Earlier this year, I started thinking about upgrading my TV.
The TV in question? A trusty Panasonic G10 plasma that has served me well for many, many years. Games, movies, TV. It did it all, with nary a complaint.
Smash cut to 2017; we’d moved into a new apartment, with a much larger living room. Suddenly, a 50 inch TV didn’t fill the space quite like it did before.
When gaming, I found myself having to perch precariously on a beanbag between couch and TV, just so I could read the menus. “This is no way to live.” I thought to myself while playing Zelda. Plus, you know, 4K? That’s a thing now!
Time for a new TV.
I’d never really even considered a new TV in the previous five years. Every time I wandered past the aisle in a JB HiFi, they were adopting a new unnecessary gimmick. Hyper-bright, garish LED panels. Blacks that were… dark grey. Weird 3D glasses. Curved screens.
In 2017, there are still some of those things out there. But you know what the new hotness is? You know what TV makers adopted this year as the thing to push their new tellies? (Hint: if you answered 4K, then you are a year too late. They are all 4K now.)
Why should you care? Well, here’s a photo I took back in 2008.
This was in an airport Sony Style, back in 2008. That TV is a Sony XEL-1, the first OLED televison ever sold.
It was beautiful. Thin as a rake, with all the TV guts pushed into the base to show off that gorgeous screen. It was very expensive – US$2499.
It was also 11 inches from corner to corner. Yep, eleven. Tiny. An iPad Pro is basically the same size now.
A full nine years on, you know what incredible technology advancements hath wrought upon us?
The iPhone. Facebook. Uber. AI. Wireless earbuds. Dumb computer watches. And, of course, mother fucking giant OLED televisions.
I love the future.
So what TVs are out there?
Let’s keep the LED vs. OLED bit brief. Samsung were the only large TV maker this year not to jump into OLED on their flagship TVs, instead opting for QLED. Let’s cut the marketing spin; QLED is a fancy name for edge-lit, quantum dot LED TVs. They’re nice! They’re totally fine.
Sony, LG, Panasonic, Hisense are also all still doing LED TVs as well. They’re cheaper than OLED. In many cases, they’re brighter. They’re bigger too.
But man, why settle for hamburger, when steak is right there?
“Hey dummy, what’s so great about OLED?”
Well, in a nutshell, the picture quality. It’s insane. When OLED TVs show you black, it’s not “black”. It’s literally, the pixel on the screen doing the black is not powered on. It’s off. So when black is displayed, it’s infinitely black.
It’s like, how much more black can it be? And the answer is… none. It can be none more black.
Coming from a plasma, that’s what I want. Ideally, in a dimly-lit Game of Thrones scene, I would like to be unsure of where the bezel ends and the TV begins.
Of course, your goals may vary, but that’s what I want out of a new TV.
So, if you’re considering OLED, there are three manufacturers in town. That number has tripled from last year! Why is this important? Because competition. Last year, LG had this market all to themselves. Prices fell, a little… eventually.
This year, the year of our lord 2017, OLED TV prices are falling, plummeting, screaming, through the floor. OzBargainers–bless those filthy jackals–are swarming around OLED TV prices like they’re the carcass of a dead antelope.
What was a four grand TV earlier today is probably three and a half by the time you read this sentence. So now’s a good time.
You should also know there are only two (financially responsible) sizes; 55-inch, and 65-inch. If you need smaller, or bigger, you’re out of luck for now.
OK, let’s break them down.
Frankly, LG is the king of the OLED hill. The other manufacturers I’m going to mention may have OLED TVs on the market, but guess what — their panels are both coming from LG.
LG sells 4 different models. The C7, the E7, the G7, and the W7. First things first; all of them have the exact same panel. The exact same picture quality. The exact same format support (HDR10, Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log-Gamma, Advanced HDR, etc etc). So all differences are cosmetic. They all run WebOS. They have a weird Magic Remote. It’s… not great.
I’ll start with the W7: it’s the one you’ve seen that’s so skinny, it can only be mounted on a wall. With magnets. The guts of the TV is in the accompanying soundbar. Futuristic. Lovely. It’s ten grand for the 65-inch. Forget it.
The E7 and G7: they have an attached soundbar, and slightly nicer design, for a lot more money. Me? I’ve already got a Sonos Playbar. Save yourself the cash, buy an external soundbar. Who’s looking at the back of the TV or the microscopic bezels anyway?
The C7: the same exact panel as the others. No attached sound bar. Has a plastic two-tone thing going on around the back. Black bezels instead of glass. Much cheaper. Like, fairly affordable. This is the one to get.
Also, I’ll make one other point. The LG TVs have no logo on the bezel. NONE. This is huge. I’m serious; I’ve seen some shocking Samsung TV where the logo is lit up and blaring in your face like it needs to be loved. Piss off.
For LG to have the design sensibilities to say, “Hey guys, let’s leave it off.” says volumes about how this TV hardware was designed with care.
I dunno why it took Sony 9 years to circle back around to OLED TVs, but here we are – the Sony Bravia OLED A1. This TV is fantastic looking, even turned off.
It’s almost a work of art, with the unique A-frame design instead of a boring stand or legs. You might love this as an objet d’art.
However, if it’s on the wall, you won’t know any different.
Because of OLED, the A1 is able to use its own panel as an acoustic surface. Wild new tech. On its own, this may well be the best sounding TV.
However, if you are using a soundbar or surround sound, it’s totally redundant and you spent a bunch of cash on a feature you won’t use.
It runs on Android TV. If you’ve got an Android phone this may be an important point. It has all the format support you could ever want.
It’s more expensive, but not LG W Series expensive.
It has a tasteful small Sony logo on the bottom left of the bezel. It’s still there, but tucked away.
Ah, Panasonic, my old mate. Panny. Panno (is that a thing?) is packing two models. The EZ1000 and the EZ950. The EZ1000 has an attached soundbar, and is more expensive. The EZ950 is only slightly more expensive than it’s LG C7 competition, and no soundbar.
But here’s where I pause on Panasonic; it doesn’t support Dolby Vision. I might be quite specific in my needs, but I am going to hook this TV up to a new Apple TV 4K (spoiler for a future article), and it does support Dolby Vision. There’s also quite a bit of stuff in the Netflix catalog that is mastered in Dolby Vision.
So man, apart from the picture (which is also spectacular) I don’t see quite enough to justify it from the LG, which has all dat support.
Also: bezel logo watch – it’s right there, dead-centre. Small, but ugh.
So what now?
Well, if you looked at the photo at the top of this article, you know I eventually ended up with the LG OLED C7 (in sixty-five inch, of course). To me, it had the right combo of amazing picture quality, solid design, all the format support, and affordable price.
However, please go into some bricks and mortar stores and take a look at them for yourselves. Adjust the settings. Fondle the remotes. Make the sales attendant put on Deadpool on Ultra Blu-ray. Make some kids cry.
I couldn’t notice a striking enough difference in the picture quality between these three, but maybe you can!
I have heard from some folks that they think Panasonic’s colour accuracy is superior. I have heard from others that the Sony has better image processing for busy scenes. I didn’t get hours with these TVs, to figure all that stuff out for myself. I just read a lot, and watched a lot of YouTube video reviews. I found the AVForums YouTube channel particularly helpful in this regard.
In the end, I’m happy with my choice (so far).
Part 2: Where’s it going?
So you’ve splashed a stack of pineapples, and got a brand-spankin’ new TV. It’d be a shame to leave it on a mere stand, surrounded by a rats nest of cables, wouldn’t it…?