If you’re looking to make box sets and movies look better, you may well have a direct choice between a Samsung and Sony TV. Both brands make excellent televisions across various price points, and if you find two of a similar size, you could understandably struggle to decide which is right for you.
This article is here to help. While a premium set will always beat an entry-level model regardless of the manufacturer, a few differences will make a Sony TV more suited for your living room and vice versa.
We’ll get into the differences between Samsung and Sony TVs in a moment, but first, a few pointers on what actually explains the price differences between televisions.
Samsung vs Sony TVs: what's the difference between budget and premium sets?
While brand name plays a part, there are chiefly three things that decide where a TV will sit on a pricing scale that goes between a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars: size, resolution, and display technology.
Size is pretty self-explanatory: if you’re buying a 32-inch TV, you’ll spend less than if you’re buying an otherwise identical 88-inch model.
The way prices spiral with size may seem a bit disproportionate, but do bear in mind that due to the way televisions are measured, the size difference is more dramatic than it sounds. The inch figure is the measurement from one corner to the other, so while the difference between a 40-inch and 55-inch set doesn’t sound like too much, the latter is actually 89% bigger than the former in terms of area.
That said, it is possible to find giant sets that are cheaper than the best 40-inch TVs. That’s because the biggest difference between cheap and expensive TVs is the picture quality, which is mainly set by the kind of panel in place.
Cheap TVs — including models by Samsung and Sony — use LCD panels that can’t match the kind of color accuracy, contrast, and vivid imagery offered by more premium sets that embrace QLED, OLED, and MiniLED technology.
The final piece of the puzzle is resolution, which defines how many pixels make up the image. The more there are, the sharper the picture is, and it ranges from just over two million for a Full HD TV up to 33 million for an 8K set.
The middle ground — 4K, or around 8 million pixels — is the one that most people will want. Full HD is already looking a bit weak for the latest games and TV shows, while 8K has the opposite problem: whether on cable or streaming, there’s next to no content made for it at the moment, and there won’t be for many years to come.
Samsung vs Sony TVs: display technology
As mentioned before, at the cheaper end of the market, the differences between Sony and Samsung are much of a muchness in terms of picture quality, as both use LCD panels. Look at individual reviews of TVs or see them in person and make the judgment call yourself.
But at the premium end, Sony favors OLED, while the majority of Samsung’s high-end panels are QLED. It has recently strayed into OLED territory with the S95B, but the majority of its sets are QLED.
So, what’s the difference? If you want the best possible picture quality in perfect conditions, you want OLED. It stands for ‘Organic Light Emitting Diode’ and means that each of the TV’s pixels is self-lighting, creating incredibly accurate images. This is especially true in darker scenes, where black pixels can just turn off to create contrast that’s literally unbeatable.
But there’s a reason we included the “in perfect conditions” qualifier above. OLED panels don’t tend to get very bright, and that means they’re poorly suited to rooms with lots of natural light. That’s a recipe for a washed-out, hard-to-view image that’ll have you reaching for ugly black-out drapes.
QLED TVs don’t have this problem, as the pixels are illuminated by hundreds to thousands of LEDs that sit behind the panel. Samsung’s TVs are particularly known for their eye-searing brightness, and the company’s Quantum Dots do a good job of offering better HDR performance than regular LED sets. But it does mean that contrast — though still very good — can’t quite reach the extraordinary levels of a quality OLED screen.
In short, we generally favor OLED screens if the space you’re shopping for isn’t extremely bright. That said, bear in mind that some people shy away from OLED technology over fears of screen burn-in — where an image can be permanently scarred into the screen if left static for too long (think things that stay in place for long periods of time, like news tickers, TV station logos and sports scores).
Nowadays, OLED TV manufacturers have software protections in place to prevent this from happening, so the risk is more theoretical than it was in years past, but it’s still worth bearing in mind if you don’t want to take any chances.
Samsung vs Sony TVs: formats, sound, and operating systems
Other, more minor differences could make a difference to your decision. For starters, while every HDR (High Dynamic Range) capable TV supports the HDR10 format for better contrast and a wider color gamut than SDR TV, it gets a bit more complex at the top end.
The two brands’ high-end TVs pick a different standard for enhanced HDR, where metadata is incorporated to automatically optimize your settings for the content on screen. While Samsung opts for HDR10+, while Sony goes with Dolby Vision, which is usually a better choice. Not only is Dolby Vision more widely supported, but it has a 12-bit color gamut, whereas HDR10+ ‘only’ has ten.
There’s also a difference in operating system: Samsung uses its own streamlined Tizen OS, while Sony includes Google’s Android TV.
While this is largely down to personal preference, we favor Tizen here, as Android TV can be a bit cluttered and somewhat prone to slowdown. And while the clutter means you’re not short of apps to enjoy, the basics are all offered by Tizen, and extras can always be added via HDMI devices like Apple TV or Google TV itself via the latest Chromecast (opens in new tab).
Finally, there’s sound quality. Sony’s high-end sets ship with something called Acoustic Surface Audio technology, where sound is generated via vibrations of the panel itself for directional audio. Samsung, meanwhile, has OTS — or Object Tracking Sound — for its sound.
While we’d say that Samsung’s is generally better here (glass can only vibrate so much), it’s kind of a moot point. Even the best built-in audio pales in comparison to external options, and if you’re spending top dollar on a brilliant TV set, you’ll want to choose a surround sound system to go with it.
Samsung vs Sony TVs: Which should you choose?
The slightly disappointing answer is that it’s impossible to say definitively, as so much depends on your specific circumstances. It’s no good going all in on a Sony OLED TV if the brightness of your room makes it unusable.
That said, if your budget isn’t huge, Samsung TVs generally offer better value from their mid-range sets than their Sony equivalents, and if style is all-important then The Frame (pictured above) and Serif sets won’t ruin the aesthetic of your living space.
If you’re torn between a specific Samsung and Sony TV, bear in mind the above advice, but try and see both models in action as well. While a showroom won’t match the lighting of your living room, it’s still the best way of getting a measure of how the brands shape up when measured against your own personal taste.
You might also want to look at what our editor thought as to if the Samsung Serif TV was worth it.