The 2007 1080p RPTV Face Off
It's big, it's back, and the results are—well, pretty similar to last year's RPTV Face Off, actually. What was surprising, though, was how much closer the competitors were in this year's quasi-annual Face Off compared with last year's. When watching HD, most of the panelists said they wouldn't be too disappointed with having any of these TVs in their living rooms. Of course, by the time we had gotten to watching HD, several of the sets had fallen well behind.
The Setup. The Test.
Like I did last year, I lined up all six competitors in our photo studio and fed them the same signal from a Gefen 1:8 component distribution amplifier. The sources were: an Onkyo DV-SP800 DVD player running the Montage of Images from Video Essentials and Chapters 2 and 5 from The Fifth Element in 480i; a NeuNeo HVD2085 outputting the latter in 1080i; and a Toshiba HD-XA1 HD DVD player outputting the HD DVD versions of Corpse Bride, 16 Blocks, and The Phantom of the Opera in 1080i. We viewed the selections in pretty much that order, as well.
Judges included editor Maureen Jenson, copy editor Nikhil Burman, and contributors Adrienne Maxwell, John Higgins, and Michael Prince. Last year, we found that most of the judges felt that sitting at three times the picture height was too close, but, at five times the picture height, you couldn't see enough detail. So, this year, each judge sat at four times the picture height from each TV. This distance worked out well. I set up the TVs in the mode in which they had the best contrast ratio, and we viewed them first with just the user menu settings adjusted. Then I calibrated each set, and we viewed several selections again. Despite what the pictures show, we did our viewing in just enough light for people to see what they were writing. (It's never absolutely dark in a room with six TVs.)
Click on image for full size view.
Last year, essentially only one of the TVs accepted 1080p. This year, all but one of them did. Prices have dropped across the board, while screen sizes have gone up. Every TV correctly deinterlaced 1080i/30, but only two were able to handle the 3:2 sequence from 1080i. Interestingly, all of the other measurements on average went down from last year. Although the measurements had a wider disparity, the picture quality was much closer, especially after calibration.
This page has a chart showing the sets' features. The last page of the Face Off has a list comparing their measurements. A word of note: Between the time we conducted the Face Off and this issue went to print, the sets' prices dropped considerably. At the time of the Face Off, the maximum difference between the sets' prices was $700.