It's that time again. The cold winter months are behind us and new TVs are back in our test labs as LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and the rest release masses of models to tempt you into upgrading.
Even our huge test lab has limits and there's only so many TVs we can test at once. We start buying TVs as soon as they hit shelves, prioritising the most popular brands. With TVs, that's LG and Samsung, and we snapped up some of their OLED and Neo QLED TVs like a frenzied shopper crashing through the doors of Next on Black Friday.
Unlike just about every other type of television, OLED TVs don't have backlights. Instead, each pixel in the panel creates its own light. This gives OLEDs an unparalleled degree of control over which parts of the screen are lit. And as each pixel can switch off completely, OLEDs can create deeper blacks than backlit TVs.
Otherwise, they work like any other TV. They have built-in tuners to pick up channels, along with access to streaming and catch-up apps.
These TVs are an evolution of standard QLED models. They're backlit TVs, so have a grid of bulbs that shine onto colour-producing layers to create the picture.
Neo QLEDs have backlights with far smaller bulbs (called Micro LEDs) than a typical backlit model, so have more control over how the screen is lit. This helps contrast and reduces bloom (where brighter parts of the picture dilute surrounding darker parts).
Neo QLEDs and QLEDs differ slightly from LCD TVs because, in addition to liquid crystals, they also have 'quantum dots'. Both of these create the picture you see, but the quantum dots are designed to produce more vivid colours than liquid crystals alone.
Before we dig into the details, let's take a quick look at how the two TVs compare to each other in terms of key features.
LG's C-range of OLEDs has been going strong for five years and this latest generation has a few new tricks up its sleeve. First is the 'OLED evo' technology, which debuted in 2021 on the more expensive G-range.
LG said OLED evo TVs were brighter than standard OLEDs, but our own testing, in which we measure the Nits (essentially the maximum light output) of the screen, told a different story. In some instances, we found the OLED evo screen didn't manage higher peak brightness, but in other cases the output was lower than a standard OLED screen. Even when it was the brighter of the two, it wasn't by much.
We'll need to test more 2022 OLEDs before we can see whether LG has improved its tech and truly made evo TVs brighter, but for now this could still be an intriguing prospect that doesn't really do much in practice.
The 48-inch C2 will need the evo brightness more than most as it doesn't get LG's brightness-booster tech, which is only found on models that are 55 inches and bigger. This tech increases brightness by up to 20%, according to LG, so it's a shame that the smaller models miss out.
In most other respects, the OLED48C26LD is largely the same as what we saw in 2021. The features are similar, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Its predecessor (the ) was cutting-edge and the TV world hasn't gone through any seismic shifts in the past 12 months, so this 2022 version is still cutting-edge.
You're getting gaming features that make the most of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, the latest HDR formats including Dolby Vision IQ that can adjust contrast based on ambient light in your room, and Dolby Atmos audio processing for a surround-sound effect (however, in our experience this rarely works).
The processor is the other main difference between the 2021's OLED48C16LA and the new OLED48C26LD. The A9 processor turns five this year, so it can walk, talk and it's about to start school. We remember it when it was just a tiny, newborn chip with big dreams, so it's nice to see it all grown up. This year it's trying to increase distinctions between fore and background images and improve tone mapping, so it can analyse more individual parts of the screen for more accurate HDR.
On paper, then, not much has changed from last year's C-range OLED. And with the LG OLED48C16LA (the 2021 model) still available - albeit not for long - is there much reason to choose this new one? Head to our to find out.
We know about Neo QLEDs now, Samsung's great OLED competitor, but actually Samsung has another ace in the hole in 2022. Its quantum dot organic light emitting diode (QDOLED) TVs combine OLED technology with quantum dots. It's the first time Samsung will release a TV without a backlight to the mass market.
The QDOLED TV shunts Neo QLEDs down a bit in the pecking order, but make no mistake, any Samsung TV with QN in the model name is still high-end.
Much like the C2 OLED, it's a case of evolution rather than revolution. There have been tweaks here and there, but it's largely similar to the Neo QLEDs from 2021. It's an impressive foundation, though. Neo QLEDs impressed us last year, as the micro LED backlight we mentioned earlier made a real difference to picture quality.
The backlight means the QN85B has significantly higher peak brightness, too. We managed 1,140 Nits compared to 730 on the OLED48C26LD. This can make a big difference in brightly lit rooms.
One area where Neo QLED can close the gap on OLED isn't to do with the picture at all. Samsung has been pushing its object-tracking sound technology for a few years now, and as TVs consistently claim some degree of surround-sound simulation, this could give it the edge.
It works by producing sound at the point on the screen where the sound should come from, such as a car engine or character's mouth. This specificity, coupled with speakers pointing in different directions, gives Samsung's Neo QLEDs probably the best chance of creating a surround-sound effect, along with some Panasonic models with upward firing speakers.
Picture quality is the most important part of our test. It makes up more of the score than anything else and it's here the QN85B will need to impress most. Head to our to see if it's the OLED beater Samsung always wanted.
The LG and Samsung TVs featured here are both high-end models, with high-end prices to match.