It’s not really a surprise that top TVs showing top content offer top performance. The only time this becomes an issue is with what’s now being called the Soap Opera Effect – where image processing makes characters in a scene look like actors on a set. When this happens, all sense of immersion is lost because the image is ‘too real.’ Samsung TVs have particularly suffered from this but are much improved these days. The effect can be great for sports where you want hyper-realism. But it’s distracting with any kind of drama.
But the main day-to-day problems occur with upscaling. You won’t be watching much proper 4K content without a decent internet connection. Streaming Video on Demand scales according to your broadband connection (you need a consistent 20Mb/s download speed (roughly) to use 4K on Netflix and YouTube). Most people will be watching low-definition, free-to-air and cable TV. And this is really what separates the men from the boys in the world of TVs.
LG’s upscaling prowess is still very mediocre. You’ll know this if you’ve ever tried watching standard definition Formula One coverage on a large screen (Full HD or 4K) where the cars look like messy, pixelated blobs moving down a blocky, colour-smeared track. Or if you’ve watched Fashion Police on E! with its sub-Standard Definition quality and the guest panel looking like they’ve been in an accident. Or Dora the Explorer and early Simpsons episodes which get messy fast. Or anything on YouTube that’s not high quality.
Sony on the other hand has always excelled at upscaling with its impressive image processing. Edges are much smoother and colour gradients far less harsh. While it can’t put detail where there isn’t any, for the day-to-day watching of sub-Full High Definition content, the Sony is a much better bet... in terms of picture.
It was disappointing to hear from Sony managers that they’ve basically not focused on audio this year. Their view is that those customers who want good sound prefer to use separate, external speakers like Sony’s new Sound bar. We’re suspicious of that claim but also slightly disappointed by the audio performance. It’s above average but not great – depth and bass could be better. But it’s still okay for a premium TV, but nothing more. The lack of audio tinkering may have something to do with Sony’s mission to make the TV thinner so that it can be wall-mounted more efficiently than ever, but how many people really do that, especially in renter-heavy markets?
Meanwhile, LG’s partnership with Harmon Kardon has really paid dividends. The speakers on its first OLED TV were among the very worst we’d ever heard on any TV ever. The current ones, seem to defy the laws of physics in how much power and depth they can pump out of such a thin body. If you’re paying this much for a TV you probably will also want separate audio, but we found the LG sounded great straight out of the box.
The first decent LG TVs had two remotes – a Nintendo Wii-like wand and a regular TV remote. The newer integrated unit is much better and, combined with the WebOS navigation screen, makes operating the TV and opening apps a dream. Even the voice recognition is good and, mercifully, the navigation overlay and pointer no longer appear if the remote moves by a millimetre. All good.
Read more: Finally! LG OLED TV 2016 range review
Recent years have also seen Sony ditch its proprietary navigation software and embrace Android TV. It too is very good for navigation and while it doesn’t have a pointer it does have enhanced Android-based voice recognition – across multiple TV and search functions – which is even better than LG’s. The open nature of Android also means that there are more apps available: things like Plex media streaming and VLC media player, which will play virtually anything (albeit without Sony’s built-in hardware acceleration). Nonetheless, having Sony products that don't lock content out with DRM-riddled proprietary rubbish is a vast improvement on previous years.
Next: Which one should you buy?