A tale of two TVs: Comparing a $549 TV to a $9000 set
With piles of information produced on the latest gadgets and gizmos, you'd be forgiven for thinking that finding details about televisions should be easy.
While the latest high-end TVs are groaning under the weight of countless of reviews, those at the other end of the spectrum tend to be neglected.
I decided to remedy this by reviewing a premium TV - LG's latest OLED TV - and a budget model, in this case, Dick Smith's 42-inch LED TV.
One costs just under $9000 while the other is just $549.
DSE HD TV
It costs around 16 times less than LGs OLED TV, so I wondered if it was significantly inferior.
It turns out that my suspicions were misplaced. It's affordable, but its sticker price doesn't equate to a lack of features or compromises to picture quality.
The DSE TV design is conventional. It's a standard flat LED panel whose feet screw into place. Its 10mm bezel is on par with that of most flat panel TVs and it doesn't distract from viewing.
Inputs are usually the first thing that gets cut on by budget TV makers to keep costs down but this was not the case with the DSE. In addition to the obvious antenna socket, there's three HDMI inputs, a USB socket and audio ports. The DSE TV isn't a smart TV so there's no internet port. That can easily be remedied using a streaming device such as Chromecast or Apple TV.
There's a Freeview tuner built in and adding a USB hard drive also gives the DSE TV PVR-like capabilities so shows can be recorded.
The picture was a pleasant surprise. Cheap back-lit LED TVs usually deliver poor and uneven contrast levels which see blacks become dark gray while whites assume a dreary light gray pallor. This typically causes images to look soft and washed out.
Poor calibration is another common issue with budget TVs. This can result in garish colours and poor skin tones. Cut-price video processing hardware also makes motion judder noticeable in sports or action movies
It turns out that DSE did a reasonable job in the video department with this bargain telly. Contrast levels were passable. Blacks might not have been deep but they were plenty dark, and brightness levels were also good. Colours were also reasonably accurate.
That said, its picture wasn't perfect – rapidly moving on-screen objects did display some motion judder, but it wasn't a big distraction.
Better still, the DSE TV also has an intuitive user interface also had plenty of settings so tweaking the picture was a much less fraught undertaking. While the supplied remote wasn't anything flash, it was solid and simple. Navigating menus was easy using its D-Pad control. Used in combination with the TV's user interface, it proved intuitive to use.
About the only real issue was the audio delivered by the TV. It was lacking bass. This was probably to do with a lack of available space for a woofer. It's a common issue with many TVs regardless of their price and is easily remedied using a soundbar.
The DSE TV shows that you needn't pay a lot for a good TV. While LG's more expensive OLED TV delivers noticeably better video and has more fancy features, it also costs 16 times the price. The DSE TV delivers surprisingly good performance and its $549 price makes it ideal for those on a budget.
LG 65C7 OLED TV
If the budget model impressed with the sheer bang for buck value, the top-end blew my socks off. LG's 65C7 uses organic LED (OLED) technologies. This allows it to handily sidestep some of the limitations of LED and gives it some unique advantages.
Depending on where you buy it, the 65C7 costs just under $9000. The burning question in my mind is this – does it deliver $9000 worth of viewing?
Unboxing the 65-inch LG was a huge undertaking. My advice is to get two people involved as the 65C7 is just too big for one person to handle on their own.
The most striking thing about the 65C7 is just how thin it is. Because OLED displays don't need backlighting, they can shed a significant amount of the bulk. This translated into a screen that was just 5mm thick.
At the base of the rear is a small bump that houses a built-in Freeview tuner plus 4 HDMI Ports, 3 USB sockets, an antenna input, plus internet and audio ports. It uses a solid metal base stand that clips and screws into its rear for freestanding use.
Setting up a smart TV can an intimidating process but LG has developed "bean bird", a cartoon avatar that guides users through the setup process. This gets helped along by the webOS operating system which manages to be usable and intuitive without getting in the way of actually using the TV.
The remote using gyroscopes and accelerometers to track wrist movements to move an onscreen pointer. In use, this greatly simplifies common TV tasks and makes the 65C7 one of the more intuitive TVs I've used.
The 65C7 supports Netflix, Lightbox, YouTube, Amazon and a bunch of other streaming services. In addition, there's a good selection of smart TV apps. Like the DSE TV, the 65C7 can also record (or play) content to and from a connected USB storage device.
The video delivered by the OLED display is astonishing. Black on-screen areas are created simply by switching OLED pixels off. This translates into contrast levels that are near impossible for even the best LED TVs to achieve. Add to this support for HDR (high dynamic range) and even more detail becomes visible, especially in on-screen shadows.
The 65C7's screen also doesn't suffer from the motion judder effect that plagues LED TVs. Because of this, watching UHD or upscaled HD content takes on a distinctly cinematic feel.
The 65C7 is one hell of a TV and you get a lot for your money. A well-executed design translates into great usability and the OLED display technology really delivers the goods when it comes to video. If budget is no problem, this is the TV you want.