Nachiket MhatreMay 13, 2013 20:04:18 IST
There's a lot common between the LG 55LA6910 and the Samsung UA55F7500BR TVs. They both are 55" LED-backlit smart TVs costing Rs 2,10,000, give or take a hundred bucks. These smart TVs even have a similar feature set, once you overlook a few additions and omissions here and there. Needless to say, this confusing similarity makes it rather difficult for a prospective smart TV buyer to make a purchase decision based on pure spec/price comparison. That's precisely why I have put the two smart TVs through the paces and presented in this head-to-head comparison to see which one of them is worth your two lakh rupees.
Both TVs look downright gorgeous with their diminutive bezels and brushed metal finish, so much so that any difference in terms of aesthetics is down to personal preference. The LG has a significantly thinner bezel that's more like a knife's edge, but Samsung's sleek steel-finish bezel looks equally good. Although Samsung has a better, more delicate and classy stand, the LG is just a shade slimmer than it. Overall, the Samsung looks positively breathtaking with its surprisingly thin bezel and a svelte silhouette, whereas LG’s delicate good looks contrasted by the stand that is too chunky and large for my liking. This is where I’ll repeat the beauty is in the eye of the beholder cliché.
The LG's stand is a tad wobbly
Design and build quality
Build quality is rarely an issue at this price range. We aren’t on the lookout for design flaws and manufacturing defects here, but the levels of refinement in fit and finish levels. A larger budget also enables the freedom to go from cost optimisation to extravagant design cues that would otherwise be prohibitive at a lower price range. While both TVs are impeccably built, the Samsung impresses with its rock solid metal stand weighing in at 4 kg. The TV stand on the LG, on the other hand, is too wobbly and plasticky for my tastes.
Samsung’s glossy panel balances the two mutually exclusive virtues of glare reduction and reproducing vibrant colours that pop. Although you have to be mindful of the lighting conditions, the glare and reflection gremlins are nevertheless kept well under control. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the LG, because its glossy panel is quite susceptible to reflections and glares. That means, unless you plan to put your TV up in the basement or in a relatively dark room, you’re better off with the Samsung.
Backlight bleed is another good measure of build quality, because this is a problem that affects even the more expensive televisions. It’s generally caused by factors ranging from fit and finish issues to the lack of uniformity in the backlight diffuser. The Samsung has significantly lower levels of backlight bleed than the LG.
The Samsung Smart TV sports a delicate and minimalist design
LG's remote control is pretty slick and well designed. It has large, chunky buttons that vary in shape and size and are well segregated. Operating the TV from afar, therefore, is intuitive and hassle free. The TV, unlike the Samsung, bears basic controls at the rear in case you lose the remote. Make that two actually, because LG throws in a fancier remote incorporating motion control capability and a minimal set of buttons. The lack of buttons isn't a hindrance at all because the on-screen cursor moves around mimicking your gestures like a mouse, while opening up the missing functions with the means of intuitive OSD prompts.
Samsung’s touchpad-enabled remote may be a delight to use, but it cannot hold a candle to the intuitiveness of LG’s Magic Remote. Nevertheless, this tiny controller has just the essential few buttons arranged intuitively, with clever tactile demarcation that's good enough to let you use it in the dark. This is a good thing too, because the remote isn't backlit. While it bears the important Volume, Channel, Power, Menu, Return and other crucial context-sensitive buttons, the touchpad at the centre takes care of the navigation and selection duties. My main issue with Samsung’s remote is that it's quite easy to inadvertently press the history shortcut on the touchpad, but this isn't something that can't be fixed by a quick press of the Return button.
Both TVs have the basic analogue video and audio inputs, Ethernet, Wi-Fi and USB connectivity options in order. However, the LG has one less HDMI input than the Samsung’s four. While this isn't a deal breaker, it's still pretty poor for a TV at this price, where the target demographic is expected to have an HDMI-equipped PC, Blu-ray player, set-top box and a console. For someone who owns more than three HDMI devices—and that’s more likely considering the target demographic—LG’s lower number of HDMI ports can be a deal breaker.
Samsung beats the LG in the connectivity stakes with an extra HDMI port
UI and Smart TV Features
Both TVs have jazzed up UIs that’s par for the course for smart TVs. This includes intuitive segregation of apps, TV programming and social networking aspects. Samsung’s UI, no doubt, is the better of the two, but there is a catch. It’s interesting to note that although the Samsung bumps up the last year's dual-core processor with its brand-new 1.35GHz quad-core processor, the same cannot be seen in the real-world performance. The idea of the updated processor is to deliver more powerful apps and complex UI animation while keeping the experience smoother. The extra horsepower has also been harnessed to optimise motion and voice control, in addition to better face recognition that works in tandem with these features.
The smart TV aspect in the LG is significantly better than the Samsung. I say this despite the fact that the TV lacks Samsung's gimmicks such as motion control and quad-core processor, but there's a good reason for that. The Samsung had frame rate issues despite the hardware, whereas the motion control feature isn't anything more than a novelty one would show off to guests. The LG, on the other hand, has a fluid and well-designed UI that runs smoothly without packing impressive hardware. At the end of the day, the actual performance is what matters.
Both TVs incorporate major apps such as YouTube, Skype and Facebook; however, those in the LG are actually better designed and usable, unlike the Samsung. The Korean competitors also include local apps for India-specific needs. What impressed me the most about the LG was the TV's ability to record cable programming onto any USB storage device. The media player on the LG plays pretty much every popular video file format, but it still cannot match Samsung's ability to play FLAC files. The LG clearly has the upper hand in the smart TV stakes thanks to a more usable and well-designed interface.
The Samsung employs 3D glasses bearing the active LCD shutter technology. I personally prefer passive polarised 3D glasses, because the active ones tend to cause flicker, which is disorienting. This observation is subjective because I'm quite sensitive to the phenomenon, while many don't have issues with it at all. Needless to say, I found the 3D performance of the LG to be more stable and strain free due to the polarised passive technology that LG has embraced. The only niggle here is that, unlike the active LCD shutter technology employed in the Samsung, the viewing angle is limited across the vertical axis for LG’s passive 3D tech. However, this shouldn't be an issue if you elevate the TV at the right height.
Out of the box performance
Although I may have access to hardware as well as software calibration tools to fine tune the picture quality of TVs that we receive in the test labs, the out of the box performance of a TV matters as well. This is especially true because you average layman neither has the hardware nor the knowhow required to calibrate the display visually or through hardware calibration tools. Nothing is as good as the TVs ability to look good after dialling the contrast and brightness down from the showroom "torchlight" mode. The Samsung clearly has the upper hand here due to its ability to display great colour fidelity as well as black and white saturation levels right out of the box.
The calibrated performance doesn’t spring any surprises. With the Samsung, I was impressed by the fact that the Datacolor Spyder colorimeter and calibration software found the factory-default brightness (45) and contrast (100) settings to be perfect to maintain the ideal display parameters. I had to toy around with the default target colour temperature (6500K) to finally get the correct white point at 7500K, but when I was done calibrating the TV, the end result was downright stunning. The LG improved significantly too, but it couldn’t match the colour and greyscale fidelity of the Samsung.
Samsung's UI may look good, but LG has a more functional Smart TV experience
In case of regular TV sets, this calibrated image depends on the colour profile residing on the PC, and that means you can't have the same picture when the TV is hooked up to any other device, such as a Blu-ray player or a video game console. It's a good thing then that the Samsung TV isn't a regular TV set. The advanced picture options afforded by the TV allow adjustment of individual RGB values without affecting the white purity. This flexibility allows you to fully calibrate this TV to perfection on a hardware level using a colorimeter. In simple terms, that means the calibrated image won't be restricted to the PC and will instead be available on any device that you connect it to. In fact, I could see no perceivable difference between the PC-based software colour profile and the hardware calibration I had tried out in my second run. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the LG.
Although Samsung hasn't disclosed information on the colour depth of the panel or the look-up table, the stepping evident on the greyscale gradient test showed signs of dithering and FRC. Nevertheless, the gradient flowed evenly and had no signs of colour cast. The greyscale gradient, however, was quite disappointing on the LG, with a significant amount of banding and colour cast visible. The Samsung did well in the viewing angle test, but it still couldn’t hold a candle to the LG’s IPS panel, which showed better gamma and colour uniformity at more aggressive angles.
The contrast gradient test is where the Samsung shone the most. Everything from the darkest shades to the brightest red gradients was easily discernible. The LG didn’t fare as well, with the red and blue bands merging at the brightest levels. However, that cannot be considered poor by any stretch of imagination. I surprisingly didn't have to tweak much to get perfect sharpness and gamma settings from both the TVs, which is a feat worth mentioning. Although nothing I did could get the Samsung to resolve the last two white saturation values (253 and 254), the superlative black level performance more than made up for it. Everything from the darkest shade of black to the lightest was rendered with utmost perfection. This makes it one of the few LCD panels to sport an enviable greyscale performance and black detail. On the other hand, LG’s black levels were decent but not comparable to that of the Samsung. The TV couldn't distinguish between the first three tints of black at all.
The LG is slightly thinner than the Samsung
These performance parameters were evident in the Blu-ray tests, where the Samsung clearly outshone the LG in everything from the black detail to the colour fidelity. It’s a no brainer that the Samsung is the TV to go for if performance is paramount. It also features marginally better fit and finish levels. The reduced glare and backlight bleed is another sign of improved build quality. Moreover, the Samsung’s ability to adjust individual RGB values without affecting the overall white purity makes it all the more ideal for videophiles who value colour accuracy and seek ultimate movie performance.
The LG may not be equal with the Samsung in terms of picture quality, but it has better 3D capability and clever features that actually add value to the package. The smart TV component is quite well done and is actually a delight to use thanks to an excellent mouse-esque remote control. The verdict is pretty clear then. If it is picture quality you seek, go for the Samsung. However, if you're looking for a competent large-screen TV with a good smart TV package and great 3D, you're better off with the LG.
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