When I look back on 2013, I’m struck by what a great year it turned out to be for the home-theater category. Several 55- to 65-inch 4K Ultra HD TVs came to market stamped with increasingly palatable price tags. Portable Bluetooth speakers and sound bars both blew up the audio category with lower prices and better performance than ever before. Streaming media put the hurt on cable and satellite companies in a major way. Both Panasonic and Samsung brought us plasma televisions that redefined performance and value (in fact, the Panasonic ST60 was a front runner for our pick).
But at the end of the day, there’s one product that stood out to me as the best of the year, and that’s the Samsung KN55S9 curved OLED television.
I made it clear in my hands-on review that the 55S9 put out the most stunning picture I’ve seen from a television to date, but it takes more than just a pretty picture to earn my top pick for the year. The fact is, OLED is a disruptive, breakthrough technology. It put the final nail in plasma TV’s coffin. Sure LCD/LED TVs can be credited with slowly snuffing out plasma, but OLED’s long-awaited arrival in the living room was the beginning of plasma’s burial service. Also, OLED technology allows for unprecedentedly thin displays, unprecedented black levels, stunning brightness and a wide color gamut. The next great TVs won’t just be 4K Ultra HD sets, they’ll be 4K Ultra HD OLED TVs. When we look at OLED, we’re looking at the future.
Sure, I have my quibbles with this first generation of OLED TVs. For instance, I don’t like the curve, even though I understand why it’s being done. It is also true that these TVs are priced out of reach for most, dealing a blow to the value proposition. But we are dealing with first generation technology here, and I think Samsung executed really well with the 55S9.
I should mention that LG’s curved OLED was a very close runner up, but at the end of the day I felt as if the Samsung had an edge. It just felt better put together, and I like Samsung’s One Connect box (which puts all the ports away from the TV) and the sleeker look it affords the 55S9. With that said, it’s anyone’s game in 2014, and we’re looking forward to the fight.