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

    • Michigan lined up in a 10-man centipede formation again

      Jim Harbaugh is unique. Michigan’s coaches don’t call it that -- they call it “trains” — but we’re not Michigan’s coaches. Needing two yards, Michigan came out with five linemen, three tight ends, a fullback, and a running back.

      SB Nation q
    • Eleanor Roosevelt’s ‘mistress’ died heartbroken and alone

      They called each other “darling,” “dear one” and “heart.” They told each other “je t’aime” and “j’adore,” and wrote more than 3,000 letters to one another. “All day I’ve thought of you . . . Oh! I want to put my arms around you, I ache to hold you close,” the normally reserved Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in March of 1933 to her beloved. No, not her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but a brilliant, bourbon-drinking, cigarette-smoking Associated Press reporter named Lorena Hickok, or Hick. Their romance is at the center of Susan Quinn’s engrossing double biography, “Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady.” While Quinn is not the first to tell the tale of Eleanor and

      New York Post q
    • You Might Not Ever Guess Why This Wedding Party Looks So Shocked

      Weddings are nearly always important and eventful, but we’re pretty sure wedding photographer Leslie Hollingsworth didn’t think her photo shoot on this particular day would be quite so dramatic.

      Yahoo Style
    • Tiger Woods Doesn’t Regret Cheating on Ex-Wife Elin Nordegren

      The 40-year-old professional golfer opened up to Charlie Rose on Thursday.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Man 'fed up' with with children playing on drive jailed after running over and killing neighbour's son

      A man who ran over and killed his neighbour's five-year-old son after becoming "fed up" with children playing on his driveway has been jailed for two years. David Cowell, 42, killed neighbour Riley Ferguson, while he pulled his car onto the drive he shared with the boy's family in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. Cowell had denied the charge of causing death by careless driving but was convicted by a majority verdict.

      International Business Times UK q
    • Ariel Winter finally explains why she wore that swimsuit on the red carpet

      Modern Family star Ariel Winter has a great track record as a body-positive role model. She is so outspoken about her journey to feeling happy in her own skin and knows how to handle bullies without dimming her shine. That’s why we love this explanation of why she wore a swimsuit, shorts, and heels on the red carpet over the summer. Ariel debuted this look at the Just Jared 4th Annual Summer Bash hosted by Uno in Los Angeles in July. Some fans loved the look and some people hated it, but it definitely got people talking. It’s true, this is a real outfit she rocked on the red carpet! In a recent interview with People about her most controversial outfits, Ariel talked about the look. She said:

      HelloGiggles q
    • Ivanka Trump backs her father but doesn't want to fall with him

      Ivanka, soon to turn 35, is still clearly her father's protegee. Having grown up in the spotlight from an early age, at a time when her father's extramarital affairs filled the tabloid press, Ivanka knows how to tend to her own image -- and that of the clothing line that bears her name.

    • Pictures of two Egyptian children engaged to be married trigger outrage — once again

      CAIRO – While celebrating his eldest son's lavish wedding, at which a number of famous singers and belly dancers performed, Nasser Hassan decided to "double the joy," he later recalled. He announced that his son Omar would marry his cousin Gharam. At the wedding, held in a province about 75 miles north of Cairo, the guests didn’t find it strange. Some would later tell Egypt’s Al Watan newspaper that there was “nothing inappropriate,” adding that it was only “an engagement, not a marriage". Omar is 12 years old. His fiancee, Gharam, is 11. Egyptian laws prohibit official registration for marriages for anyone under the age of 18. But the practice remains prevalent. According to UNICEF, 17 percent

      Washington Post q
    • Tom DeLonge Responds to His Leaked UFO Emails: "Big Things Are Coming"

      "Unless you’re invited to the meetings I have been a part of, then…no more laughing."

      Pigeons & Planes
    • Brad Pitt: I’m Not Answering Angelina’s Divorce For the Sake of Our Kids

      Brad Pitt will not file a legal response to Angelina Jolie‘s divorce petition because it would set the stage for a nasty legal battle … and he fears it would cause great psychological damage to their kids.

    • Toddler dead in Spokane fire, his dog huddled at his side

      SPOKANE, Wash. –- A 3-year-old who died in a house fire was found with his dog and teddy bear next to him and authorities believe the dog tried to protect the boy, a spokesman for Spokane’s fire department said Saturday.  The dog, a terrier mixed breed, also died in the fire that broke out at about 11:30 p.m. Friday, said the spokesman, Brian Schaeffer. Three other children and two adults escaped from the blaze in Spokane’s Hillyard neighborhood, he said. The dog stayed behind in an attempt to protect the boy, firefighters believe, and the fire was so intense that it melted the metal on the frame of the boy’s bed, Schaeffer said. Officials said firefighters arrived within minutes of the call

      CBS News q
    • The Best All-Inclusive Packages at Adults-Only Resorts (7 photos)

      Hear that? Its not the sound of a baby on an airplane , or an argument between two kids. Its the roar of waves crashing on rocks, tree frogs chirping from the canopy, and of complete, grown-up silence. You dont have to be a parent to value the absence of potentially noisychildren. Everyone can appreciate the absolute tranquility of a kids-free hotel. Thats not to say adults cant get rowdybut adults-only properties tend to foster a relaxed, laid-back vibe. Guests are typically seeking a low-key (and yes, quiet) reprieve from life; especially if that life has three kids between the ages of 1 and 7. Resorts such as these know theres only one thing more calming than an escape from the myriadday-to-day tasks ofparenthood (or a romantic getaway that isnt stifled by shrieking infants or toddlers peeing in the pool ): an all-inclusive package. Forget about nitpicking every cocktail or excursionall-inclusive packages make a resort stay a totally worry-free experience. You already know what the bill will look like when you get return home. Even your tips are included. If all this sounds like just what you need, read on for a few of our favorite all-inclusive packages at the top adults-only resorts.

    • Khloe Kardashian And Tristan Thompson Are Reportedly Getting Married

      UPDATE: According to ESPN, the two are not engaged to be married. “Khloe and Tristan plan on spending at least $1 million on their big day,” the source tells InTouch, “and they plan to invite 400 guests.” Thankfully, that massive amount of people won’t have to travel far, as Khloe and Tristan reportedly want to hold their wedding ceremony in California.

    • 5 NFL Teams That Could Use a Helmet Makeover

      The are some NFL franchises with helmets that have gotten a bit outdated. What would it look like if they decided to freshen up their style?

      The Cheat Sheet q
    • Two Children Shot and Killed in Georgia Home Invasion

      A 15-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl were shot to death in a suspected home invasion in Georgia

    • Duterte says he cannot cut diplomatic ties with Washington: 'Filipinos in the US will kill me'

      Back to the country from his four-day state visit to China, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told that he never said he wants to sever diplomatic ties with the US. When you say severance of ties, you cut the diplomatic relations. Citing the reasons why he cannot end diplomatic ties with Washington, he said: "Because the Filipinos in the United States will kill me." He also said that doing such a thing would not be in the best interests of his country and his people, considering many Filipinos live in the US and vice versa.

      International Business Times UK q
    • Pakistani tea seller turns model after fame on social media

      ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani tea seller with striking eyes who saw his life change overnight after a picture of him at work went viral, said Friday he was totally unaware of social media until recently, when boys and girls suddenly started thronging his tea stall to take selfies with him.

      Associated Press
    • Donald Trump has a small lead in 3 national polls

      Donald Trump found himself ahead in three national polls Friday morning. The Republican...

      Business Insider
    • Angelina Jolie 'having second thoughts' about leaving Brad Pitt? Find out the truth as the divorce unfolds

      Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's divorce might be a long-winding process as a recent report claims that the actress is having "second thoughts" about leaving her partner of twelve years. While the gossip report hasn't confirmed if the celebrity couple might actually call off their divorce, it stated that Jolie is no longer in a rush to finalise the legal proceedings. According to Hollywood Life, "[Pitt and Jolie's] kids can't stop talking about him and asking questions, which is bugging Angie but also making her miss Brad.

      International Business Times UK q
    • The 5 Most Overrated Players in the NBA Right Now

      Only sustained winning at the highest levels will ever help the following 5 athletes shed the label of being the most overrated players in the NBA.

      The Cheat Sheet q