Buying a budget OLED TV has ruined movie theaters for me

Calvin Enkidi / Android Authority

For years now, marketing and advertising have tried to push the narrative that 4K is the best and last resort for TV picture quality.

It’s really hard to avoid the hype. Walk into any electronics store and you’ll see UHD and 4K banners plastered everywhere, with some ridiculously cheap price tags that make you wonder if the manufacturers themselves are trying to rip you off on high-end smart TVs that cost thousands of dollars. I know the feeling all too well because I once fell victim to the spec’s marketing hype.

In 2015, I bought my first 4K TV. At around $600, it wasn’t the cheapest on the market but it’s not too far either. However, the spec sheet has everything I thought I might want from a TV — large screen size, UHD resolution, HDR10 support, and even Android TV. But it wasn’t until I lived with it that I realized something was wrong—content looked washed out, HDR was somewhat worse to my eyes than standard content, and fast-moving objects left behind a noticeable motion trail on the screen. 4K was present as advertised, but that didn’t do much to distract me from the glaring issues.

I bought spec hype and wasted almost $600 on my first TV.

Fast forward to the last year and I finally got frustrated enough to replace this TV with something better. I finally did enough research over these 6 years to know what I was looking for. In the end, I focused on LG’s budget OLED TV.

Budget series or not, the OLED TV in question was still twice as expensive as the set I bought in 2015. Now, 4K TVs with indecent picture quality are becoming more affordable. I decided to splurge anyway, putting my faith in everything I’d learned about shows in previous years, and I’m so glad I did.

About this article: I bought the LG BX OLED TV (55″) for my personal use in 2021 and have been testing it for the past year.

Theater vs. OLED TV: An Unfair Battle?

LG OLED Batman

Calvin Enkidi / Android Authority

Earlier this year, I decided to see a screening of The Batman at my local movie theatre. During the first few minutes of the movie, I picked up on how muddy the overall visual presentation looks. The dark scenes looked washed out and devoid of any detail, making it difficult to follow the action sequences and discern character details. And in bright scenes, the image often looks flat and dim. The film’s iconic car crash scene (pictured above) lacked any semblance of color depth and dynamic range.

When I got home, I immediately played a 4K HDR master in The Dark Knight – the closest analog I could find at the time. There was simply no competition in terms of picture quality and visual impact, the OLED panel was stunning in every frame. And when Batman finally made its way to HBO Max a few months later, I rewatched it and realized how many small visual details I had missed in the shadows.

I didn’t fully appreciate the brilliance of my OLED TV until I got back into the movies.

If you’re not familiar with OLED TVs, I’ll spare you most of the technical background (we have a dedicated explanation of display technologies), but the bottom line is that they don’t work in the same way as standard LCD screens — or projectors, for that matter.

Simply put, each pixel on an OLED panel is a microscopic light source, which can be turned on or off as necessary. By contrast, regular TVs use large LEDs as backlights to illuminate the liquid crystal layer that produces color pictures. This is where LED TVs got their name. But at the end of the day, they’re still just LCD screens under a different name. Quantum dot layers and mini-LED can help improve an LCD’s color depth and black level, but by the time you add them up, you’ll be paying like an OLED TV anyway.

See also: What is the difference between QLED and OLED?

OLED’s ability to control the brightness of each pixel results in inky blacks, excellent dynamic range, and deeply saturated colors – all of which contribute to excellent HDR rendering and a great movie-watching experience. You have to see it in person to appreciate it, even an AMOLED smartphone doesn’t really give you the full effect.

I’m no movie buff, but the advantages of OLED are quite obvious even to the untrained eye. My mother can’t understand any of those technical terms, for example, but she admitted she’d like the OLED picture to look better. Is it possible that the cinema we went to has an old projection system? Maybe, but that’s no excuse when movie tickets cost about the same as they do these days.

Cinemas vary a lot in terms of audio and video quality, but the ticket price does not reflect that.

It’s also worth stepping away from the cinema-focused conversation for a moment. Nearly every Netflix, Disney+, and Prime Video show now gets a 4K HDR version, often with Dolby Vision support, too. These versions make OLED TVs a better value proposition in my books.

Hawkeye, one of the first shows I saw on my then-new TV set, perfectly displayed the power of OLED with its breathtaking nighttime views of the New York City skyline. Recently, HBO’s House of the Dragon had me craving my TV when I was on vacation. And even though I had a lot of downtime on the plane, I waited patiently until I got home. In the end, it was totally worth it — I would have felt robbed of the experience had I watched it on any other display.

Some exceptions where the theater is still owned

Screenshot LG oled hawkeye

Calvin Enkidi / Android Authority

I will admit that my OLED TV hasn’t completely replaced cinema for me. I still pay a premium for IMAX screenings from time to time. Larger-than-life scenes like 1917, Dune, and Top Gun: Maverick feel more immersive and deep in this format. Moreover, a few directors also frame key scenes with the taller IMAX aspect ratio in mind. You simply can’t replicate this experience at home, especially when those scenes are cropped for widescreen displays.

You can’t replicate the IMAX experience at home, no matter how hard you try.

Having said that, I don’t often find myself with this choice. The vast majority of movies simply don’t require an over-the-top viewing experience. In fact, many movies don’t even make it to the big screen. For example, Netflix’s critically acclaimed All Quiet on the Western Front only had a limited theatrical release. It never made its way into cinemas in most countries, including my own. But thanks to my OLED TV, I can watch the movie while preserving most of the director’s intentions.

So what will I need to get back to the movies? While researching this article, I got to know Onyx – Samsung’s relatively new cinema format. In short, it is based on outdoor digital signage technology and uses single LED lights to build a giant display wall. This is functionally similar to an OLED screen. It’s no surprise, then, that Onyx claims to offer similar black levels as OLED, vivid colors, and a brighter picture than projection-based cinemas. I’m lucky to have one Onyx screen in my city, but it’s much rarer than IMAX. The $500,000 minimum setup cost may have something to do with it.

Dolby Cinema and Onyx promise to make theaters exciting again, but they’re still a rarity in most parts of the world.

Similarly, I also read that Dolby Cinema offers much better picture quality than normal rendering, but it is not there in my country yet. Even if that happens, I’m afraid buying premium-format tickets for an entire family will eventually catch up to the cost of an OLED TV.

Falling Prices: Is It the Right Time to Buy?

lg is the logo

Calvin Enkidi / Android Authority

So what is the downside to OLED TVs? You may have heard about technology reliability issues, especially burn-in or image retention. This was a really big problem, even four or five years ago. However, mitigation techniques such as pixel refresh and logo detection as well as improvements to the underlying display technology have made image retention less likely on newer models.

Modern OLED TVs rarely suffer from burn-in, but you still can’t play static content for hundreds of hours.

Besides, real-world tests prove that even five-year-old OLED technology does not suffer from burn-in under reasonable conditions of use. I still wouldn’t recommend using one as a monitor or for long sports-watching sessions, but the average person who watches various content isn’t likely to ever see a Burn-in.

Read more: What is the problem of screen burn-in and how can you prevent it?

However, you don’t take much risk these days. OLED TVs have become amazingly affordable, compared to the last few years anyway. Right now, you can get a 55-inch LG B2 for under $1,000 (or a 65-inch for $1,296). This is a little more expensive than the cheapest 4K TVs, but you get what you pay for.



OLED Picture Quality • AI 4K Upscaling • Intelligent Assistants

LG’s mid-range OLED TVs don’t compromise on the prime viewing experience.

With vivid colours, excellent picture quality, 4K HDR support and smart assistant integration, LG’s mid-range OLED TV range has plenty to offer the most demanding content consumer.

In case you were wondering, there is little practical difference between LG’s B Series and its high-end C Series. The C2 provides a slightly higher peak brightness in HDR content (SDR content does not get brighter). Back when I bought the LG BX—it’s two generations old now—the two levels were $400 apart. I initially felt kind of sorry for choosing the cheaper model, but that thought quickly left my mind when I noticed the TV glowed pretty brightly in a dark room anyway. However, if you need a bump of brightness for a sunlit room, the 55-inch LG C2 is also on sale for $1,299 at Best Buy.

Audio is somewhat the only weak point in a setup like mine. To remedy this, I recently hooked up my TV to Logitech’s Certified Z625 2.1 Soundbar ($172 at Amazon). They’re a huge improvement over any built-in speakers but you’ll have to look elsewhere if you want a full cinematic surround experience.

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