Looking into getting a new television? We don’t blame you: every year a new round of smart TVs get released to market, with bigger panels, better visuals, and overhauled processors just demanding a place in your home. IFA 2019 is set to add even more to a crowded market – but for now, when it comes to LG vs Samsung TVs, which one should you choose?
Let’s face it, most televisions look largely the same at first glance. Sure, some will be larger or thinner than others, and both LG and Samsung have experimented with new form factors for their high-end sets – have you seen LG’s rollable OLED yet? But at the end of the day, you’re buying a rectangle, and sometimes it can be hard to figure out what really makes one different from the other.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide for comparing Samsung vs LG TVs, so you can know confidently which brand is making the right TV for you.
Samsung and LG are two large-scale manufacturers that sell smart TVs for both high and low price points, though with somewhat different panel technologies for their high-end sets.
Both are South Korean manufacturers that sell televisions globally, with large presences in both the UK and US – unlike Panasonic or Philips, who don’t have licenses in North America – with a large install base and broad range of televisions launched each year.
It’s hard to compare pricing, given how many sets Samsung and LG both launch each year, running from 32-inch LEDs and budget 4K TVs to super-sized 8K sets that run you thousands of dollars / pounds. Whatever size, shape, resolution or budget you’re looking for, either will have you covered.
Samsung and LG are also fighting over territory in the highly competitive smartphone market: both manufacture Android phones, though we won’t be comparing their handsets in this particular guide.
Both Samsung and LG use their own proprietary smart TV platform, and each has their own personal flavor.
LG has been leading with webOS – a minimal, stripped back smart TV interface – since 2014. It uses a horizontal menu bar for commonly used apps, streaming services, and inputs, with customizable placement so you can pick and choose where your favorite apps sit on the dashboard. The latest webOS 4.5 software also brings in secondary menus that appear when hovering over an app icon.
Samsung’s Tizen platform doesn’t differ hugely in its layout (you could say it was influenced by the former), though doesn’t have as impressive a search algorithm as LG’s ThinQ AI software.
But what of voice assistants? LG’s OLED and Super UHD sets come with Google Assistant built in, and some limited compatibility with Alexa-controlled devices. Samsung uses its own (somewhat worse) first-party Bixby assistant, though again only for mid-range or premium sets – and with the option to use Google Assistant or Alexa through third-party devices.
Both back a slightly different format for high dynamic range (HDR), with LG packing Dolby Vision into its premium range of OLEDs and Super UHDs, while Samsung favors HDR10+ for its premium TVs.
Both formats use what’s called dynamic metadata to tailor the output of the television to the content being displayed, so scenes of dark underground caverns or well-lit drawing rooms vary the levels of brightness, contrast, and picture processing accordingly.
Dolby Vision is really the more advanced format, with 12-bit color gamut instead of the 10-bit HDR10+, and is also more commonly found. (While there are a number of HDR10+ shows on Amazon Prime, you won’t find it on Netflix, Chromecast Ultra, or Apple TV 4K.)
Admittedly, preferred HDR format is only really a concern at the higher end of the price range, but those spending big should think carefully about which services they’re likely to want HDR content on.
Today’s premium television market is divided into two panel technologies: OLED and QLED (basically an LED-LCD screen with quantum dots).
OLED, which stands for ‘organic light emitting diode’, is a kind of TV panel that can emit its own light, instead of having light shone through it. This enabled brilliantly thin TV displays, and the ability to individually control the brightness of individual pixels. OLEDs are known for their vibrant colors, deep black levels, and overall low brightness. There’s often talk of ‘burn in’ images on OLED screens, but much of this is anecdotal and you’d probably need to be working the set very hard for this to become a problem.
All OLED panels are manufactured by LG Display, so even if you’ve got a Sony OLED in your home, you have LG to thank.
QLED, on the other hand, is a proprietary technology developed by Samsung. QLED uses a filter of quantum dots to enhance color and contrast, and make do with a number of dimming zones to vary brightness across the screen – rather than being able to do so with each pixel individually. QLED TVs are also a lot brighter than OLEDs (thousands of nits versus hundreds) though can struggle to show both light and dark images at the same time as a result.
We’ve gone into this debate in more detail in our QLED vs OLED guide, though for now it’ll be enough to say that OLED is generally suited to high-quality video formats in dark viewing environments, while Samsung’s sets lag on contrast (comparatively) but make up for it with a bright and impactful display. Keep in mind though, both are highly impressive premium panel technologies, and most of you will be very happy with either.
It’s been a rocky period for both LG and Samsung. LG Display has had to spend a lot on research and development for its OLED panels, and reported a first-quarter operating loss this year (via Reuters) – though with the bet that growth in OLED will end up balancing this.
Samsung meanwhile is expecting a large drop in profits in 2019 after lower-than-expected smartphone sales and TV demand. Samsung has plans to compete with LG’s OLED tech, with its own QD-OLED (quantum dot-OLED) hybrid, but unstable finances have seen those plans get pushed a few years back.
The takeaway here is that, regardless of either company’s financial health, both are focusing on their current display technologies, and aren’t going to suddenly stop supporting any of the new TVs they’re currently bringing to market. So which set you pick should really just be down to what you want in your living room.
If you want a bright, dazzling QLED screen to light up your home – or a solid budget option like the NU7100 – Samsung is your best bet. If you really want the most impressive picture quality out there, regardless of price, nothing currently beats LG's OLED panels for color and contrast (see: LG's C9 OLED).
If you’re happy with your current television, but will want to upgrade in another few years – well, it could be a whole different story.
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