The Great 1080p HDTV Face Off
Welcome to our third biannual RPTV Face Off. For those of you just joining us, we've brought together today six 1080p RPTVs at the roughly $4,000 price point. The excitement is palpable, the TVs warmed up, and the judges ready to stare.
Like our last Face Off, we put the TVs together in our main studio, as that was the only space large enough to hold six big screens. The five judges were our illustrious editor Maureen Jenson, copy editor Nikhil Burman, and contributors Adrienne Maxwell, John Higgins, and Jerry Kindella. Judges were unaware of the brands, the technologies, and the prices until after they had rated the displays' performance. First, we viewed all of the sets out of the box. This is how you would first see a new TV, after making the basic user-menu adjustments we would assume any person with a test DVD would perform (contrast, brightness, color, tint). I set the color-temperature control to its setting closest to accurate and set any lamp or iris settings in their highest contrast-ratio modes. (I cheated and checked these beforehand.) First up were a few DVD selections: the Montage of Images from Video Essentials, chapters 2 and 5 from The Fifth Element (of course), and chapter 2 from Master and Commander. We also checked out a few synthetic tests from Silicon Optix's HQV test disc and the flyover scene from the end of chapter 12 of Gladiator. Then we moved on to HD material and watched the shuttle launch and flight and the restaurant scene from the 1080i D-VHS edition of Digital Video Essentials. After all this, I calibrated the sets and replayed several of the selections with the TVs in their calibrated states. Lastly, if anyone wanted to see a specific scene again, I replayed that selection.
Why no HDMI? When you input a signal digitally, you eliminate many of the ways a TV can mess up an image (scaling and analog-to-digital conversion mostly). So, if the set looks good with component video, it's a safe bet that it will look better with HDMI. Also, at the moment, almost all sources are still analog. The next RPTV Face Off will surely have an HD-DVD/Blu-ray source with HDMI.
A few interesting points to note: In the last Face Off, only four of the ten TVs had HD tuners. This year, they all do. In the last Face Off, two of the sets couldn't be calibrated. This year, they all could. Last time, the highest resolutions were 1,386 by 788 and 1080i. This year, the same money gets you 1080p. Ah, progress.