FLAT PANEL REVIEWS

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Al Griffin Posted: Oct 19, 2011 0 comments

When they first arrived a few years back, LED-driven LCD TVs with a full array backlight made a big splash. Why? Because the backlight, a grid of LED lamp modules spanning the rear of the display panel, can be modulated via local dimming — a process that enables the set to track specific areas in the image, turning select modules on, off, or somewhere in between.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 28, 2011 11 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,800 At A Glance: Exceptional black levels • Outstanding detail and color • Head-tilt 3D ghosting

With the growing popularity of LED backlighting for LCD HDTVs, it’s easy to forget that not all such backlighting is created equal. LEDs can be configured to provide either backlighting or edge lighting. In either case, the lighting can be steady, with image brightness dependent only on the pixels of the LCD imaging panel, which darkens the picture as the source requires. Or the lighting can be dynamic, in which the set can dim the backlighting or edge lighting from instant to instant, as needed, assisting the LCD pixels in adjusting for the optimum light output.

Geoffrey Morrison Posted: Sep 20, 2011 0 comments

For a time, there was Kuro, and Kuro was king. Kuro made other TVs envious of its awesomeness. Then. . . there was no Kuro. TV reviewers wept; everyone else bought LCDs. Under-intelligenced “pundits” foretold the end of plasma TVs — but Panasonic, Samsung, and LG quietly coughed and politely said, “Umm, we still make plasmas.”

Al Griffin Posted: Sep 20, 2011 0 comments

While Panasonic plasmas traditionally excel on the picture-quality front, they’ve lagged a bit behind other flat-panel TVs when it comes to style. Take last year’s VT25 series. The picture on those sets was hard to fault (the 50-incher we reviewed won our 2010 Video Product of the Year award), but when positioned alongside new, ultra-slim plasmas from companies like Samsung, the Panasonic’s 3-inch panel depth and thick gloss-black bezel rendered it caveman-like by comparison.

Al Griffin Posted: Aug 29, 2011 0 comments

While 3D movies haven’t totally taken over the multiplex, the format remains a force to be reckoned with. Michael Bay just released a new Transformers installment in 3D (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), James Cameron is at work on Avatar sequels, and the entire Star Wars saga is being formatted for 3D release.

Scott Wilkinson Posted: Aug 08, 2011 9 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1300 At A Glance: Exceptional color and detail • Deep blacks • Non-uniformity clearly visible in letterbox bars and dark scenes • Smart TV functions well implemented

The Samsung UN46D6000 LED-edgelit LCD TV is among the best-selling flat panels from several retailers, and for good reason—it's a superb performer in almost every respect. Out of the box, it turned in the most accurate measurements of any TV I've ever reviewed (that is, after I selected the Movie picture mode), its color and detail are exquisite, its blacks are very deep, and the Smart TV online content looked better than I've seen from most displays. The only real fly in the ointment is the non-uniformity of illumination in dark scenes and letterbox bars, which is endemic of just about all LED-edgelit LCDs. But if you can get past that, the UN46D6000 is an exceptional value I would recommend to anyone looking for a flat panel on a budget.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 03, 2011 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,100 At A Glance: Bright, pleasing picture • Crisp detail • Poor contrast • Highly reflective screen

We’re reasonably certain that most folks looking for a budget HDTV probably aren’t poring through the pages of enthusiast publications like Home Theater for advice. If they’re researching at all, they’re studying the easy-to-digest bubble ratings in Consumer Reports or Which Video, or Googling generic consumer-help Websites.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 01, 2011 10 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,500 At A Glance: Crisp, detailed images • Odd gammas in Custom mode • Little to complain about • Exceptional value

Panasonic means plasma. Yes, the company now offers a line of LCD displays, but only in smaller sizes. If you want a 50-inch or larger Panasonic, it will be a plasma. And that's not a bad thing. The TC-P50ST30 is Panasonic's latest, budget-priced, 50-inch 3D model. Only a few short years ago, you couldn't touch this level of quality in a 2D-only flat panel for five times the price—or more.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 01, 2011 4 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,900 At A Glance: Good blacks and shadow detail • Odd gammas in Custom mode • THX certified • Uniformity and calibration issues

The GT30 line is the baby bear in Panasonic's range of 3D plasma HDTVs—not to expensive, not too bargain-basement, but, for many buyers, just right. And at 50 inches, one of today's most popular sizes, the P50GT30 lands right in the sweet spot. But does it offer more than Panasonic's entry-level ST30, perhaps even challenging the pricier VT30 lineup? We're here to find out.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 01, 2011 4 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,800 At A Glance: Accurate color points • Odd gammas in Custom mode • THX certified • Best black level and shadow detail

Deciding among Panasonic's range of 3D plasma sets can be more than a little intimidating. But it's a Sunday stroll through the park compared to choosing from the bewildering flood of 3D LCD flat panels that glut the market. And for buyers who want a bigger plasma, Panasonic's top-of-the-line VT30 range—including its smallest member, the 55-inch P55VT30 reviewed here—pushes the envelope in both performance and features.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 22, 2011 0 comments
Price: $3,600 At A Glance: Superb resolution • Precise color • Bright, ghost-free 3D • Non-uniform screen lighting

Thin, Dark, and Handsome

Thin was in last year, and the trend continues without an end in sight. Manufacturers aren’t likely to quit the race until they have HDTVs you can use for wallpaper.

Al Griffin Posted: Jul 13, 2011 0 comments

At 3D theaters, you’re handed lightweight passive glasses that work in tandem with a polarizing filter positioned over the projector’s lens. When viewing at home with a 3D TV, you use bulky, battery-powered glasses with active shutter liquid-crystal lenses. Passive glasses in theaters are cheap and easily replaced. But at an average cost of $100 per pair, glasses used at home represent a sizable investment. Better to put them in a safe place — and keep ’em away from kids!

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 23, 2011 0 comments
Price: $2,400 At A Glance: Solid 2D performance • 2D-to-3D conversion • Visible ghosting in 3D • Extensive Internet features

Order of LEDs on the Side

The movement to replace the traditional fluorescent (CCFL) backlighting for LCD displays with LEDs has become a flood. Sony’s 2011 lineup is dominated by LED-lit LCDs. While the line-topping XBR-HX929 sets have full-array LED backlighting with local dimming, the remainder position their LEDs just beyond the edges of the screen. Aside from lower power consumption compared with CCFL blacklights, LED backlights of either type offer another benefit: They can adjust rapidly in accordance with the changing signal. Edge-lit LED backlights have two primary advantages to manufacturers over the full-array approach that has made them the more widely used. One is lower cost; the other is the ability, at least in some HDTVs, to shrink the depth of the panel to something that seems to approach that of a credit card.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 23, 2011 2 comments
Price: $2,400 At A Glance: Crisp resolution and accurate color • 2-step and 10-step calibration controls • Bright, vivid 3D

Living on the Edge

So far, three manufacturers have released 3D HDTVs that use passive polarized glasses rather than active shutter glasses: VIZIO, Toshiba, and LG. All three use technology developed by LG. In our June issue, we took a close look at VIZIO’s 65-inch entry, so this month, it’s perhaps appropriate that we go straight to the source and dive into LG’s first passive-glasses 3D HDTV.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 19, 2011 0 comments
Price: $3,700 At A Glance: Excellent 2D performance • Excellent black level and shadow detail • Cheaper, lighter, passive 3D glasses

Vizio steps up with the first passive 3DTV, but will the world take it sitting down?

Since the advent of 3D for the home, the specter of pricey active shutter glasses that cost as much as $150 each has hung over the technology like a dark cloud. Many potential buyers are put off by the prospect of buying enough glasses to outfit the whole family, not to mention the houseful of friends who’ve come over to watch Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil in 3D. (Yes, Virginia, there is a Hoodwinked! sequel in the pipeline. Not many remember that the computer-animated Hoodwinked! was produced in 3D, probably because not many remember Hoodwinked! at all.)

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