2023 OLED TV shootout: the big three battle and we all win

The best OLED TVs of 2023 have now been pitted against each other in three organized shootout events. What in the world could I possibly add to the conversation at this point? Well, how about a different perspective?

I’m going to go out on a limb and bet that many of you are still trying to decide which of this year’s amazing TVs is best for you. Some of you are here because you have already bought one of these TVs and maybe you’re curious to hear what I have to say about your choice.

Some of you may have just decided you’re going to buy one of the best TVs made in 2023. You’re just getting up to speed and realizing there is just a ridiculous amount of content about these TVs, and you’re hoping this article will tell you everything you need to know. I can’t promise that I’m going to give all of you exactly what you’re hoping to see, but what I can promise you is that I’m going to look at this from a different perspective than you’re likely to get elsewhere.

Don’t Miss

So, with that in mind, let’s have some fun. For this comparison, we have the Samsung S95C, the Sony A95L, and the LG G3. You’ll notice I also threw in the Sony A95K because it was my top pick for 2022, and I thought it would be interesting to see how things progressed year over year.

The 3 shootouts

For those of you who are unfamiliar, there have indeed been three TV shootout events in which all three of these TVs have competed and been judged by industry professionals, including some other TV reviewers, but mostly content creation professionals. These are the unsung heroes who make the movies and videos that we watch. Folks who know what content should look like and have keen eyes for details that many of us common folks just don’t have. People for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect. I make note of who has judged these events for a reason, and I’ll be getting back to that as well.

Value Electronics King of TV

So, let’s talk about those shootout events and the winner of each of them. First, there was the Value Electronics King of TV shootout, which took place in October 2023. I was the emcee at this event, which meant that I spent most of my time trying to keep things organized and moving, as well as trying to keep the event fun and engaging. I got to see the TVs all together in one room, and I got to see them compared to an expensive Sony reference monitor, but believe it or not, I didn’t have much time to dig in and make critical comparisons. The winner of that shootout was the Sony A95L.

HiFi-DE

The next event I’ll mention is the HiFi.DE Shootout in Germany. This was a blind shootout, and the LG G3 won this event. Interestingly, the A95L, which won the Value Electronics shootout, came in last against the LG, the Panasonic MZ2000, and the Samsung.

HDTV Test

Finally, there was the HDTV Test shootout, hosted by Vincent Teoh. This was also a double-blind test, and what I also appreciate about Teoh’s methodology was that he did not allow the judges to be in the room when content was changed, so there was no way to guess which TV was which, and he didn’t allow the judges to discuss their observations, so there was no way for one judge to mention something that a bunch of others would glom onto. Even with all those controls in place, the Sony A95L came out on top overall, but was not the top performer in every category. In fact, all of the TVs took at least a couple of top spots in various categories.

So what do I think of these TVs when compared to each other? I’ll tell you shortly. First, let me explain some of the key differences among these TVs.

Comparing the contenders

Display tech

The LG G3 uses LG Display’s W-RGB OLED panel. W-RGB OLED uses a white subpixel to boost the brightness of the TV. The LG G3 also has Micro Lens Array technology, or MLA for short, that makes sure more of the light created by the TV makes it to your eyes. As such, the LG G3 is the brightest-looking OLED TV of this bunch. It also carries another inherent advantage in that it tends to come out of black better than the other TVs, so it’s a bit better when it comes to shadow detail. Speaking of lowlight performance, the LG G3 struggles a bit with darker colors compared to the other two TVs here. Just a little bit, though.

The other two TVs — the Samsung S95C and Sony A95L — use QD-OLED, or Quantum Dot OLED panels. They do not use a white subpixel. Instead, they have one blue OLED pixel, and then the red and green colors are made by tiny nanoparticles called quantum dots. These TVs have a tougher time coming out of black, so they aren’t as good at shadow detail as the LG, but they do low-level color just fine, and they have higher color purity and higher color brightness, which means they can make colors that the LG can’t.

A red cactus flower against a black background shown on four TVs.
Top row, left to right: Samsung S95C, Sony A95L, LG G3. Bottom row: Sony A95K Zeke Jones /

Here’s a good example. You’ll notice both the Samsung and Sony are able to reproduce the correct shade of red in this cactus while the LG isn’t. While color like we’re seeing here rarely pops up in the content we get today, my hope is we’ll see more of this extended color range in the years to come.

Since the Samsung and Sony both use the same panel, the key difference in the pictures they produce comes down to picture processing — which is extremely important. Picture processing is what makes a brand’s TV look the way it does. It’s why so many TVs use the same panels, but still have very distinctive looks.

Sound quality and UI

There are some other differences between these TVs not related to picture quality. Each of them has an advanced audio system. The Samsung has a bunch of bass transducers on the back, while the LG has a more conventional audio system with down-firing speakers that manage to sound pretty good, but the Sony bests them all because it’s got bass drivers on the back and the screen itself makes sound. So the sound seems to come from objects on-screen, because it literally is.

An infographic showing information comparing the Samsung S95C, Sony A95L, and LG G3 TVs.
Zeke Jones /

The remotes are also different. Samsung’s is rechargeable and has solar cells on the back. LG’s is the Wii-style magic motion remote. And Sony’s is pretty conventional, but at least it is backlit.

And then there’s the way we interact and use the TVs. The Samsung uses Samsung’s Tizen interface, the LG uses LG’s WebOS, and the Sony uses Google TV.

Connectivity

Here are some other features that are unique to each TV.

The LG comes with a no-gap Gallery wall mount in the box, but no tabletop stand. You can buy a stand for it from LG that rotates, but it also rakes the TV back a bit. Third-party stands can also be used. Also, the G3 supports everything: Freesync, G-Sync, and all HDR formats.

A man plugs a cable into the One Connect box on a Samsung S95C OLED TV.
Zeke Jones /

The Samsung comes with a one-connect box that lets you attach everything to the one box and then run a single cable up to the TV. Also, the Samsung offers some unique integration with Samsung soundbars, including wireless Dolby Atmos signal delivery for zero-cable connection and Q-Symphony sound, which coordinates the TV speakers with Samsung Soundbar systems. Also, the S95C is the only one of these TVs that supports 144Hz for PC gaming.

The Sony comes with a Bravia cam that lets you use the TV for video meetings and video calls, plus a bunch of other clever features. It can also access Bravia Core, which offers the best streaming movie quality available, even if it only has movies under the Sony Pictures umbrella.

The HDMI port selection on the side of a Sony A95L.
Zeke Jones /

The Sony is my top pick for just about every non-picture quality element. I prefer its audio by a fair bit, it’s remote by a little, and its Google TV interface by a lot. The LG and Samsung do have something going for them that the Sony doesn’t, though. And that’s four HDMI 2.1 inputs. Now, most folks don’t need more than two HDMI 2.1 inputs. But folks need two free HDMI 2.1 inputs if they want to connect an Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 — or one of those consoles and a gaming PC and also a soundbar or AV receiver. And because the Sony occupies one of its  HDMI 2.1 ports as the eARC port, you can’t have a soundbar or AV receiver connected and connect two next-gen game consoles directly to the TV. How many folks does this negatively affect? On the whole, not that many. But it is a specific enough limitation that the A95L will be immediately eliminated as an option for some folks.

So that’s all the non-picture quality-related stuff I think is worth mentioning. And, removing picture quality, I prefer the Sony for the reasons I explained. Your priorities, however, may have you feeling differently.

Picture quality

Now we have to bring in the picture quality element. So what’s the verdict when we compare these TVs? Well, if we pick them apart, nit by nit — literally nitpick — we can hardcore nerd out and talk for hours about the differences. But that has been done over and over and over. I’m not here to do that today. I’m here to deliver the message that is not getting across through all this deliberation among video professionals, who are understandably mired in the details because that’s their job. So, here’s that message.

Snowy white moutain peaks agains a white cloudy background compared on a Samsung S95C, Sony A95L, LG G3, and Sonly A95K TV.
Zeke Jones /

All three of these TVs are spectacular. Really, they are all just superb. The likelihood that you buy any one of these three TVs, get it home, and are anything less than just thrilled? Slim to none.

And the differences among them are so specific and minute that unless you are a video professional, you’d never know what they are. In fact, I almost hate comparing these TVs side by side because the differences are a distraction to most folks. You’re going to see things in a comparison like this that you would never be aware of when just sitting at home and watching TV.

A yellow-orange flower in close up compared on a Samsung S95C, Sony A95L, LG G3, and Sonly A95K TV.
Zeke Jones /

Another thing I don’t think is being talked about enough is that if I were scoring these TVs, the differences would be in the hundredths decimal place. It’s very slim. The Samsung S95C gets so dang close to the Sony A95L that, honestly, I have to look at the price difference and say that if you want a QD-OLED, the Samsung S95C makes way more sense for most folks. As a matter of fact, the step-down model, the S90C, absolutely makes the most sense for most people. No, the Samsung doesn’t have Dolby Vision – but I’m struggling to find real-world examples of when not having Dolby Vision is actually a disadvantage.

The LG G3? It’s gorgeous – and it has a slightly brighter appeal. It’s slightly better in the shadow detail. Are low-level colors less saturated? Sure. Are you going to notice that? I highly doubt it. The brightness boost makes up for it.

A scene from a film compared on a Samsung S95C, Sony A95L, LG G3, and Sonly A95K TV.
Zeke Jones /

We also know the LG G3 has trouble with something called near-black chrominance overshoot, which, in compressed content like what you get from Netflix, looks like banding and noise in really dark scenes where you have, for example, a candle flickering in a dark room. Video experts are quick to notice this. Will you? And if you do, will it bother you? I highly doubt it. What do you watch TV for? The story? Getting immersed in the visuals and the audio and the story together? That’s going to happen, and you aren’t going to have time to worry about near-black chrominance overshoot.

That kind of thing should not sway your decision. You know who else’s decision it didn’t sway? All the folks in the Germany TV shootout.

You get where I’m going with this: They are all winners. You’ll be proud to own any of them. And for every little tiny weakness each of these TVs have, there’s a little tiny strength that offsets it. It’s a net neutral for me.

The deciding factors

Your decision gonna come down to price, features, interface, and a bunch of other little unique touchpoints that make a TV what you need it to be. That’s what you should focus on.

For example, I had someone reach out to me who was having trouble deciding between the LG G3 and a Sennheiser Ambeo Plus soundbar combo, and the Sony A95L on its own for about the same price. Audio was a big enough deal to this person that the G3 and Ambeo Plus combo was the smarter buy, so he went with that.

A platter of flowers and fruit against a blue background compared on a Samsung S95C, Sony A95L, LG G3, and Sonly A95K TV.
Zeke Jones /

I have another friend who does a lot of video work and who watches a lot of YouTube and live-streaming TV. This is someone who is pretty picky about picture quality, can’t afford to add a professional calibration on top of the price of the TV, and benefits from the best possible processing. That person is getting the Sony A95L.

Hopefully, I’ve made my point. Is the Sony A95L my favorite TV? Yes, because I’m a hardcore nerd and a TV reviewer, and that’s the one that suits me best. Is it categorically The Best TV of 2023? For me, it is. Is it the best TV of 2023 for you? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. The best OLED TV of 2023 for you might be the S95C. It might be the LG G3 OLED.

Let’s stop pretending like there’s a one-size-fits-all set of criteria for judging what’s best for you. I appreciate the shootouts because they’re a high-level analysis of the TVs according to some very elevated standards — and we need that. Those standards are based on an accurate representation of the creator’s intent, which is vital. Hell, it’s a cornerstone of my job!

A white bowl of vegetables against a purple background compared on a Samsung S95C, Sony A95L, LG G3, and Sonly A95K TV.
Zeke Jones /

But accuracy and adherence to creator’s intent isn’t the number one priority for most folks, and I would argue that all three of these TVs get so close to upholding that standard anyway that even videophiles can set that concern aside. At the end of the day, all three of these TVs are at the very top tier of what you can buy. And I love all of them. And I love them for different reasons because they are all special in their own way.

Just like my kids.

And I hope you’ll consider thinking of it in the same way.






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