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21 May 2020

We've just tested our first LG OLED and Samsung QLED TVs for 2020

In the 4K TV world, two brands rein supreme. LG and Samsung, OLED and QLED - who comes out on top?

When LG and Samsung release their high-end TVs each year, it's hard not to get excited. Upgrades on the previous year's sets may seem small and incremental in some cases, but when two brands are at the top of their game it doesn't take much for one to jump ahead of the other.

The OLED55CX6LA and OLED65CX6LA stand out as LG's big hitters this year. They might not pack the same visual design punch as the GX and WX ranges sitting above them, but from a technology standpoint they are similar to their more distinctive-looking cousins.

Samsung's QE55Q80T and QE65Q80T, both QLED TVs, are a bit cheaper than LG's OLEDs, but are certainly going after the same audience: people who want a high-end TV without the ludicrous price.

Both brands have the pedigree to turn heads, but which is making the best TVs at this level?

Top five TVs for 2020 - as new models replace old, did any TVs from our latest batch beat the top sets from 2019?

OLED and QLED: what's the difference?

Not only is LG vs Samsung a battle of the brands, it's a battle of the technologies, too. At least when it comes to TVs.

Samsung is the only significant OLED technology holdout. LG, Panasonic and Sony chose OLED displays for their high-end sets, but Samsung still believes backlit TVs provide the best picture quality.

A backlight is a layer of bulbs that sit at the back of the screen. They create light, which shines on other layers to make the picture. On TVs with QLED technology, this layer illuminates quantum dots, which are said to produce some of the most vibrant colours you can see on a TV.

OLEDs don't use backlights at all. Instead every pixel in the display creates its own light source. This means OLEDs are thinner than backlit TVs and the increased control over what parts of the screen are lit produces better contrast if the technology is used well. The trade-off is a lower typical brightness.

Both displays have strengths and weaknesses. What it often comes down to is the skill of the manufacturers and how well they were able to harness the potential of their respective technologies.

LG OLED CX range

An OLED with a C in its model name gets us excited, because we know this range is where LG puts a lot of time and resource. We know it takes pride in these sets - it wants and expects them to do well.

A legacy of quality is another reason we're always eagerly awaiting the test scores for this range. They've done extremely well in the past, but it wouldn't take much to change that.

LG doesn't appear to be resting on its laurels. The CX range uses the latest third-generation Alpha 9 processor. It's this chip that's key to how well the TV handles video at all resolutions. Whether that's getting the most out of the vast number of pixels in 4K, or upscaling SD and HD content to look as crisp as possible.

Extra features to improve the picture

  • Filmmaker Mode - turns out that TV manufacturers think they know best when it comes to displaying films. Directors and cinematographers would disagree, because they don't necessarily want the image-sharpening and motion-smoothing capabilities used to 'improve' the experience. Filmmaker Mode turns all of that off, so you can watch the film as the creators intended.
  • Dolby Vision IQ -this neat feature lets the TV react to the light in your room and adjust colour, contrast and screen brightness accordingly. It can make the same adjustments on the content you're watching, too, so it's always looking to optimise your viewing.

A new processor coupled with these features should equal the best-looking C-range OLED we've tested. They don't account for sound of course; a TV needs to do well here, too.

Often when it comes to high-end models like this, it's not a matter of whether it's good, it's whether it's good enough. The 55-inch CX is £1,799 and the 65-inch one is £2,799, and while prices will drop and there are plenty of pricier sets, these TVs need to be at the top of their game. Are they? Use the links below to see our full reviews.

Samsung Q80T range

Samsung is the biggest TV brand in the world, so its high-end sets are guaranteed plenty of attention. Its models get more understated every year and the Q80Ts have simple designs that puts all the emphasis on the screen. But that shouldn't be a problem what with all the bells and whistles the display benefits from.

The 4K Quantum processor has the big responsibility of upscaling lower-resolution content to something close to 4K, while ensuring 4K footage is as crisp as we've come to expect. The picture can adapt to the brightness of your room, too, which is welcome on sunny days and dark nights alike.

Extra features to improve sound

  • OTS Object Tracking Sound - most TVs have speakers pointing down at the bottom of the screen, but manufacturers, including Sony as well as Samsung, have discovered what they think is a better way. By positioning speakers in different places behind the screen, the TV is able to make the sound come from the right place. Say for example an explosion occurs in the top corner of the screen, the extra speakers means that's where the sound should come from on the Q80T. It's nice to see Samsung not putting all its eggs in the picture quality basket.
  • Adaptive sound - the picture adjusts to ambient light and the sound adjusts to what you're watching. In an action film, the TV should be able to boost the power of the explosions and gun shots, or a roaring engine in a car chase. It can boost dialogue to help it carry, too, and it's not just what's happening on screen that affects the sound either: if it suddenly gets noisy in your room the speakers will compensate.

The focus on sound and strengths of QLED displays should add up a well-rounded TV, but is it better than an OLED? Check our full reviews to find out.

  • 55-inch Samsung QE55Q80T review.
  • 65-inch Samsung QE65Q80T review.