LG's OLED Wins 2016 Value Electronics TV Shootout

ISF's Joel Silver presenting at the 12th annual Value Electronics TV Shootout.

For the third consecutive year, LG's OLED technology has found itself atop the heap at the annual TV shootout held by Scarsdale, NY-based retailer Value Electronics.

LG's top-of-the-line Signature G6 OLED, represented at the 65-inch size in the model OLED65G6P, was named the "King of TV" for 2016 following two days of presentations and balloting that were part of the CE Week event schedule in New York. Joel Silver, founder and CEO of the Imaging Science Foundation, moderated two full 4 hour sessions and five abbreviated mini sessions that mixed eyes-on evaluations using test patterns and program material with educational content about image quality and the latest UHDTV advancements, such as high dynamic range (HDR) and wide color gamut (WCG).

Sony's best 2016 model, the 75-inch XBR-75X940D, was a strong second by the scoring (see scoresheet below), and took the top spot for Overall Daytime Viewing thanks to excellent image quality combined with bright light output. Like the two other current contenders— Samsung’s 78-inch UN78KS9800 and Vizio’s 65-inch RS65—the Sony is an LCD TV with a full-array, local-dimming backlight capable of significantly higher light output than LG's OLED technology, though not its deep black levels. Although all the contenders were Ultra HDTVs, a last-generation 1080p Pioneer Kuro plasma was also on display as a reference. All the sets were calibrated for both day and night viewing.

Along with Overall Day and Overall Night, voting categories included Black Quality, Perceived Contrast, Color Accuracy, Moving Resolution, Off-Axis Performance, Screen Uniformity, and HDR/WCG performance. Since tools for calibrating UHDTVs for HDR remain scarce, all the sets were used in their default HDR modes for evaluating that type of content. Three of the four sets are compatible with HDR10 format HDR material, presented via the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc for Kingsman: The Secret Service delivered by a Samsung UHD-BD player. The Vizio, which only recognizes Dolby Vision-encoded HDR content, was fed live streaming content from Netflix's Marco Polo series.

As a reporter/television reviewer in attendence at the shootout for three of the last four years, I was taken this year with both the overall quality of the sets, which I saw as a good leap up from last year, and the general closeness of their performance. Most obvious was the LG's perceived contrast and black quality in night mode with the lights dimmed, where it held a discernible advantage. Color accuracy differences were mostly negligible to my eye, though the Vizio, despite calibration, did seem to have a slightly more pale color profile than the others. Screen uniformity was perfect for the self-emissive LG OLED, of course, but the Samsung's, Vizio's, and especially the Sony's backlight were exceptionally smooth looking when viewed with full frame white or red test patterns. Likewise, the LG OLED exhibited the expected perfect off-axis viewing window, but the Sony's window went surprisingly wide before exhibiting any drop in contrast. The Vizio and the Samsung—the latter featuring the only curved panel among the group—had what I'd call the conventional and ultimately narrow viewing window common to most LCD displays. Not surprisingly, none of the sets, save the old plasma, performed particularly well with moving-image torture clips in the absence of their frame interpolation circuits being flipped on.

The HDR/WCG tests were most certainly eye-opening. HDR/WCG images off the Ultra HD Blu-ray were simply jaw dropping in their contrast and color saturation/range. For the most part, I thought the LG, Samsung, and Sony looked very nearly the same on the Kingsman test clips, and neither the LCD sets' greater light output capabilities nor the OLEDs deeper blacks gave any set a particularly discernable advantage. The Vizio, fed by a good quality but clearly less bandwidth-rich streaming signal, still looked unusually striking on the Dolby Vision Marco Polo HDR content, but didn't enjoy quite the same impact; in any event, it was impossible to do any kind of direct comparison.

The participating televisions were selected because they represent the current top-of-the-line from each brand, but do vary somewhat in price. The LG lists for $8000, though the company's recently released 65-inch E6 series OLED ($6,000) is said to combine the same display and picture engine with more pedestrian industrial design. Sony's 75-inch XBR-75X940D, the smallest size for this model, is priced at $6,000 but brings 10 additional diagonal inches of screen. Samsung's 78-inch FS9800 goes for $10,000, though a presumably similar-performing 65-inch version is available for $4,500.

Special thanks to Value Electronics's Robert Zohn for sponsoring and producing this 12th annual TV shootout, the only event that brings together the industry's leading consumer displays in one place and seeks to set an even playing field for comparision. Visit valueelectronics.com to check for specials on some of the TV models appearing in this year's shootout.