Samsung throws shade at LG TVs, LG hits back as both bet on different tech


Samsung versus LG is one of the fiercest rivalries in the tech industry, and when it comes to TVs, the two are betting on different technologies for the future with one goal - to make your viewing experience more real.

At the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, Samsung took to the stage on Thursday to announced its new the 88-inch KS9800 quantum dot TV. Samsung is pursuing quantum dot technology which it promises will revolutionize TVs and is the "new kid on the block" in terms of innovation.

But LG isn't convinced. The South Korean electronics giant which competes with Samsung in everything from home appliances to smartphones, says that organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display technology is the future. Samsung however has shunned OLED.

At IFA, both companies took the chance to take digs at each others' technology. At a press conference on Thursday, Michael Zoeller, European head of visual display at Samsung, cited a test by HDTVtest that showed Samsung's TVs trumped LG's for brightness and better contrast when watching high dynamic range (HDR) content.

Images shot in HDR essentially make the contrast between light and dark colors even more prominent so the white highlights are even brighter. The purpose is to make the image on screen look more realistic.

Samsung Electronics launched a special exhibition at IFA 2016 with a design by a team of rising German artists. The installation, entitled The Origin of Quantum Dot, showcases Samsung’s SUHD TVs with Quantum dot display.

LG hit back however.

"You can't just cherry pick certain aspects of a test and tell consumers. If you're only going to look at brightness, quantum dot with LCD is going to be brighter than OLED. It's a matter of physics," an LG spokesperson told CNBC.

"What we are saying is consumers generally want more than just brightness, they want contrast, color, gamut, there are so many ways to measure a TV's performance. If you look at the overall story of OLED vs other TVs, all TV experts will say OLED is better tech."

Quantum dot vs. OLED

So what are these two technologies? Liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs work by a backlight shining through some color filters to produce an image on the screen. But this process can lead to a lot of light being lost, imperfect colors and not enough contrasting colors.

Samsung's solution is to put a sheet of quantum dots - particles - in between this process. These particles light up to more perfect colors when a certain shade of light is shone on them. This can allow the TV to produce brighter colors.

OLED technology on the other hand is just a single sheet of material that glows certain colors when electricity is pumped through it. The advantage is that individual pixels on a screen can be shut off allowing for absolute blacks.

LG showcases its organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display technology at IFA 2016.
CNBC's Arjun Kharpal

This is important because both companies are betting on the two technologies but are both using these to support HDR images. HDR will allow whiter whites and darker blacks to create a more realistic and 3-D looking image.

Samsung announced that it is working alongside Netflix and Amazon to produce HDR content and both have promised to bring more titles with this quality standard in the near future. LG also told CNBC it is working with all the major streaming services.

HDR has a number of standards employed by different broadcasters and content producers. Ahead of IFA, LG announced that its OLED TVs now support three HDR standards - HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG, which means viewers can theoretically watch more content in this quality, something that LG said sets it apart from Samsung.

"We are still the only TV out there compliant with all the formats. If you want all three, the only way is LG," the company's spokesperson told CNBC.

Who will win?

CNBC's Arjun Kharpal

OLED gives you dark blacks, while quantum dot can give you bright whites. The challenge is trying to find a compromise for both technologies that will allow them to provide great looking HDR content, analysts said.

In the end, the choice is going to be down to which TV consumers want to put in their home, according to Paul Gray, principal analyst at IHS, who focuses on the TV market.

But Gray said that LG is the only player focusing on OLED which could lead to slower innovation.

"Long term OLED will struggle with the innovation rate and cost compared to LCD as it's one company innovating against an industry. The LCD industry has scale," Gray told CNBC in an interview at IFA.

"OLED is an immature tech with one company innovating on their own, they are doing a good job, but being on your own doing that is tough."

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