those TV displays are for. And if you want a more complete guide to buying a TV, be sure to check out our comprehensive TV buying guide. Have fun!

Cars

Unrestrained by heritage, Polestar sets its sights on becoming a digital brand

With no heritage to worry about, Polestar is free to move full-speed ahead towards its goal of becoming a digital brand. All of the company's upcoming models will be electric, and they will inaugurate an Android-powered infotainment system.
Deals

Stay fit and save cash with our top 10 affordable Fitbit alternatives

As much as we love Fitbits, they're rather expensive. If all you want is a simple activity tracker, however, then check out these great cheap Fitbit alternatives. With offerings from brands like Garmin, you don't need to pay full price.
Smart Home

Traeger’s latest wood-pellet grills are smoky, smart, and spacious

Traeger is famous in the world of barbecue and heavy-duty grills for its signature pellet grills and now the company is expanding this year by adding three new brands of redesigned
Computing

Like to be brand loyal? These tech titans make some of our favorite laptops

If you want to buy your next laptop based around a specific brand, it helps to know which the best brands of laptops are. This list will give you a good grounding in the most reliable, quality laptop manufacturers today.
Movies & TV

How Laika blends 3D printing and CGI to make mesmerizing stop-motion movies

With each film, Laika Studios pushes the bar higher for stop-motion animation. We explore Laika's latest techniques for its new adventure, Missing Link, which the studio it calls a Kaleidoscopic travelogue that ranks as its most ambitious…
Home Theater

Need to get rid of an unused Netflix profile? Just follow these simple steps

Need to delete an unwanted profile from your Netflix account? It's easy to do, no matter what kind of equipment you've got. Check out our handy how-to guide for step-by-step instructions.
Home Theater

You can now watch four PlayStation Vue streams at once on a single Apple TV

PlayStation Vue subscribers can now watch March Madness in style via Apple TV, which can now stream up for four separate games to your TV at once, making it easy to catch all the on-court action.
Home Theater

Apple's Airpods 2 could be released as early as this week

Apple may release new AirPods in the first half of 2019. A wireless charging case, health sensors, water resistance, and better Siri integration are some of the improvements rumored to be part of the new package.
Deals

Amazon drops price of 65-inch Sony 4K Smart TV by $300 for March Madness

You can get a fantastic 65-inch Sony LED TV for $300 off right now, in what's best described as the perfect TV deal to lead you and your living room into this year's March Madness tournament.
Home Theater

Smart speakers are about to get an IQ bump thanks to new Qualcomm chips

Qualcomm announced a new chipset that is designed to make the next generation of smart speakers sound, listen, and connect better than ever before, and it could soon be in your living room.
Home Theater

What year is this? Apple might drop a new iPod tomorrow

After two days of surprise hardware releases that have brought us new iPads and iMacs, rumor has it that we may see an update of Apple's iPod as soon as tomorrow, sparking a mixture of nostalgia and curiosity.
Home Theater

Dish TV customers can access up to 13 NCAA March Madness games in 4K

If you're a basketball fan looking to get your fix of NCAA Championship action in 4K, Dish TV will be airing up to 13 of the tournament games in the ultra high-def format, starting on Tuesday.
Movies & TV

Stranger Things season 3 teaser proclaims it's almost feeding time in Hawkins

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season, premiering in July 2019.
Movies & TV

Disney completes its $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox

Now that Walt Disney Company has closed its $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox's movie and television assets, what does this future hold for franchises like X-Men, the Fantastic Four, The Simpsons, and the rest?