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Budget OLED TVs are tempting, but are manufacturers jumping the gun?



Sounds like a dream come true for cinephiles: OLED TVs, previously a stock of high-end TVs ranging from LG, Panasonic or Sony likes, sharply reduced in price.

Until recently, the cheapest OLED TV on the market was the LG B8 OLED, the lowest of the LG 2018 TV range, and one that managed to knock down its premium siblings using an outdated processor. Still, it costs $ 1,799 / £ 1,799 / AU $ 4,799 at launch, which remains out of reach of many buyers there.

That changed with the release of Hisense O8B OLED this year, which put the bar at £ 1,399 (about $ 1,550 / AU $ 2,260) instead – and now the retail giant thinks it's worth going even further low, with the OLED model announced at IFA 201

9 to join its range of smart TVs.

Taking Amazon to OLED TV will cost just $ 1,299, which translates to about $ 1,200 / $ 1,430 / AU $ 2,100. For starters, it will only launch in Germany and Austria, though we would be surprised if Amazon doesn't use its online distribution network to try to sell them elsewhere along the line. Although there is no official word on why we do not see a simultaneous exit in the UK and the US, the hesitant initial start – for a company that is almost always sold first at home in the US – does not inspire confidence.

Value is related

(Image Credit: Hisense)

You may be thinking: leave it, it's still not cheap enough for me! And really, until we start to see OLEDs selling for three-digit amounts, OLED will remain a premium technology with a limited audience.

In an address to TechRadar, LG Electronics Global Corporate Communications Manager Kenneth Hong expressed surprise that OLED TVs were no longer in this price range and said that there were expectations several years ago that prices would fall – fast.

But the problem, even with these relatively inexpensive kits, is that they can push prices at the expense of vital features and capabilities. Without nuanced or capable processing, problems such as motion processing or poor zoom will not only be saved by the color and contrast forces of the OLED panel.

We found these issues with Hisense O8B: While offering a strong and vibrant picture, its processing did not always do the job, while support for the Dolby Vision Kit – first-rate HDR format – would reduce and exclude it. While value proposition needs to be encouraged, value sets that compromise core productivity are of no use to anyone.

OLED on Amazon Fire TV Edition OLED sounds like a tempting proposition, but it's hard not to see the kit as having ridden the reputation of OLED panels at a price that is unlikely to deliver what people expect from the technology.

The question is: why get an average OLED at what is still a four-figure sum when you can get a fantastic LED for the same price?

The comparison is not so clear at higher prices, as the likes of the LG C9 OLED or LG E9 OLED can perfectly give LEDs and QLED money. But if it's early to run cheap OLED without compromising the experience, consumers will get a short straw every day.

  • IFA 2019 is the largest technology show in Europe and TechRadar's team is in Berlin to bring you all the latest news and practical first impressions of new TVs, laptops, wearables and other products as announced .

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