Truth Patrol: Best Buy Explains “LED TV”

HDTV Truth Patrol

Most of the Truth Patrol tips are sent in by readers, but this is one that I found myself, thanks to a lead from TWICE eNews Daily. They published a link to a YouTube video that was apparently created by Best Buy to train its staff about the Samsung “LED TVs“. As I and many others have pointed out (including the New York Times), the name is misleading because it implies that it’s a display technology different from LCD TVs. So it’s informative to see what Best Buy tells its employees to emphasize about these new sets.

Here are the main points covered in the video: ultra thin, picture quality, eco-friendly, InfoLink Internet connection, and a soundbard. In the entire four minute video, the onscreen trainer says the word “LCD” exactly twice. And in both cases, the context is ambiguous at best.

The first occurance comes near the end of the picture quality segment, as the trainer says “That’s going to give you the LED LCD at 120 Hz 3D effect.” Huh? First, it’s a lot of jargon to cram in one phrase, and no, this is not a 3D television. Yes, you can get a 3D impression from some images, but it’s not a stereoscopic 3D display. But let’s see what leads up to this statement. It comes after discussing the “Clear Panel Display” feature: “There’s no barrier between the LEDs and the front of the panel screen. That light will shine through a lot better.” No barrier between the LED and the front of the screen? So it must be the LEDs that are making the image, right? No, there is in fact a barrier; the LCD layer between the LED lights and the front of the screen are responsible for blocking the light so that you get an image. No blocking of the light, no picture.

This image from the Samsung LED training video shows how the Clear Panel design reflects light from the room, especially on a black screen.

And for the record, the clear panel design simply means that they didn’t put on an anti-reflective coating or film as a top layer. This layer would diffuse the light from the screen slightly and reduce sharpness a bit, but would also reduce the sharp reflections you see on the screen in the video.

The other mention of “LCD” comes in the eco-friendly section, where the trainer states that “you’re going to use about 40% less energy than your traditional LCD TV.” Okay, they get partial credit for not being outright misleading by saying “with your LCD TV”, but adding the modifier “traditional” does not make it clear that the LED TV and the traditional TV are both LCDs. In fact, I expect that many people would infer from this statement that the LED TV was not an LCD.

The bottom line is at no time does the trainer say that LED TVs are a new and improved form of LCD TV, or that they replace the traditional fluorescent backlight with LEDs. Most of the performance claims are credible (though a few stumbles like the 3D statement may raise a few eyebrows), but it is clear that the creators of this video did not want to emphasize that these are in fact LCD TVs. And apparently this is how Samsung and Best Buy want the floor staff to understand these TVs.

Is this video misleading? I’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself after you watch the video. These Samsung TVs have some real performance benefits to offer, but I wish these could be marketed without making it sound like it’s some new technology that is not LCD. I don’t see how this benefits consumers, or in the long run, either Samsung or Best Buy.

You can win your very own Truth Patrol t-shirt if you send in an example of published misinformation — unintentional or otherwise — that might lead an HDTV buyer astray. Just send a link or a scan to alfred@hdtvprofessor.com”, and if your tip is published in the HDTV Almanac, you’ll receive a t-shirt of your very own.