FLAT PANEL REVIEWS

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Tom Norton Posted: Sep 04, 2013 3 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price $3,000

At A Glance
Plus: First-rate blacks and shadow detail • Impeccable color and resolution
Minus: Color decoder error calls for care in calibration • Adequate but not terribly bright 3D

The Verdict
With performance nearly identical to the flagship ZT60 series, Panasonic’s VT60 offers state-of-the-art image quality at a more affordable price.

If the Panasonic ZT60 series is the company’s statement product for 2013, the VT60 is an update of its long-running VT flagship line. What’s in that silly little one-letter difference? Less than you might expect, and more. For starters, the ZT60 line is available only in 60- and 65-inch sizes. The VT60 adds a 55-incher to the mix. In addition, the ZT60 is said to be something of a limited edition, the result of a complex, time-consuming manufacturing process associated with that set’s Studio Master panel.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 11, 2013 19 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $7,000
At A Glance
: Four times the native resolution of standard HD • Advanced color technology • State-of-the-art 3D

With the introduction of its new 2013 XBR sets, Sony has shown that it’s serious about bringing Ultra HD, popularly referred to as 4K, to consumers at prices that, while still high, are less seizure-inducing than the $25,000 sticker on its 84-inch XBR-84X900 (Home Theater, June 2013).

Technically, 4K is shorthand for a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels—the professional 4K format. Consumer 4K sets, on the other hand, have a resolution of 3840 x 2160, exactly four times the pixel count of full HD 1080p. Regardless of the industry’s plan to refer to such sets as Ultra HD, 4K has already crept into the lexicon as the popular term for 3840 x 2160 home video.

Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Jul 03, 2013 0 comments

There’s an argument to be made that Panasonic’s ST50 Series plasma was the best TV to come out last year — not the company’s more expensive VT50 model, which was Sound & Vision’s Video Product

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 14, 2013 8 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,150 At A Glance: Crisp, detailed picture • Superb color performance • Near reference-quality blacks and shadow detail

When Samsung launched its new line of plasma HDTVs at last January’s CES, we were impressed. Those early demos indicated improved black levels and overall good performance. We were surprised to find later that the prices, though not exactly “Attention, K-Mart shoppers!” specials, aren’t Beverly Hills exclusives, either. From what we see here, these new Samsung plasmas, while unlikely to alter the market dominance of LCD, are welcome additions to the battle.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 07, 2013 0 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,300 At A Glance: Rich black level and good shadow detail • New color technology • Bright, punchy 3D

The new KDL-55W900A is Sony’s newest, top-of-the-line, non-XBR set. All of the XBRs, going forward, will be Ultra HD (4K) sets, but the KDL-55W900A, as all of the KDL designs, is firmly in the standard HD, 1920 x 1080 camp. It’s an edge-lit design with local dimming, but its marquee feature has nothing to do with contrast and black levels. Color is the plot here, and Triluminos, a term Sony has used in the past (see sidebar), promises a wider color gamut.

Rob Sabin Posted: May 24, 2013 14 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,699 At A Glance: Top-tier black levels and color accuracy • So-so 3D • World-class value

Last year, the number-one TV I recommended to friends, family, and anyone else who would listen was Panasonic’s ST50 series plasma. Although a serious enthusiast might have appreciated the superior black levels and more extensive picture controls of the company’s then top-line VT models, 2012’s ST50, like the ST30 models of the year before, delivered most of the VT’s performance and easily beat out all but the most expensive LED LCDs. It was simply an incredible value and was recognized as such in Home Theater’s Top Picks of the Year.

Tom Norton Posted: Apr 05, 2013 5 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $25,000
At A Glance
: Stunning resolution • Superb color • Glorious 2D and 3D performance

With 4K-resolution Ultra HD the latest and greatest star in the consumer electronics galaxy, we ink- and pixel-stained wretches of the press were all champing at the bit to lay hands on one. But at a massive 84 inches diagonal, 216 pounds with its floor stand, priced high enough to put you in a nice new car as long as your tastes aren’t too posh, and still limited in availability, Sony’s new 4K flagship made the company understandably reluctant to ship review samples to all the usual suspects.

Al Griffin Posted: Mar 07, 2013 0 comments

To hear Sony tell it, the future will be in 4K. This stance comes as no surprise: The company’s 4K-rez digital cinema projectors have been installed in over 13,000 theaters, and at least 75 Sony-produced titles have either been shot with 4K digital cameras, or transferred to the higher-rez format from film. And Sony isn’t just pushing 4K for theaters — it wants viewers to experience it at home. 

Tom Norton Posted: Feb 22, 2013 4 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $9,000 At A Glance: Superb resolution and color • Impressive blacks • State-of-the-art 3D

If last year was the year of thin in flat-screen HDTVs, 2013 promises to be the year of big. Seventy may well be the new fifty, and we’re not talking birthdays. While this year’s models are still remarkably thin, now your friends can ooh and ahh while viewing them from the front and not just the sides.

Al Griffin Posted: Feb 11, 2013 0 comments

Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving, and the biggest shopping day of the year. It’s a day when hordes of Americans head out to the local mall or Walmart, ready to fill their carts and, if necessary, take you out should you stand in the way between them and a good deal. TV maker Vizio has traditionally released a new model or two just in time for Black Friday — often at prices well below the norm for sets in their category/screen size. The E601i-A3, a 60-inch edge-lit LED LCD, was one such special, having reportedly sold for $699 on that day — a price that is, well, insane. But now that the E601i has bobbed back to a more real-world, though still very affordable, $999, it’s time to check out how it stacks up against the competition.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jan 03, 2013 5 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,900 At A Glance: Exceptional detail • Rich, compelling color • Solid black level and shadow detail

Full LED backlighting with local dimming, when properly implemented, is the gold standard for achieving the best black levels in an LCD HDTV. But such a set also requires a lot of gold to acquire. LED edge-lit designs, needing fewer LEDs and less complex processing, cost less. While LG makes fully LEDbacklit local-dimming sets (its LM9600 Nano designs), the company’s premier, edge-lit LM8600 offerings also include local dimming. Local dimming, even in an edge-lit set, is usually better than none at all, but it’s less comprehensive and in theory less effective than the fully backlit variety. We reviewed the 55LM9600 Nano back in our September 2012 issue. But the 55LM8600 now lays down a strong challenge to its pricier sibling.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 21, 2012 1 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,200 At A Glance: Compelling color and resolution • Superb value • Middling black level

Psst, buddy. Wanna buy a cheap plasma?”

You don’t often hear this from your friendly neighborhood white-van salesmen; they’re more into selling cardboard speakers. $1,200 HDTVs, no matter how good, just aren’t their thing.

They aren’t always ours, either, but when Samsung offered us the chance to have a look at its $1,200, 51-inch (diagonal) PN51E550D1F plasma, we couldn’t resist. That may be a lot of green for a public that once considered $300 a fair price for a new television, but today it falls solidly in the lowmid price range for a namebrand flat-screen HDTV in this size category.

Al Griffin Posted: Dec 18, 2012 0 comments

When it comes to picture quality, LCD TVs ?with a full-array, “local dimming” LED backlight tend to outperform their edge-lit LED brethren by a not insubstantial margin. We’ve covered the particulars of LED backlight tech before, so I won’t get sidetracked in explaining it here, but the finer control afforded by a full-array design allows for improved contrast and, for the most part, better uniformity when displaying dark images. Sony was among the first TV makers to push full-array for LCD, and then mysteriously put the tech on hold. But it roared back in 2011 with the XBR-HX929 line, a series that pushed full-array to new heights. The newest such sets to arrive from Sony are the HX950 series, which started shipping in late 2012. Can they match, or even exceed, Sony’s vaunted HX929 TVs?

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 13, 2012 5 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,500 At A Glance: Plasma-quality blacks • Near flawless color • Bright, vivid 3D

All LCD HDTVs require some form of backlighting. The LCD panel’s pixels modulate the light and provide filtered color, but without backlighting to shine through the panel, you’d have no picture. Recently, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have replaced the fluorescent backlights used in older flat-screen LCD sets. LCDs aren’t perfect in blocking light (which is why so many early models had poor black levels), but if you can shut off or dim the LEDs on demand, the LCDs’ light-blocking chores become far more efficient. And LEDs can do this; they can be shut off and turned back on almost instantaneously in reaction to the signal coming in.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 20, 2012 4 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,000 At A Glance: Impressive overall performance • Outstanding value • 2D only

It’s long been true that if you wait long enough, the price of technology will drop down to meet your budget. Flat-screen HDTVs are prime examples. We’ve recently seen manufacturers respond to the current global financial malaise by squeezing their beans hard enough to produce decent sets for around $1,000. While it’s difficult to say if this trend is due to economic conditions or pressure from price-aggressive new manufacturers, Vizio has been in the vanguard of the young guns making life difficult for traditional HDTV companies. And the company’s not standing still. Exhibit A: Vizio’s new $1,000 E601i-A3. Like its big brother, the 70-inch, $2000 E701i-A3, it’s a true budget buster, but for a change, the budget they’re busting isn’t yours.

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