Samsung is often accused of copying Apple's products. But its executives may soon know what it feels like when they see LG's new TVs.
No, it's not the design this time -- TV mostly look the same these days. It's about what they're called.
On a trip to Korea in November, I learned the new name for LG's 2016 high-end LCD TVs: "Super UHD." I couldn't believe it.
My first questions were along the lines of "Is this final? Is this what you're really going to use? Is this going to be on the box and everything?" Yes, it was.
"But what about Samsung's SUHD?" I asked.
They smiled ruefully and nodded and didn't really reply. So I asked LG's reps again for this story, but they responded by saying they had "no additional comment." Why, from all the things LG could have named its TVs, did it choose something so easy to confuse with a brand already firmly established by an archrival?
My guess is that LG is copying Samsung to benefit from its marketing. Samsung's commercials have attempted to establish that SUHD is good, and by naming its own TVs something very similar, LG is hoping to get customers to think well of its TVs too.
First there was Samsung's SUHD
Samsung launched its SUHD brand last year at CES 2015, and snarky press people like me didn't hesitate to poke fun. I mean, what else do we have?
UHD is the official industry term for Ultra High Definition, which is the less-popular way to say "4K." So what was "S" UHD? Super UHD? Spectacular UHD? Sassy UHD? Perhaps just Samsung UHD?
Samsung's official answer is that the S doesn't stand for a specific word."Samsung reserves the 'S' (in SUHD) identification for their flagship products that change the game, like the groundbreaking 2015 SUHD TV portfolio or their Galaxy S and so on."
What is obvious to me is that Samsung was trying to create a "new" product category to differentiate its higher-end TVs, much like it did with "LED TV." It spent a ton of money marketing the new brand last year. The end goal, of course, is to get customers to buy a more-expensive TV.
Samsung's commercials called it "S UHD TV," but I took to pronouncing it "SU-HUD," and at CNET we spilled plenty of ink trying to pierce Samsung's wall of marketing. At the end of the day, Samsung's SUHD TVs are just LED LCD TVs with a bunch of fancy features and generally good picture quality for an expensive price. The JS9500 SUHD TV was the best-performing non-OLED TV I reviewed in 2015, while the JS8500 wasn't worth the extra money over its non-SUHD counterpart.
Now there's LG's Super UHD
LG has just announced three series of TVs it's calling "Super UHD." Expand the abbreviation and you get a sickly sweet parfait of superlatives: "Super Ultra High Definition."
The TVs themselves offer similar capabilities to Samsung's TVs on paper (we haven't tested any yet) and seem to be trying a similar sort of differentiation. At the end of the day LG's Super UHD TVs are just LED LCD TVs with a bunch of fancy features.
In itself that's perfectly normal for the TV business, and mini-brands like SUHD and Super UHD were preceded by Sony Trinitron and Panasonic Viera. But couldn't LG have thought up something more original, something that didn't so clearly echo Samsung?
I don't think it wanted to. LG seems to have taken a calculated risk (being seen as derivative of its rival) for the potential reward of using the brand perception created by Samsung to sell more Super UHD TVs. A customer could easily mistake a Super UHD TV for the SUHD TV he saw in a commercial.
It's also worth noting that LG's Super UHD TVs aren't in fact its best, most expensive televisions. That honor belongs to LG's OLED TVs, which, in our tests, deliver better picture quality than any LCD, no matter how many fancy features they have. That's different from Samsung, whose SUHD TVs serve as flagship products.
Unless LG explains why it chose "Super UHD" we won't know the real answer, and even if it does, I'm not expecting any revelations. But in all the years I've covered TVs, I've never seen a more obvious case of the name of one brand copying another.
Updated with "no additional comment" from LG.
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