Samsung and LG have both unveiled TVs that do more. TVs have been smart for years now, but the 2018 ranges from these two South Korean tech titans, showcased at the CES tech conference, are a whole lot smarter.
David Vanderwaal, vice president of marketing at LG, described 2018 as ‘the tipping point for the smart home’. And LG’s OLED and UHD TVs are leading the charge. LG’s new ThinQ (that’s pronounced thin-q rather than think) software connects its appliances together wirelessly and uses Google Assistant for broader smart home control with third-party gadgets.
Samsung’s 2018 TVs, which include an 8K set, incorporate Bixby for voice control and unify its SmartThings ecosystem into one app. All of that means you’ll be talking to your TV to control your smart home gadgets.
These two brands have been going head to head for years, and our 2017 testing showed that their TVs were closer than ever in terms of quality. Will the new smart technology and advances in picture processing see one pull away from the other in 2018?
Watch our video below to see what LG revealed at the show. To see our Samsung TVs round-up video go to our Samsung TVs at CES 2018 story.
Best Buy TVs – find out which TVs came out on top in our 2017 testing.
Let’s talk displays
Samsung – both companies have revealed 8K TVs, but Samsung was the only one actually talking about them at its conference. We saw Samsung’s range-topping 8K TV at a behind-closed-doors event and we came away impressed. Not only by picture quality, but because Samsung’s 8K TV had a point.
8K shows and films are a long way off – broadcasters are only just dipping their toes into 4K – so why should you consider an 8K TV? The answer lies in upscaling. Clever AI technology inside the TV upgrades whatever is being displayed to close-to-8K quality.
Standard definition, Full HD and 4K all get a quality bump, although upscaled 4K content will still look better than upscaled standard definition. This technology means the extravagant 65, 75 and 85-inch TVs skirt round the dearth of 8K content by effectively creating their own.
The new TVs are brighter too: up to 4,000 nits, which is four times brighter than last year’s range. You might soon need sunglasses indoors if Samsung keeps upping the brightness at this rate.
LG – Samsung’s chief rival showed its hand earlier this year. It revealed its 88-inch 8K TV, alongside the new ThinQ software, a week before CES kicked off. The new TVs it showed off at its CES press conference have the Alpha 9 processor and nano cell technology, which LG says will provide more realistic colours even if you’re watching the set at an angle. Only the higher-end OLED TVs will have this new processor: Ultra HD TVs and some of the cheaper OLEDs will have an A7 chip.
LG’s signature ‘wallpaper’ TV is still the range topper and it’s OLED, but LG didn’t ignore its Ultra HD (UHD) TVs. These backlit sets have moved to full-array backlighting, which means individual parts of the screen can be dimmed to allow for greater contrast. It’s unlikely to be quite as good as OLED at displaying black on the screen, but it’s good news for people not prepared to pay the high costs for OLED TVs.
A smart hub in your smart TV
LG is adding ThinQ to its appliances as well as its TVs, which means, among other things, you can use it to turn on your air purifier and receive alerts when your washing is done. It connects with Google services to display photos, other files and media saved in Google Drive. You can use the built-in Google Assistant to control third-party smart devices.
It can answer questions related to what’s on screen, too. One video shows someone asking the TV the name of the actor on screen. The TV replies and the viewer then asks it to show films that he appeared in. These sorts of contextual responses are the Google Home’s forte and having it recognise what’s on screen is a logical next step for the technology.
Samsung has been in the smart home game a little longer than LG. Its dedicated SmartThings Hub connects Samsung gadgets, including a wireless camera and smart plug, as well as third-party devices, such as Philips Hue bulbs. You’ll have the same level of control with Samsung’s 2018 TVs.
Samsung says the new level of connectivity between devices and the TV will make it easier to use. You’ll be able to set up your TV using your phone. This will automatically log you into apps, such as Netflix and Spotify, and could mean the end of fiddling with remotes and menus.
OLED or QLED?
The big difference between LG and Samsung’s flagship sets is the type of panel used. LG, unsurprisingly, has continued its support for OLED, while Samsung still feels QLED is the way to go.
Since each LED can be turned off individually on OLED panels, it can display deeper blacks, whereas QLED sets are backlit, which means the light can’t be completely turned off. Samsung has made improvements to how it displays darker colours and made an effort to reduce bleeding, so lighter colours don’t mix with darker ones, which creates a blurry, foggy effect.
Despite the improvements, it’s still unlikely to match the black levels on LG’s OLEDs, but it may well have the edge in colour reproduction. The 4,000-nit QLED TVs are likely to be brighter than LG’s TVs, too.
Interestingly, Samsung’s enormous 146-inch TV, The Wall, has a panel where each bulb can be switched off. But the panel isn’t OLED. We were told that this technology will be introduced to Samsung’s more affordable TVs in the years to come.
The Wall is modular, which, according to Samsung, is a first. It’s made up of small panels, so the TV can be produced in a variety of shapes and sizes.
LG had its own jaw-dropping TV, although it was more compact. It’s a 65-inch OLED TV that can be rolled up like a poster. The TV would be easier to store and tempting for anyone who doesn’t want a huge TV dominating the living room when they aren’t watching it.
Which will come out top in 2018?
Our testing will reveal which of these TV juggernauts has the edge this year. Samsung’s 8K QLED set will still struggle to match LG’s OLED when displaying darker scenes, but its ability to sharpen and increase the details of standard-definition, Full HD and 4K broadcasts could mean it’s better for watching a wider range of content.
The real battle will be fought between the mid-range, more affordable sets. If one company has neglected these TVs, and put all their eggs in a premium basket, it will show in our testing. These TVs will arrive in shops in March and April. Look out for our expert, impartial reviews soon.