They may be neighbours, but Samsung and LG are fierce rivals, particularly when it comes to TVs. LG’s C8 OLEDs are some of its flagship screens for 2018, but we’re also expecting big things from Samsung’s far cheaper 8 Series this year.
While LG has been championing OLED technology for years, Samsung has stuck staunchly with LCD screens for all its TVs. This hasn’t changed in 2018. The question is whether Samsung is peering over its neighbour’s fence, envious of LG’s new OLEDs, or whether LG is wishing it had stuck with LCD displays.
Our impartial testing can help to answer that question, as we reveal the results from this hotly anticipated match-up.
Top TVs for 2018 – browse the best sets money can buy
Voice control with the new LG 55-inch and 65-inch C8 OLEDs
Thin and stylish with barely any bezel, LG’s OLEDs look glorious. The latest C8 models have a new image processor that supposedly makes the picture sharper and the colours more vibrant.
It’s compatible with four HDR formats: HDR10, the current industry standard; HLG, which is used by the BBC; Dolby Vision; and Technicolor.The last two aren’t as commonly used, but if you’re watching content mastered with one of them in mind, then it should look that bit better on these TVs. There’s more information on these formats and the interesting differences between them in our guide to HDR.
LG hasn’t ignored the sound, either, partnering with Dolby to add Atmos processing to its speakers. The TV should be better at placing sounds in your room, so it’s doesn’t seem like all the audio is coming straight at you from the TV. Object-based sound is all well and good, but it needs to get the balance right. Deep, rich bass is a must for full sound, and treble still needs to be able to punctuate those low tones without sounding shrill.
LG’s OLEDs are smarter than before. You can adjust the picture mode on the fly without needing to delve through the menus, and ask your TV to turn off when the current show is over, but it’s the voice search that could be the most useful. Using a remote to type anything is laborious. Asking the TV to find a certain show, or present everything available with your favourite actor, is much easier.
Does the combination of the new A9 processor, nearly every HDR format going, and Dolby-engineered sound add up to the best TV of the year so far, or is it all just smoke and mirrors? Read our reviews of the LG OLED55C8 and OLED65C8 to find out.
New HDR10+ on the Samsung 8 Series
Samsung’s QLED TVs are the direct competitors to OLEDs. But a good TV is a good TV, regardless of whether it’s mid-range, like the 8 Series, or top of the line.
Lower prices don’t necessarily mean lower expectations. That’s why we test mid-range models in exactly the same way we test high-end ones. After decades of TV testing, we know that a top-of-the-range price doesn’t always equal top quality.
The 8 Series TVs are sleek, minimal, and designed to blend into the background when they aren’t on. The bezels are tiny and the base isn’t flashy, but it does hide away your cables. Threading them through the base keeps them out of sight and makes these big TVs more inconspicuous.
As with LG, Samsung’s new TVs have plenty of impressive-sounding features. Dynamic crystal colour is said to increase the range of hues the TV can show, thereby improving the accuracy of the picture. And the TVs support a new HDR format, HDR10+. It’s an upgrade to the current standard, HDR10, and was developed by Samsung.
As with the other formats, if the content was mastered with HDR10+ in mind, then it should look better on a Samsung TV, although it won’t make a lick of difference if the TV’s picture quality was bad to start with. By not including any of the competing formats, Samsung is banking on HDR10+ emerging as the new standard.
LG isn’t alone in giving its TVs voice control. Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant has moved from smartphones to smart TVs, and the 8 Series is one of its new homes. Searching for content is the best use of this new tech. You can search for a specific movie or show, or if you’re not sure what you fancy, you can ask to see all movies of a certain genre. It’s much easier than typing with an on-screen keyboard. You can use the TV to control other smart tech in your home, too, including bulbs, thermostats and wireless security cameras.
If the mid-range 8 Series TVs get the better of LG’s high-end OLEDs, then it will be a major coup for Samsung. Check our reviews of the Samsung UE49NU8000, UE55NU8000 and UE65NU8000 to see if any of them are punching above their weight.
LG SK8500 range – OLED features for a lower price
LG doesn’t only make OLED screens; most of the TVs it releases every year still use LCD technology. These are split between two ranges: ultra HD and super UHD. The SK8500 TVs are super UHD, hence the S in the product name.
Being high-end means the 8500 TVs are compatible with the same four HDR formats as the OLEDs and they use the A7 processor, which was previously only found in OLED TVs.
These TVs are good listeners, too, including the same voice-control features that make it simple to search for content on the C8 OLEDs. The main difference is in the screens themselves, and the question of whether OLED is better than LCD.
LCD vs OLED: what’s the difference?
They both look the same, but the way these two displays create an image is different.
LCD screens use a backlight shining on to a layer of liquid crystals to create the picture. The backlight sits behind the crystals, or runs around the edge of the screen and shines across them. Full-array backlights behind the crystals are typically preferred, as they can create more dimming zones. This means the TV has more control over which parts of the screen are lit, making for better contrast and less light bleeding from bright objects into darker ones.
OLEDs don’t need a backlight, because each bulb in the screen is self-emitting. OLED TVs are often thinner than LCD ones as a result. Since each bulb can be controlled individually, OLED TVs have precise control over contrast. The bulbs can turn off, creating a truly black image and better overall contrast.
LG and Samsung are the biggest proponents of OLED and LCD displays. See how they fare in our tests in our guide to Samsung vs LG TVs.