TVs

Should I buy an OLED TV now or wait for 2017 models?

Commentary: OLED TVs deliver the best picture quality available and are becoming increasingly affordable. The new 2017 models were recently announced, but are they worth waiting for?

Sarah Tew/CNET

Update January 27th, 2017: Pricing on the 2017 C7 series appears to be $2500 for the 55-inch size and $4000 for the 65-inch size.

Buy now or wait?

The 2017 CES has come and gone, and now we know a lot about the new TVs. I expect OLED-based televisions to deliver the best picture quality on the market in 2017, just like they did for the last couple of years.

That means that now is decision time if you're considering buying a new OLED TV.

To B6 or not to B6?

The LG B6 is the cheapest 4K OLED TV currently available. Right now (January 17) at Amazon the 65-incher is selling for $3,000 and the 55-incher for $2,000. The lowest prices I've seen are is $2,800 for the 65-incher and $1,800 for the 55-incher. Both all-time lows came around Black Friday.

Its successor, and presumably the most affordable OLED TV that will be released in 2017, is the B7. It will hit the market around May or June. LG hasn't announced pricing, but my best guess is the 65-incher will debut at $4,000 and the 55-incher at $2,500.

To be clear, those are guesses, and the initial price could be higher or lower.

Compared with the B6, here are the improvements offered by the B7 models:

  • 25% brighter in highlights
  • 2% better coverage of DCI/P3 color (from 97% to 99%)
  • Compatible with Technicolor and HLG HDR formats
  • "Active HDR" mode
  • Technicolor picture mode
  • Dolby Atmos sound

In my opinion, none of those improvements will make a big enough difference in picture (or sound) quality to spend $500 or so extra on the B7 over the B6.

Of course I haven't thoroughly tested the B7, so there's no way to know for sure whether it's significantly better or just a minor improvement compared to its predecessor -- which, once again, is the best TV I've ever tested.

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What about other OLED TVs?

  • If you're a really big spender and want the best picture quality, regardless of price, wait for reviews of the Sony A1E OLED to come out. I expect it to equal, and perhaps exceed, the best images LG can deliver. But I also expect it to cost more than the B7.
  • Step-up OLED TVs in LG's lineup, namely the progressively more stylish/thinner C7, E7, G7 and the crazy "wallpaper" W7 ($8,000 for the 65-incher), will all (I assume) continue to cost more than the B7, yet (according to LG) offer the same picture quality.
  • There are no longer any curved OLED TVs in LG's 2017 lineup. The that includes the C7, which is flat and not curved. If for some reason you want a curved OLED, your best option is the 2016 curved C6 series.
  • None of the 2017 OLED TVs have 3D, so if you happen to want that feature, get a 3D-compatible 2016 OLED now. Every 2016 LG OLED TV except for the B6 can do 3D.

Final answer: Just buy a B6 (soon)

If you really want a new TV now, get the B6. NOLED regrets.

If you're happy enough with your current TV to wait until the 2017 holiday season to buy a new one, then wait. Judging from its specifications the B7 will have slightly better picture quality, and by Black Friday 2017 I'll be surprised if the 65-inch set isn't $3,000, or even less. It may even dip down to $2,500 or $2,000, depending on how badly LG wants to dominate the high-end TV market. I'd be really surprised if it goes any lower, however.

Once again: these are my guesses. I've been $2,000 wrong before ;).

Of course, if you've read this far you probably really want a new OLED TV. If you've had your eye on a B6, and can handle the price, now is the time.

And by "now" I mean "sometime between today and when Super Bowl sales end." Keep an eye on the B6's price (camelcamelcamel.com is great) and if it falls far enough during a sale, snap it up. If not, don't feel bad buying it at the current price. It's still a great TV and you'll spend hundreds of happy hours watching it before the B7 hits the market, and hundreds more before it drops to a comparable price.

Think of it as a perfectly black bird in the hand.

Correction: Originally this article said the C7 was curved. In fact it is flat.