Buy Now or Wait?
Peter Zolldan asks a perennial question:
I have been thinking about buying a larger LCD HDTV soon. Should I wait a little longer until more LED backlit displays are available or purchase now? My short list includes the Sharp LC-52SE94U, Samsung LN52A750, and a few different Sonys, such as the KDL-52XBR4 and KDL-52W4100, which I believe is about the equivalent of the XBR4. I also really like the looks of the KDL-40Z4100.
All consumer-electronics shoppers are faced with a similar questionbuy now or wait for the Next Big Thing? The answer depends on several factors. For example, how urgently do you need it? If you're current TV is in its death throes, you might not have the luxury of waiting.
Then there's the question of new versus mature technology. I tend to avoid buying anything in its firstor even secondgeneration, preferring to wait until all the kinks have been worked out in the hands of unpaid beta testers (aka early adopters). On the other hand, I realize that if a substantial number of early adopters don't buy a new technology, it might never mature, so I always applaud them.
Regarding your specific question, I am a great believer in modern LED backlighting with local dimming, which changes the brightness of the backlight in different regions of the screen depending on the brightness of the image in those regions. This results is astonishing black levels and extremely wide contrast ratios, but it can also cause halos around small bright elements in an otherwise dark environment, such as white credits on a black background.
There are very few such LCD TVs available today, and like all new technology, they are more expensive than their conventional counterparts. As I recall, one of the early Sony Qualia LCD TVs had LED backlighting, but Samsung was first to bring this technology to a wider audience with its 81 series, which is still available. I reviewed the LN-T4681 for The Perfect Vision last year, and I liked it very much except for its sub-par shadow detail. Samsung and Sony have new models due out this fall or winter.
As for the conventionally backlit models you mention, I really like the Sony KDL-52XBR4 and Samsung LN52A750, with a preference for the Samsung. I'll soon be getting the Sony KDL-52W4100 for review, so look for that in the coming weeks. Sharp has not sent me an LCD TV to review in quite some time (was it something I said?), so I don't know how the LC-52SE94U stacks up.
Bottom line: If you opt for the next generation of LED-backlit LCD TVs, you'll be waiting at least until late this year, and you'll pay a premium. If your timeframe and budget allow, this is a promising option. On the other hand, the Sony XBR4 and Samsung A750 models produce an excellent picture for less cost, and they're available now, along with many other choices. Which way you go depends on your particular situation, but either way, I doubt you'll be disappointed.
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