Why I regret buying an LED TV

Monday 16 March 2015 @ 1:29 pm

This is the story of an idiot who bought a top of the range LED TV three years ago and has regretted it ever since.

My previous TV was a much loved Panasonic Plasma but after several years of enjoying its fantastic picture, it was time to upgrade to something bigger with HD, streaming capability and kick ass 3D. Yes, I admit it, I like 3D.

I was all set to buy another Panasonic but didn’t want the active 3D system or the energy hungry, radiator heat of a plasma TV that tended to buzz after a while. And neither did I want something so heavy that it required an elephant to carry it home and a complex series of pulleys to hoist it into position, complete with a voucher for a free hernia operation.

The answer then was LED. Now, all LED TV’s are actually LCD TV’s that use a backlight for the image, the difference being that with LED, the light is provided via LED lights and not conventional lamps. The TV we decided on was an LG that was smart-enabled with passive 3D and the full suite of streaming options such as BBC iPlayer and DLNA.

The image on the Panasonic was always a bit dim and dull so the brighter LG was much more impressive. I spent some time setting it up but the big problem was and always has been and still is to this very day with all LED TV’s, the complete lack of any deep inky blacks. You can forget all the other specifications and scams like 4K, when it comes to judging image quality, one of the main criteria, if not THE main criteria, is how a TV can handle black colours.

With a plasma set, it’s perfectly black since the areas with black are actually switched off. With a shitty LED though, the light is always shining from behind the picture and the options available are limited to either dim the LED light locally or fiddle with the settings for dynamic contrast, black levels, brightness, backlight and all other manner of crap that interferes with the actual image. Regardless, the result is a washed out dark grey rather than jet black and terrible light bleed that once you notice, you can never not notice again. Films in particular are much less watchable because of the borders at the top and bottom which are school uniform grey and hugely distracting.

Tweaking the settings does help but the compromise is severe; enable the LED local dimming or reducing the backlight means that you get darker blacks at the expense of a dimmer image. Bump up the contrast or brightness to counter this and the picture starts to lose detail and focus. In short, there is no suitable compromise with an LED TV, even if it is fully backlit rather than the cheaper edge-lit. Buy one and you can look forward to years of watching TV’s with unconvincing black levels.

The light bleed in particular has gotten worse and will only deteriorate further. And then there’s the viewing angle. Unless you’re sat slap bang in front of an LED at the right height, the picture contrast suffers and you get a very uneven image with areas of light and dark. Stand up or sit down from you plum viewing spot and even then, the picture will change. As for the poor sods sitting at the side and having to view from a 60 degree angle, you might as well just tell them to leave the room. A plasma set has none of these issues and you could be standing at a 20 degree angle from the set and still enjoy the show.

If I could go back three years and choose again, I’d definitely say fuck LED, I’m sticking with plasma. However, given that plasma has now stopped being made, the only hope is OLED which, like plasma, manages deep velvety blacks and suffers no viewing angle limitations. In fact, OLED is even better than plasma as it’s thinner, brighter, lighter and even requires even less power than an LED TV. In short, OLED offers all of the advantages of both plasma and LED with none of the drawbacks.

Except one; cost. OLED is still too expensive to make so expect to pay a premium for one, especially since none of the other manufacturers apart from LG seem bothered to go down the OLED route and instead, are intent on pushing those stupid fuckin’ 4K TV’s that nobody wants.

I reckon it’s a premium worth paying though so my LG LED is up for sale and quite frankly, I can’t get shot of it quick enough to replace it with an OLED model.