Forget 4K Ultra HD TVs: I want an OLED TV

Consumer Reports
LG OLED TV at CES 2013

Last week's Consumer Electronics Show was a great opportunity to check out the two newest TV technologies, Ultra HD and OLED—sometimes in side-by-side comparisons.

During a live webcast in which I was interviewed along with USA Today's Mike Snider, we were asked which of these new kinds of TVs we'd personally buy, if money weren't an issue.

I didn't have to think very long before replying, "OLED."


MORE AT COnsumer Reports

Of course, not everyone will share my view. And once we're able to get a few Ultra HD TVs and OLED sets in our labs for testing, perhaps I'll change my mind. But based on demos at the show from several major TV brands, the OLED TVs I saw represented the most impressive change from what I'm currently getting from my 1080p TVs.

Don't get me wrong—there's a lot to like about Ultra HD TVs. Certainly the high-resolution 4K screens look great and let you get incredibly close to the TV without seeing any visible pixel grid (called the "screen-door effect"). For many of us, this means that you'll be able to get a larger screen while maintaining the same seating distance.

And for now, OLED manufacturers are having a tough time making larger OLED sets; the current size limitation is about 55 or 56 inches. At CES, we saw Ultra HD prototypes as large as 110 inches, and the few already being sold are 84-inchers. During the show, several companies announced models in the 55- to 75-inch range, a more suitable size for most prospective buyers, although I question whether a 55-inch Ultra HD TV can adequately showcase the higher resolution.

(See also: Cheap ways to turn your TV into a 'smart' one)

It's also likely that Ultra HD TV prices will fall faster than those of OLED sets. Ultra HDs are essentially LCD TVs with a higher pixel density, so they can be manufactured on the same production lines as standard LCDs. OLED TVs require a new manufacturing process, and yields so far haven't been great, which will likely keep prices high for a longer period of time.

But that's also Ultra HD TV's weakness: These 4K sets essentially remain LCD TVs, with many of that format's drawbacks—most notably backlight-uniformity issues, limited viewing angles, and often, mediocre contrast levels. Yes, the images look sharper, but most viewers will notice it only with top-quality source material, and 4K Blu-rays are at least a year away.

OLED, however, is a new type of TV, and it's the perfect vehicle for demonstrating that image detail is only one of a handful of attributes that contribute to great-looking picture. OLED TVs feel to me like an entirely new TV-viewing experience. Blacks levels are so deep that you to need see them to believe them.

In the first OLED demo I ever saw a few years ago—in room that could go almost absolutely dark—the TV seemed to disappear when the lights turned off; the images seemed to float in space. (When we tested the first production OLED TV, Sony's $2,500 11-inch XEL-1, we had to buy new test equipment to measure its black levels.)

OLEDs also deliver ultra-high-contrast images, with bold, vibrant colors that jump off the screen. Add with better-than-plasma brightness, unlimited viewing angles, and energy efficiency that trumps even LED-based LCD TVs, OLED delivers a dynamic viewing experience I just didn't get with the Ultra HD sets I saw.

Of course, the next iteration of OLED TVs will be sets that also have 4K Ultra HD resolutions. There were several 4K OLEDs on display at CES, and of course, they looked great. But even when I was watching clips on the 1080p OLED sets, never once did I think, "Boy, if this set only had four times more pixels..." When TV is doing everything else right, you get the impression of a sharper, more dynamic image, even when the resolution hasn't been increased.

As always, I'm looking forward to getting some of these new TVs into our labs this year for thorough testing, and I'm curious to see if our head TV engineer, Claudio Ciacci, will share my initial opinion. Either way, both Ultra HD and OLED are exciting developments for those of us who spend a lot of time looking at TVs.

But with prices expected to be north of $10,000 for TVs using either of these technologies, we'll be a little more excited by yet another development: making them affordable for the average consumer.


Copyright © 2006-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Christina El Moussa faces fans fury for 'inappropriate' bikini photo with daughter: 'What mother does this?'

      Flip Or Flop co-host Christina El Moussa has landed in hot water over a recent Instagram picture. Fans of the reality TV star flipped after she shared a bikini-clad picture with her seven-year-old daughter Taylor, and took to the picture-sharing site to criticise her "sickening ways". "Welcome to the family!!" the El Moussa matriarch had captioned the adorable picture celebrating the arrival of the newest member of the family – a French bulldog named Cashie.

      International Business Times
    • Ask Amy: My husband told me to ‘get over it,’ so here’s my plan

      DEAR AMY: I have been married for 33 years. I love my husband, but I have totally enabled him — to the point where I am now feeling abused. For instance, this morning, he was in a minor car accident. Through my business relationships, I have an excellent contact in the repair business, and so I kindly took his car in, gave him mine to use in the interim and picked up the rental. I asked him to drive the rental so I could have my car back, and he refused. I told him I felt used. He basically said I should get over it. Because of my family background and decades of behaving this way, I am now at the point where I feel incredibly put upon because of all of the expectations, as well as the total

      MercuryNews.com q
    • Rachel Dolezal struggles after racial identity scandal

      SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A white civil rights leader, fired because she led others to believe she was black, said she struggles to make a living these days because she was portrayed as a fraud.

      Associated Press
    • Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco celebrates Jim Parsons' 44th birthday with adorable Sheldon-Penny photo

      The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons turned 44 on 24 March and his co-stars from hit CBS sitcom took to social media to wish the actor with adorable posts. Parson essays a nerdy genius character, Sheldon Cooper alongside Mayim Bialik (who plays Amy Farrah Fowler), Kaley Cuoco (who plays Penny) and Johnny Galecki (who plays Leonard Hofstadter). Cuoco also posted an adorable throwback photo from season 9, wherein the gang celebrates Sheldon's birthday.

      International Business Times
    • Op-Ed: Trump and the GOP should face it: There's only one option left to fix health care

      Ryan will never convince conservatives to play ball on health care. Here's his only option, says consultant Robert Laszewski.

      CNBC.com q
    • Shaffer: Trump Wiretapping Case Exponentially 'Worse Than Watergate'

      Former CIA officer Col. Tony Shaffer said the basics of President Trump's claim to have been "wiretapped" are likely true, and that the incident is "worse than Watergate." Noting it has been exactly two weeks since Trump tweeted that President Obama wiretapped his namesake tower, Shaffer said the "basic fundamental idea and claim is true." He said that Trump was not physically wiretapped, with a wire into his phone, and it may not have physically been Trump Tower, but his campaign apparatus instead. Shaffer said that due to the simplicity required to "mask" an American's name during an incidental wiretap, that the leak of Gen. Michael Flynn's name was "accidental on purpose." "Clearly they were

      Fox News Insider q
    • Poker tables keep decreasing on Nevada casino floors

      LAS VEGAS (AP) — When the Monte Carlo casino closes its eight-table poker room in about a month as part of a $450 million overhaul, the Las Vegas Strip will be down nearly a quarter of the tables it had a decade ago. Casinos constantly adjust their floors to meet customer demand. And unlike the boom years when they competed for card fans after everyman Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker’s main event in 2003, poker’s appeal in Sin City has been weakening this decade. Some casinos have made their poker rooms smaller. Others have eliminated them entirely. “Casinos added more tables in response to popularity, and once it became less popular, they took away the tables,” said David Schwartz,

      The Seattle Times q
    • Charles Barkley says if he was dying, he’d kill Skip Bayless on live TV

      This is a real thing: Charles Barkley said on the Dan Patrick show that should he ever fall terminally ill and approach death knowingly, he would happily kill angry, opinionated and oft-inflammatory TV personality Skip Bayless.

      Sports Illustrated
    • This woman wins Mom of the Year award for her response to her daughter’s failing math grade

      Moms have been around since the dawn of time but they still manage to surprise us with their heroism. For example, when…

      Hello Giggles
    • ‘Flip or Flop’ Star Christina El Moussa Blasted for ‘Completely Inappropriate’ Mother-Daughter Bikini Photo

      Things didn’t go all that swimmingly on Christina El Moussa’s Instagram account this week. The “Flip or Flop” star came under fire after posting a photo of herself and her young daughter Taylor in bikinis on Thursday. Oh, and there was a French bulldog involved, too.

      The Wrap
    • Wife does too much and receives too little

      Dear Amy: I have been married for 33 years. I love my husband, but I have totally enabled him — to the point where I am now feeling abused. For instance, this morning, he was in a minor car accident. Through my business relationships, I have an excellent contact in the repair business, and so I kindly took his car in, gave him mine to use in the interim and picked up the rental. I asked him to drive the rental so I could have my car back, and he refused. I told him I felt used. He basically said I should get over it. Because of my family background and decades of behaving this way, I am now at the point where I feel incredibly put upon because of all of the expectations, as well as the total

      Chicago Tribune q
    • Cop calls scammer back; awkward exchange goes viral

      "He is a trained professional – do not try this at home"

      CBS News q
    • More big brands pull ads from YouTube in widening boycott

      An advertising boycott of YouTube is broadening in a sign of the skepticism surrounding Google's promise to prevent marketing campaigns from appearing alongside repugnant videos

      ABC News q
    • Rarely Seen Photos of Donald Trump’s Children That’ll Make You LOL

      The Trump brood has been everywhere. We are constantly seeing photos of them on ski trips and in Washington, D.C. But before they became a major fixture in Washington, their childhood was well-documented in photos.

      Yahoo Celebrity
    • Mariah Carey Goes Braless in Sheer Lace-Up Dress While Out: Pic!

      She enjoyed a solo night out on Thursday.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • LaVar Ball Crying Jordan memes and trolling surface after UCLA's loss to Kentucky

      As soon as LaVar Ball, the loud-mouthed father of UCLA star Lonzo Ball, started tearing up during UCLA’s eventual 86-75 loss to Kentucky on Friday, fans had to know that the memes were coming. Almost time to get those LaVar Ball crying jordan memes out

      The Dagger
    • Trump calls Democrats 'losers' after GOP health bill failure

      President Donald Trump spoke out Friday afternoon after Republicans pulled the Obamacare overhaul he had endorsed, criticizing Democratic opposition to the bill and passing off the responsibility for its failure. "I've been saying for the last year and a half that the best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode," said Trump, who supported the plan and spent much of the past week personally lobbying for its success. Trump, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and other members of the administration and Republican leadership were working to win over moderate holdouts and members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus on the bill, a number of whom had opposed the measure.

      Good Morning America
    • Teenager faked gang rape by 3 black men after stumbling into church covered in blood

      A teenage girl is facing criminal charges after she admitted faking a horrific sexual assault in which she claimed three black men in "ski masks" had kidnapped and gang raped her. On the same night the Denison Police Department (DPD) received a call from a man describing himself as the fiancé of Talbott and claimed she was missing and her car had been found in the parking lot with the driver door open, her phone, keys and a shoe nearby. Police say that she told them a detailed story claiming that three black males wearing ski masks took her in a black car to a wooded area where two suspects raped her while a third suspect held her down.

      International Business Times
    • Divorce: A Harvard Study Says This Can Crush Your Marriage

      A Harvard study has been able to peg the single factor behind many cases of divorce and broken marriages in America: having a job.

      The Cheat Sheet q