FLAT PANEL REVIEWS

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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.

Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Nov 20, 2012 0 comments

There are those for whom a plasma TV won’t do. Maybe they’ve only seen plasma TVs in the store and think that LCDs look better. Maybe they have ?a really bright room. Sales numbers show that the majority of consumers choose LCDs.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 18, 2012 2 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,000 At A Glance: Wide, wide image on wide, wide movies • Outstanding detail and good color • Bright, punchy 3D • Minor issues need sorting out

It was just a year or so ago when I first noticed that most of the movies I looked forward to experiencing on my home theater projection system were ’Scope films—productions with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 or 2.40:1. Comedies, documentaries, art-house fare, and virtually all HD broadcasts are mainly limited to 1.85:1, 1.78:1 (16:9), or 1.66:1 (European widescreen). Classic films, of course, are 4:3.

Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Oct 16, 2012 0 comments

Instead of starting this review by listing the features that Samsung put into its UN55EH6000 LCD TV, I’m going to start with what it doesn’t have. There’s no 3D. There are no Smart TV features. It’s not wafer-thin. It doesn’t even have an edge-lit LED back- light (though its “direct-lit” backlight does use LEDs). In other words, it lacks all the latest features found in most modern LCDs.

Al Griffin Posted: Oct 16, 2012 0 comments

For a company whose supposed emphasis is LCD TV manufacturing, LG sure makes some good plasmas. Its 50PZ950, which we reviewed in the September 2011 issue, earned a Certified & Recommended stamp, both for its accurate, eminently tweakable picture and for its innovative Magic Motion remote-controlled “Smart” GUI. New for 2012 is the 50PM9700, which follows in its predecessor’s footsteps by being THX 3D-certified, Smart, and also Magic Motion remote-controlled. There are a number of other differences between the two models, but here’s one that immediately stands out: At $1,299, the 50PM9700 sells for about $300 less than the 50PZ950.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 28, 2012 4 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,600 At A Glance: Deep, uniform blacks • Superb out-of-the-box color and crisp detail • Head-tilt 3D crosstalk

The most popular, current approach to designing an LCD HDTV with LED lighting is to position the LEDs around the periphery of the screen and rely on diffusors to spread the light out uniformly. Sometimes (but not always) the brightness of the LEDs is also altered dynamically to help the LCD pixels create deep blacks, where needed.

Al Griffin Posted: Sep 18, 2012 0 comments

When I tested Sony’s flagship XBR-55HX929 TV for our November 2011 issue, I called it out as having “the best-looking picture I’ve seen from an LCD TV in a long time.” Jump forward a few months, and I’m attending a demonstration at Sony’s HQ. During the demo, Sony put its flagship XBR, a model with a full-array LED backlight, up against a group of other TVs, including the company’s new edge-lit HX85 Series set. If you follow our reviews, you’ll know that LCDs with edge-lit LED backlights typically don’t fare well, mostly due to screen uniformity issues. However, the HX85 set in Sony’s shootout not only smoked the competition but was about on par with the company’s XBR model. Naturally, I was eager to get my hands on one.

Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Sep 18, 2012 0 comments

Every year Panasonic’s flagship plasmas up the performance bar another (albeit small) notch, and the bar is now set very high. Plus, the TCP55VT50 has all the bells and beeps you’d expect from a top-of-the-line HDTV in 2012, including 3D (in active guise), smart TV streaming, a Web browser, optional 96-Hz refresh, and even a fancy touchpad remote.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 28, 2012 1 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,600 At A Glance: Superb detail, accurate color • Two- and 20-step calibration controls • Magic Remote tedious to use • Disappointing black level

The pick of the litter in today’s LCD HDTV designs is full LED backlighting with local dimming. Such sets first appeared in 2008, but the process of positioning clusters of LEDs behind the screen was, and is, expensive. While LCD sets with LED lighting have now become ubiquitous, most of them use edge lighting (sometimes with a limited form of dynamic dimming, sometimes without) in which a smaller number of LEDs are located at the borders of the screen. This both keeps the price down and enables slender, more stylish sets.

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