2014’s IFA consumer tech jamboree in Berlin saw Samsung take the grandstanding crown from everyone with an entire mini-exhibition centre of its own.
But Korean rival LG’s smaller pavilion was no less packed with new TV experiences, and many of them were so similar that it would be wrong not to compare them.
Now a theatrically-lit show floor isn’t the best place to compare the true quality of a TV experience: the TVs are set up with high brightness and contrast that’s a million miles away from home cinema perfection, but hey – they chose the venue for this scrap.
Round 1: Flexible 4K Ultra HD
Having told us that curved TVs are the future at CES in January, LG and Samsung have both hedged their bets with prototype TVs that flex between curved and flat.
We saw flexible prototypes at as well, but this time they’ve gone big – LG’s is 85in across while Samsung’s is a whopping 105 inches.
On the other hand, LG’s flexi-screen is another example of its beautiful OLED technology, and it takes a lot less time to flex from flat to curved.
Winner: LG – it looks like a real product instead of showroom behemoth.
Round 2: Curved 4K Ultra HD
Samsung and LG both showed off ultra-wide 21:9 curved TVs with 105-inch screens, but while LG’s is still a concept working its way to reality, the Samsung S9W is real screen that you can buy now. If you’re a millionaire, at any rate.
Samsung has 17 curved TVs from 48in upwards, not all of them in 4K, and had them neatly presented alongside flat screen TVs in a manner that almost convinced us it’s a good idea.
LG also has curved 4K OLEDs in 65 and 79 inch flavours that will land here this autumn, and a 55in ‘Art Slim Design’ curved OLED that’s skinnier than a catwalk model.
Winner: LG – OLED quality is stunning
Round 3: What’s on in 4K?
The big names in 4K content seem happy to play with everyone – and why shouldn’t they – so both LG and Samsung were able to boast these key partners.
The Amazon 4K showreel was also a lot more interesting than Netflix’s constant push for House of Cards. Haven’t they got anything else worth shouting about?
Winner: It’s a draw
Round 4: 8K Ultra HD prototypes
LG and Samsung are already showing off 98-inch 8K Ultra HD TVs that are about 18 months away from going on sale, although LG’s is a backstage exclusive for invited guests.
If you haven’t seen 8K, then in simple terms it’s about as detailed as the human eye can see, so there won’t be much left to fine tune once these babies come out.
Samsung really crowded out its 8K screen, although it had a constant huddle of amazed viewers peering in to find the pixels.
LG’s screen had room to breathe and looked ready for the showroom. Not only that, it’s a 120Hz display so motion looks really smooth, while Samsung’s prototype demo was very static.
Round 5: Bling and WOW!
The Korean Ultra HD TV competition wouldn’t be worth doing without an absurdly grand gesture of showmanship.
LG took the chintzy route with two TVs blinged-up by the addition of Swarovski crystals, once again exclusive to backstage guests like Recombu. We weren’t impressed with the WAG-chic of the more sparkly model, but the cracked-glass effect of their second is strangely attractive.
Samsung went big, commissioning digital artist Miguel Chevalier to create The Origin of The Curve, a 20-foot high sculpture incorporating curved TVs. It’s a stunning, twisted entry-piece for the show and wouldn’t be out of place in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern.
All the razzmatazz of a giant sculpture and its own building only suggested that Samsung is going big to hide a lack of finesse by relying on LED technology.
They’re good TVs, but LG’s OLED displays are a marvel to watch, and can apparently be made flexible, thin and light.
If they can make them cheap and reliable – and that’s still an IF – then they deserve to walk away with the TV gong for IFA 2014.