Battle of the OLEDs 2022: The Pre-Match
Samsung, Sony and LG prepare for an all-out war in the TV market, here’s where they currently stand
It’s not as if 2022 started out like any other “normal” year, of course, but for the TV product category, in particular, it’s turning into a decidedly unusual one. It is exciting — a new display technology, QD-OLED, finally finds its way to retailers after all — but it is also an evolutionary one and even a transitional one, all at the same time. No other sub-category demonstrates this better than OLED TVs: the old, the new and the improved will all co-exist for many, many months in the global market with several different series from different manufacturers all competing for consumers’ attention.
There’s bound to be some confusion about all these OLED TVs sold for the same or comparable sums of money while offering many of the same features. Plus, there are several things worth keeping in mind when looking into buying any one of these specific televisions. Let’s break everything down and put that information into context a few weeks before the official kickoff, then!
The old: Sony A90J, LG G1, LG C1
These 2021 OLED TVs are included in this conversation for two important reasons. One: today, about nine months after their release, they can be had for considerably less money than before. Two: all three are very, very good TVs, exceptional even by 2022 standards. Call it a failure on behalf of Sony and LG or further proof that OLED TVs have indeed come close to the limit of what is possible with LG’s panels, the fact that all three offer about 95% of what most people would expect and look for in a modern OLED TV remains.
The A90J deserves special attention. Not only was it arguably the best 2021 TV for cinematic content, but it also got better with firmware updates — one of which addressed the only serious shortcoming of this model, the lack of support for Variable Refresh Rate in games. With that function now added it’s one of the best options available to gamers and an amazing general-purpose TV, as well as a top-of-the-line TV for films and TV shows.
LG’s C1 and G1 also received several updates which didn’t change their performance or functionality but made them better overall. Among all three TVs, the C1 is still the most affordable while offering comparable picture quality and a couple of extra options for gamers than the A90J does. The G1 obviously remains the most impressively designed among all three… for a price. Whether that is justified or not is a matter of personal taste.
Generally speaking, there are two ways one can look at these TVs compared to the new models than follow: consumers can either save money by choosing those over any of the 2022 models or they can get these 2021 models in a larger size spending the amount of money smaller 2022 models cost (e.g. the C1 can be had at 77 inches for the price of its 2022 65-inch successor). Consumers that don’t want to miss out on the deep discounts of these models should probably go for them sooner rather than later: retailers will be selling them as fast as they can in order to make room for the 2022 models in the next few weeks.
The new: Samsung S95B, Sony A95K
These are 2022’s stars of the show: the first QD-OLED TVs to finally find their way to consumers. Both Samsung and Sony will offer models at 55 and 65 inches (there will not be any larger models available this year), promising purer, more vibrant colors, as well as higher sustained picture brightness overall due to their superior panels compared to LG’s W-OLED ones. Initial impressions from reviewers are extremely positive, as QD-OLED TVs offer everything that makes OLED great — the perfect blacks, infinite contrast, life-like colors, instant response times, etc. — along with those clearer colors and the generous brightness boost that brings out more detail in certain areas of the picture while making the TV that much easier to use in bright rooms.
There are some differences between the Samsung QD-OLED TVs and the Sony ones that are worth pointing out. The Sony A95K comes with a built-in heatsink which helps drive the QD-OLED panel harder and maintain peak brightness for longer. The Japanese have also made a number of adjustments on a software level in order to drive Samsung’s QD-OLED panel in a specific way tailored to its structure. Sony promises accurate colors out of the box, the company’s image processing system is still the best in the business, while Dolby Vision support remains important to many. Last but not least: the A95K comes with its own specially designed Webcam, capable of offering a number of useful functions.
The Samsung S95B does not offer some of the above: namely the built-in heatsink, Dolby Vision support or the complementary Webcam, while what difference Sony’s “secret sauce” software driving the QD-OLED panel makes in the picture quality department remains to be seen. But Samsung has revealed the cost of its 55-inch and 65-inch models ($2199 and $2999 respectively) and most consumers seem to be more than OK with that, as pre-orders for both models seem to have already almost depleted the initial batch of S95Bs for April and May. Sony’s A95K models will cost more than that and there’s still no specific availability timeframe (this story will be updated as soon as that information is official).
The improved: LG C2, LG G2, Sony A90K, Sony A80K
Traditional OLED TVs will also be offered in abundance during 2022, of course, but here’s the catch: none seem to be so much better than their predecessors, that their higher initial prices are justified in the eyes of most people. The most important OLED TV lines for LG, the C2 and the G2, only offer marginal improvements (such as thinner bezels around their screens and user profiles in the webOS operating system) but not much else. Both lines can get somewhat brighter than last year’s C1 and G1 — helped by a new panel and driving algorithm — but it is quite difficult to tell the difference in real-world content under the most often-used picture modes. So it’s all about the importance of software support for each consumer, as LG does not update its previous TV models that often once the new ones hit the streets.
Sony’s traditional OLED TVs for 2022 are based on strange choices, actually. The A90K range, which is presumably based on LG’s newer, somewhat brighter panels, only comes at 42 and 48 inches, so it’s meant for desktop use or small rooms only. The A80K range comes at 55, 65 and 77 inches but it will likely not get as bright (the fact that A90J is still considered Sony’s OLED 2022 flagship model is telling). So unless consumers have a specific reason to pick these 2022 models, there’s no point purchasing them upon release — surely not until enough reviews have put them through their paces.
LG and Sony will also be offering more affordable options this year in the form of the A2/B2 series and the A75K series respectively. They will likely be decent TVs — OLEDs are better than most LED/LCDs out there anyway — but if past experience is any indication they will not be cheap enough to justify the difference in panel refresh rates, connection ports, display quality and picture brightness from the step-up C2 series and A80K series respectively. Bearing in mind that most people buy OLED TVs in order to enjoy top picture quality in TV shows, movies and video games, those “budget” models do not make a lot of sense for this type of consumer. So, in 2022 terms, it all comes down to those nine series of OLED TVs. Decisions, decisions!