Should I Buy a Premium 2016 4K HDR TV or Wait for the 2017 Models?
Stephan Jukic – January 24, 2017
In the aftermath of CES 2017 and all its stunning new premium HDR 4K television reveals, it’s really easy to start wondering whether you should bother with a 2016 HDR TV at all if you were on the verge of buying one, or if you should replace your older TV with one of the 2017 models (assuming you’ve got the spare cash ready). Well, to clear up the doubts on this issue let’s take a peek at what sorts of benefits and costs each decision carries and which is right under what circumstances.
Are the 2017 Models Better?
Without a doubt, the 2017 TVs are promising to at least match their 2016 counterparts in many crucial ways, particularly as far as picture quality is concerned. Furthermore, at least for some specs like peak brightness, viewing angles and smart functionality, the premium LCD HDR 4K TVs and even their OLED cousins will almost certainly outperform what we’ve seen in 2016. This however doesn’t have to mean that the 2016 models are anything less than superb for all but the most absolutely exacting consumers.
Furthermore, at least in some key respects, the 2017 TVs will likely perform no better than their 2016 cousins or deliver performance that’s only marginally and almost unnoticeably better. It’s also worth bearing in mind that new 4K TV models can sometimes actually perform WORSE than their older cousins in some ways. With Samsung’s 2016 KU-Series TVs, we noted this in a couple of key regards such as connectivity options and motion handling and with Sony’s 2016 XBR-D TV models, black level performance was at times inferior to that of Sony 2015 HDR TV models.
With that in mind, here’s our opinion of 2016 vs. 2017 broken down by TV type and at the end, consumer circumstances, where we cover some scenarios in which you should or should not buy a 2017 4K TV.
For the premium LCD TVs of 2017 and those from Sony and Samsung in particular, you can probably expect much of the same performance on motion handling, black levels and color spectrum coverage as was the case in the 2016 premium TVs from both brands. The same will almost certainly be the case with LG’s Super UHD 4K LCD TVs.
What we have noticed is that Samsung and LG are both implementing new color and viewing angle technology though quantum dots in their 2017 models and with the inclusion of this, the 2017 LG Super UHD TVs and Samsung’s new QLED successors to last year’s SUHD TVs will almost certainly offer marginally better color performance and notably better viewing angles. The difference in color performance will almost certainly be small enough that someone wouldn’t notice it without using color testing equipment. Most of Samsung’s 2017 QLED lineup will still come with edge-lit backlighting panels just as was the case with all but one of the 2016 SUHD TVs.
In Sony’s case, there will be one new OLED TV range whose performance will almost certainly outclass that of almost all of the company’s LCD TVs for this year or last year. This OLED TV, the A1E, which will come in three different sizes, should perform at least as well as LG’s 2016 OLED TVs. Sony’s LCD lineup for 2017, the XBR-E Series models, on the other hand is expected to offer superior backlight control technology for better local dimming and quite possibly also for superior levels of black depth. Other than this, The Sony LCD lineup will still mostly consist of edge-lit TVs.
A couple of areas in which we’re expecting major improvements among most of the name brand LCD TVs of 2017 and particularly the premium models from the major brands are peak brightness and HDR support.
Samsung and Sony have both worked towards giving their premium 2017 TVs levels of peak brightness which beat even those of the already superb 2016 models and Samsung’s QLED TVs in particular are slated to reach unprecedented brightness levels of 2000 nits, putting them a solid 500 nits above the best possible performance of their 2016 cousins. Sony’s XBR-E models likely won’t reach these same brightness levels but we do expect them to perform better than their 2016 cousins did. As for LG’s LCD SJ-Series Super UHD TVs for 2017, we’ll likely see moderately improved peak brightness even though all of the brand’s LCD models will be edge-lit.
Finally, in terms of HDR performance, as a direct result of slight to major improvements in wide color gamut rendering, black levels, local dimming and peak brightness, all of the 2017 TVs will probably be slightly better HDR performers. Sony’s XBR-E TV models will see particularly high improvements in HDR compatibility due to the inclusion of Dolby Vision HDR in their specs. This is a major improvement in the 2017 Sony lineup.
The bottom line for the name brand premium LCD TVs of 2017 is that they’ll be better than they were in 2016 but not dramatically so for the most part. On the other hand, some of them will include new display features that are lacking in the 2016 models
When it comes to OLED 4K TVs, the choice between a 2016 model you can go out and get right now for a surprisingly decent price and waiting for a 2017 TV that may or may not (but probably will) cost more while offering little extra benefit becomes a bit more clear-cut.
Let’s start this section off with a mention of LG’s 2016 B6 OLED TV. This model was the most affordable of 2016 and by the end of the year had become cheaper than any OLED 4K TV had ever been before. Not only did the B6 come with this benefit, it also delivered display specs that were more or less the same as those of 2016’s flagship LG OLED model, the G6, which cost almost three times as much. The B6 had a much more conventional design, yes, and it lacked the 3D technology that all the other LG OLED TVs of 2016 came with but nearly everything else about its picture performance was identical to the specs of its pricier cousins. Even more impressively, the one display spec on which it was significantly different from its OLED cousins, peak brightness, was actually superior in the B6 (at least according to our own review testing).
Thus, for 2016, unless you insisted on 3D in your OLED 4K HDR TV, the B6 was the best choice of the year and definitely the most affordable with a year-end price of just $1,800 for the 55 inch model ($2,800 for the giant 65 inch version).
Now, for 2017, While LG has definitely taken OLED TV design to new levels of showiness, in terms of improved performance, the company is mainly promising the following:
- 25% higher peak brightness
- 2% better DCI-P3 Wide Color Gamut coverage (claimed to reach 99%)
- Support for the new HLG broadcast HDR standard (for which there is so far virtually no content anyhow)
- A new “Active HDR” mode for upscaling of SDR video
- Dolby Atmos Sound support.
Quite frankly, none of these are major enough improvements to justify replacing a 2016 OLED TV if you already own one and unless Dolby Atmos audio is something you absolutely insist on having, the other improvements will at best only be slightly noticeable for normal home entertainment. Basically, except for the Dolby Atmos sound, the 2017 OLEDs will perform almost the same as the cheapest 2016 OLED, the B6 and since it offered above-average brightness to begin with, even the 25% peak brightness improvement of the 2017 TVs may not make much of a difference.
What’s more, the 2017 OLED TVs will almost certainly cost more than their 2016 cousins and the B6’s replacement, the B7, will probably be at least a few hundred dollars pricier (though we can’t yet be sure of this, it matches the pricing trends we saw when last year’s new OLED TVs replaced their 2015 cousins).
Other details for the 2017 OLED TVs which are worth bearing in mind include the fact that none of them will offer curved display and that none of them will come with 3D technology, which all of the 2016 OLEDs except for the B6 offered.
So what does this means for buying a 2017 OLED vs- buying a 2016 OLED? Quite simply that you’re almost certainly better off sticking with a 2016 model and replacing it only when the 2018 TVs go on sale and the 2017 models start selling for reduced prices, just as many of the 2016 OLEDs did at the end of last year. Quality-wise, the 2017 TVs will offer little to justify whatever extra money they cost and only their designs are to some extent markedly cooler and more innovative than those of the 2016 models were.
The Bottom Line
If you already own a 2015- 2016 HDR TV
It’s quite simple. If you already own a 2016 4K TV or even a 2015 HDR television model and literally like what you’re seeing, there is no practical reason for you to buy a 2017 model for the time being. You’ll gain little in the way of additional performance benefits even though you might end up having to spend a fair bit of extra money on the newer model. This applies particularly to choosing a 2016 OLED TV vs. a 2017 OLED model. Even if one of the newer 2017 LCD or OLED TVs happens to have some feature you particularly like, such as Dolby Vision HDR in the 2017 Sony TVs or the extra 500 nits of peak brightness in the 2017 Samsung QLED models, we’d argue that these extras aren’t enough to justify a new TV until the prices of the 2017 models go down by the end of 2017.
For the vast majority of normal home entertainment, the HDR and SDR content viewing specs of both 2016 and 2017 model premium 4K televisions will look similar enough for there to be no practical difference.
If you don’t yet own a 2016 4K TV
If on the other hand you don’t yet own a 2016 4K TV and want to finally replace your older HDTV model or a much older 2013-2014 4K television that lacks cool features like HDR and 10-bit color, then the choice comes down to budget more than anything else. If you want to save a bit, go for your favorite 2016 model and enjoy the savings while getting some generally superb display performance and HDR specs which are more than good enough for the vast majority of high dynamic range and normal entertainment content you’re going to see emerge in 2017. If on the other hand you don’t mind waiting a bit and want the very best, then yes, wait for the 2017 models to come out in the next couple of months and check out our reviews of them as they emerge to pick your potential favorite.
The new premium HDR TVs aren’t revolutionary but they will generally be at least a bit better than their 2016 counterparts.
Story by 4k.com