Samsung's OLED 4K TVs need to include Dolby Vision to beat LG and Sony
Samsung plans to release its first 4K OLED TVs this year, but the company's refusal to support Dolby Vision HDR may cause delays.
In the year 2022, Samsung will finally compete for a spot on our list of the best OLED TVs. According to a recent report, the company has resisted using the technology for years, but in 2022 it will launch a TV with next-generation QD-OLED panels, as well as a range of TVs with current-generation OLED panels.
I'm excited to see how the image processing powers that make the best Samsung TVs so goodwill translates to OLED, as I mentioned in the link above. And if you're a gamer, this is especially true: our list of the best gaming TVs is almost evenly split between OLED models and Samsung sets, so a TV that combines the best of both worlds could take the top spot.
But, assuming the rumors are true, I have a concern about Samsung's foray into OLED this year, and it has to do with the company's stubborn refusal to embrace Dolby Vision HDR thus far.
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One of the main benefits of Dolby Vision is that it eliminates the need for awkward tone mapping, ensuring that HDR content looks its best on your specific TV and lighting setup.
When HDR content arrives, TVs must perform tone mapping because the original content's contrast range (the difference between the deepest black tones and the brightest white tones) will differ from what your TV's panel can produce. The movie (or whatever) is produced with a large contrast range according to professional standards, but your TV's lighting contrast range is likely not as large – so your TV maps the different tones (hence: tone mapping) to its own capabilities.
The issue is that televisions don't always do a good job of this. You can effectively squash the contrast range, which means that detail is lost in both dark and bright areas, and you don't get the full HDR effect.
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The beauty of Dolby Vision is that it eliminates the need for the TV to guess the best tone mapping: the content can tell the TV how it should be displayed on that panel, resulting in more consistent HDR performance.
If all of that seemed like a lot of jargon, here's a diagram from Dolby to help you understand.s
Samsung has always gotten away with not supporting Dolby Vision on its flagship TVs because they're capable of such high brightness, which means they have a very large dynamic range in any case – Dolby Vision isn't all that necessary on them because they can already show enough of the contrast range.
OLED TVs, on the other hand, are less bright than Samsung's high-end QLED and Neo QLED TVs. There isn't a single major OLED TV on the market that doesn't support it, because it allows them to achieve their full potential even with lower maximum brightness. This includes all of the best LG and Sony televisions.
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Samsung has shown no signs of giving up on Dolby Vision support in its TVs in 2022. Well, there is arguably one small sign: the fact that its new TVs will support Dolby Atmos audio for the first time, which is fantastic news and suggests possible warming towards Dolby's newer standards from Samsung.
However, I believe Samsung would have mentioned Dolby Vision if it were to include it in its 2022 TVs. And I'd be surprised if it included the technology in its OLED TVs but not in its QLEDs because it would put the QLEDs at a disadvantage, and Samsung will still expect QLED to account for the majority of its sales, so it wouldn't want those sets to appear weaker in terms of specs.
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Of course, it's possible that Samsung's OLED TVs will be so good that the lack of Dolby Vision won't matter – in the case of the QD-OLED TV, that will almost certainly be the case, thanks to the new screen tech's expected higher brightness and wider color range.
Regular OLED TVs, on the other hand, will use the same panels as every other OLED, and I'm worried that Samsung will be fighting with one hand tied behind its back.