FLAT PANEL REVIEWS

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Bob Ankosko Posted: Nov 26, 2014 Published: Nov 25, 2014 4 comments
Wondering if you should step up and buy a new TV this holiday season? Take our 30 second quiz...
Al Griffin Posted: Nov 12, 2014 3 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,200

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive black depth and uniformity
Excellent color
Good set of streaming options
Low-glare screen

Minus
Picture processing adds edge-enhancement, noise
Poor handling of images with film grain
Washed-out-looking highlights

THE VERDICT
Vizio’s P-Series comes with a full-array LED backlight and 4K Netflix streaming, but its performance is marred by overly aggressive video processing.

Editor’s Note: This review has been updated following a recent firmware revision. Please see postscript at the end of the review.

Vizio is known for making TVs that consistently beat the competition on price—often by a significant margin. In some cases the performance of Vizio’s sets also ends up being equal to or better than the competition, though the company’s track record on that count isn’t as consistent. The last two Vizio HDTVs Sound&Vision tested, the 2014 entry-level E- and step-up M-series models, delivered very good performance at an affordable price. Now the company’s P Series, its first UHDTVs for 2014, have hit the street. It should come as no surprise that the price here is nice: the 65-inch P652ui-B2 model I tested lists for $2,200. But does Vizio’s budget bigscreen UHDTV continue the company’s streak of high performance/low cost? Let’s take a look.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 11, 2014 2 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,500 (4 pair 3D glasses included)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Blacks, contrast, and shadow detail to die for
Lightweight
Minus
Not 4K
Cinema mode soft in default settings

THE VERDICT
This new LG is the OLED that videophiles have been waiting for, and an improvement over the 55EA9800 we reviewed last spring—with equal or better performance and, not least of all, a dramatically lower price.

Now that we’re about to turn the page into 2015, OLED HDTVs, so promising a year ago, appear to be at risk. The limited yield for OLED panels, resulting in a high retail cost, has driven most HDTV makers to the sidelines.

But not LG. They continue to vigorously support the technology. And with a current price of $3,500 for the new 55EC9300, they’re clearly tossing a Hail Mary into a market crowded with cookie-cutter LCD sets. At 55 inches (diagonal), this may be a relatively small set for the price, and it’s still just “Full HD” (the industry buzzphrase for 1080p sets). Whether LG scores a touchdown or gets intercepted remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that buyers will be the winners.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 21, 2014 4 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Exceptional blacks and shadow detail
Excellent color and resolution
Impressive sound with optional subwoofer
Minus
Price
Small screen for 4K

THE VERDICT
Short of sitting very close, you’ll need a screen bigger than 55 inches to see the full benefits of 4K resolution. But the XBR-55X900B is, nevertheless, a champion in all respects, including one we didn’t anticipate: state-of-the-art edge-lit local dimming.

The XBR-55X900B is the smallest set in Sony’s X900B series, which also includes the 65-inch XBR-65X900B ($5,000) and the 79-inch XBR-79X900B ($9,000). Fifty-five inches is a relatively small size for achieving the maximum benefits of 4K resolution. But it’s also perhaps today’s most popular size for the principal home HDTV, so there’s no denying its market importance for Ultra HD as well.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 08, 2014 1 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent color
Top-class detail—in both 4K and Full HD
Great blacks and shadow detail
Minus
Typical LCD image fade when viewed off-center

THE VERDICT
A superbly performing—and exceptionally inexpensive—Ultra HDTV that looks great with today’s 1080p content.

Ultra HD is still meandering toward its Happy Place. Yes, it offers four times as many pixels as Full HD does at 1080p (“Full HD” being the industry’s new go-to term for “standard HD”). But source material at this native resolution is still hard to come by in any quantity. Most material viewed on an Ultra HD set, for the foreseeable future, will still be upconverted from Full HD, typically by the set, to “4K” (in quotes, because Ultra HD’s 3840 x 2160 resolution falls just short of true 4K resolution as defined in the cinema world). Can this provide a visible improvement over 1080p displayed on a 1080p set?

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 16, 2014 0 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp detail
Excellent color
Bright, vivid 3D
Minus
Middling contrast and black level
3D ghosting

THE VERDICT
It can’t deliver the deep blacks found on today’s best flat panels, but the Sharp LC-60UQ17U offers top-notch detail and color, along with the ability to display 4K source material with excellent, though not full 4K, resolution.

TV manufacturers continue to search for ways to keep prices down and sales up. But with 4K Ultra HD the hot ticket these days, it’s not an easy task. While Sharp already has a 4K model in the market and others planned for the fall, the company also offers a less expensive alternative: Quattron+, or Q+. These aren’t full Ultra HD sets, as their basic pixel structure is still 1920 x 1080 (Full HD), not the 3840 x 2160 required for Ultra HD. But Sharp’s Q+ sets will accept a 4K input, and with a bit of technical hocus-pocus, the company says they’ll deliver something between Full HD and true 4K.

Al Griffin Posted: Jul 10, 2014 5 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,250

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Great black levels and screen uniformity
Mostly accurate color
Good set of streaming options
Low-glare screen
Minus
No gamma presets or adjustments

THE VERDICT
While it’s not quite the deal you get with Vizio’s lower-cost E series HDTVs, this M series set offers excellent performance at a very good price.

Vizio opted to take some bold steps for their 2014 lineup of LCD TVs. The first was to get rid of 3D—no huge loss there, since most folks don’t watch 3D outside of movie theaters anyway. The second was to add a full-array local-dimming backlight—and not just to some of the new models, but to all of them. The entry-level 55-inch E series set that we reviewed in the July/August issue featured 12 dimmable zones. For the 60-inch M602i-B3 under scrutiny here, that number gets bumped up to 36. Do all those extra zones make the M602i-B3’s black-level performance three times as good? Read on to find out.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 15, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $730

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Backlit local dimming for superior blacks
Good color
Remarkable value
Minus
Wobbly stand
Occasionally buzzy sound

THE VERDICT
It’s not without flaws, but the Vizio E550i-B2 offers more of what we like in a quality HDTV than we ever expected to see at such a low price.

You still can’t get a decent, major-brand 55-inch HDTV for under $500. You can, however, get one for under $800. The new 2014 E-Series may be Vizio’s budget line, but it’s not bare bones. It omits 3D (as do all of the company’s 2014 HDTVs, including the highest-end models), and there’s no picture-in-picture mode. But it offers the same bang for the buck that has, in the relatively few years since Vizio’s founding, rocketed the company to a U.S. market-share position that has left long-established HDTV makers gasping for breath trying to keep up.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 28, 2014 4 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $7,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Astonishing blacks
Crisp, clean detail
Exceptionally bright 3D
Minus
Poor dark-gray uniformity
Expensive for a 1080p set

THE VERDICT
It costs a bundle, has a relatively small screen, and isn’t perfect. But buyers will be rewarded with a picture that, in the ways most important to enthusiasts, is unequaled by any other type of consumer display.

At the 2014 CES, it became clear that, for most HDTV manufacturers, OLED was on the back burner. LCD Ultra HDTV, or 4K, was the big story. But at least one manufacturer, LG, remains aggressive on the OLED front. The company has announced four new models for 2014 and, at the same time, drastically cut the price (as of March 2014) on the 55-inch model 55EA9800, launched late last year and reviewed here.

Al Griffin Posted: Mar 10, 2014 0 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,400

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Great contrast and screen uniformity
Good looks
Decent set of streaming options
Minus
Slightly inaccurate color
Unimpressive 3D performance

THE VERDICT
Vizio’s 60-incher combines very good value with above-average picture quality.

With the CES in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look ahead to the new TVs that 2014 will bring. Hold on: Was there something we missed as 2013 wound down? Sound & Vision lavished loads of attention on OLED, 4K, and other high-priced TV options in 2013, but what about the budget category? Anything happen there worth looking at?

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 07, 2014 0 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent color and resolution
Good blacks and shadow detail
Satisfyingly bright 3D
Minus
Typical LCD off-axis limitations
Minor 3D flicker and ghosting

THE VERDICT
It may lack the headline-grabbing, 4K bling-zing of Sony’s XBR Ultra HD designs, but this 65-inch KDL series HDTV sits at the top of the company’s bread-and-butter line and offers more than enough features and performance to satisfy a wide range of buyers.

With all the ink spilled these days about the trendy but expensive Ultra HDTVs, a plain vanilla HDTV, with its resolution of 1920 x 1080, may seem a little ho-hum. But Ultra HD (4K, or more correctly, 3840 x 2160) is still consumer 4K content-starved with its specs not yet fully complete, and the jury is still out as to whether or not it will offer significant benefits in typical home screen sizes. Its price of admission also remains high. As a result, top-of-the-line, non-Ultra HDTVs, such as Sony’s new KDL-65W850A, remain serious players in the high-end video market.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Feb 14, 2014 5 comments
2D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $40,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Accurate color
Superb resolution
Near state-of-the-art black level and shadow detail
Huge, bright picture
Minus
Price

THE VERDICT
The UN85S9AF is a hyper-expensive flagship for Samsung, and more of a technology demonstration than a product for the masses. But the money, as they say in Hollywood, is up there on the screen to see.

I once joked about the humongous 100-inch-plus HDTVs many manufacturers trot out at trade shows, suggesting that the best way to get them into your house was to place the TV where you thought it should go on the slab of your house under construction, then build the house around it. Samsung’s new 85-inch (diagonal) Ultra HD isn’t that big, but it’s close.

Al Griffin Posted: Feb 09, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,099

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Accurate color (after adjustment)
Good screen uniformity
Affordable price
Minus
Half-baked Cloud TV user interface
Not-great remote control

THE VERDICT
Smart TV shortcomings aside, Toshiba’s LCD offers very good picture quality at a low price.

With plasma TV tech seemingly on a path to early, unwarranted extinction, prospective TV buyers unwilling to spring for OLED soon won’t have much choice other than to purchase an LED-backlit LCD TV (aka “LED TV”). And while the performance of such sets has improved quite a bit over the years, the better ones are still expensive for what you get—particularly in comparison with same-sized plasmas. So, what’s a quality-conscious consumer to do? Roll over and get eat the high prices? Not necessarily.

Al Griffin Posted: Dec 20, 2013 0 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Very wide viewing angle
Accurate out-of-box color
Great GUI and Smart features
Minus
Some picture-uniformity issues
Pricey compared with high-end LCD competition

THE VERDICT
Panasonic’s LCD boasts an impressive array of Smart features and decent picture quality, but some uniformity issues on dark movie scenes prevent it from stacking up to the high-end LCD competition.

Panasonic is a company that has stuck with plasma TV tech through thick and thin. In the thick column, you’ll find loads of great reviews and general raves from videophiles. In the thin column, there are claims (largely unfounded) of burn-in damage generated by everything from video games to stock tickers; more crucial, there’s bruising sales competition from LCD. What’s less known about Panasonic is that the company actually does sell LCD HDTVs—quite a few of ’em, in fact. If you were to check Panasonic’s Website right now (do it!), you’d see that its TV lineup is divided equally between plasma and LCD. And with rumors circulating about the company’s imminent departure from the plasma manufacturing biz (say it ain’t so!), that balance could soon swing fully over to the LCD side.

Al Griffin Posted: Nov 22, 2013 0 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent picture quality for an LCD HDTV Innovative remote control
Minus
Overly wide Arc Stand base

THE VERDICT
Samsung’s F8000 Series represents an evolutionary leap in the company’s LCD TV offerings.

My last experience with a Samsung TV (aside from the company’s KN55S9C OLED, reviewed in the November issue) was a memorable one. The company had just endowed its Smart Hub interface with voice control, and, consequently, it was the first TV I ever found myself talking at. Or screaming at, rather, since that feature proved useless in practice. Another reason was its performance: The Samsung was one of the best sets I’d tested in recent memory.

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