FLAT PANEL REVIEWS

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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 22, 2015 3 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $6,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
First-rate blacks and shadow detail
Superb resolution—in both 4K and 1080p Full HD
Impressive sense of image depth—even in 2D
Best 3D seen anywhere
Minus
Image degrades significantly off center
Annoying remote control
Glitchy voice- and gesture-control features

THE VERDICT
This is the first consumer Ultra HDTV out of the gate offering more than just four times the resolution of 1080p HD. While it will require more UHD program material to fully judge its ability to provide 10-bit color, a wider color gamut, and higher dynamic range than today’s content, this Samsung is still a strong candidate for the best LCD set launched to date.

Ultra HD remains very much a work in progress. Source material is still scarce, and while some is available through various forms of downloading and streaming, the promised delivery of Ultra HD on Blu-ray (the route most likely to offer the best UHD quality) is still months away. Furthermore, the UHD sets that have appeared to date offer little more than enhanced resolution—resolution that isn’t really significant unless you see it on the biggest screen you can afford and sit closer than some folks prefer. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a UHD set isn’t desirable...

Rob Sabin Posted: May 06, 2015 0 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $7,199

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stunning color
Gorgeously detailed 4K playback
A boatload of picture tweaks
Minus
Not quite plasma-like blacks and shadow detail
3D ghosting
The price

THE VERDICT
Panasonic’s statement Ultra HDTV sucks you in with its alluring image and doesn’t let go, but its high price is a deterrent.

When Panasonic left the plasma market in late 2013 to the whimpers of videophiles worldwide, the company committed to delivering an LED-backlit LCD that would rival the image of their best-ever TV—the ZT60 that was their plasma swan song. The first Panny Ultra HD LCD to follow, the edge-lit TC-65AX800U, was a fine TV, though hardly a breakout set. But in late 2014, Panasonic rolled out their flagship AX900U series at 55 and 65 inches, the latter of which we now review here.

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Barb Gonzalez Posted: Apr 17, 2015 Published: Apr 16, 2015 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Roku home screen accesses source inputs as well as streaming channels
Universal search results finds titles on most channels
Excellent value at under $500
Minus
TV picture can’t compare with high end models
No Ethernet port for wired network connection
Settings for closed captions and many other features require returning to home screen

THE VERDICT
TCL’s Roku TV may be the easiest TV to use for everyone in your family—a great second TV.

Roku is the king of streaming media players. Whether it’s the Roku 3 streaming box or an HDMI streaming dongle, no other streaming system can claim the same variety of channels or simple, intuitive graphic interface. TCL is one of several manufacturers that has integrated Roku into its TVs in some capacity, either with a Roku-friendly remote that can be mated with a Roku stick, or, in this case, a fully-integrated platform in the 48-inch model 48FS4610R ($500 list before discounting). While its picture quality can’t compare with high-end TV models, this is one TV that everyone in the house should be able use.

Al Griffin Posted: Feb 20, 2015 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Accurate color
Crisp, noise-free images
Eco-friendly Wallpaper mode
Minus
Below average contrast
Poor picture uniformity
Unimpressive Smart GUI and streaming options

THE VERDICT
Sharp’s 4K THX Certified UHDTV gets many things right but some key things wrong.

The only TV-tech buzzword with any legs to it in 2014 was 4K, aka Ultra HDTV. So a TV manufacturer without new 4K-resolution product had better start thinking about packing it in. Sharp previewed a pair of UD27 series Ultra HDTVs last June, and the company finally squeezed out those models just in time for the holiday shopping season. What do the new 60- and 70-inch Sharps have to recommend them over other, similarly priced offerings? Let’s check things out.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 06, 2015 0 comments

BeoLab 18 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

BeoLab 19 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $25,625 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
WiSA wireless multichannel audio technology
All processing and switching built into the TV
Motorized TV speakers and TV stand
Minus
No backlighting on remote control
Nothing else but the price

THE VERDICT
Although most of us can’t afford this system, those who can will be treated to an amazingly moving experience that no other system can provide—every time they turn it on.

Bang & Olufsen is unusual in the AV world. In fact, I could have stopped at “unusual.” I once heard a story about B&O that perfectly sums up what I’m talking about. It’s probably apocryphal, because the person I heard it from had heard it from someone else, but I’ll tell it anyway. Years ago, when B&O still made phones—corded, landline telephones—a guy from the U.S. asked one of the Danish engineers why the handsets had their unique shape, which made them almost impossible to cradle between your ear and shoulder so you could have a conversation and still use both hands. (Twenty-some years ago, that was the era’s version of “hands free.”)

The engineer’s answer was short and to the point: “Because we don’t talk on the phone that way here.” That sort of stubborn—some might say arrogant—confidence in the belief that their way is the right way is one of the core characteristics of Bang & Olufsen. When other AV companies are busy jumping on the latest technological bandwagon, B&O is off in the woods searching for truffles.

Al Griffin Posted: Jan 16, 2015 0 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Accurate color
Good contrast and shadow detail
Customizable Home Screen GUI
Decent price for a 65-inch UHDTV
Minus
Some picture noise

THE VERDICT
Panasonic’s 65-inch Ultra HDTV provides impressive performance and a huge array of Smart features.

Steep price declines have become the norm in the consumer electronics world, especially when it comes to TVs. Case in point: The last Ultra HDTV I reviewed, a Samsung 65-incher that arrived at the tail end of 2013, had an MSRP that was twice the $3,000 sticker price of Panasonic’s 65-inch TC-65AX800U Ultra HDTV. Now I hear that Vizio is selling sets with the same screen size and pixel count for $2,200. They might as well be giving them away.

Bob Ankosko Posted: Nov 26, 2014 Published: Nov 25, 2014 4 comments
Wondering if you should step up and buy a new TV this holiday season? Take our 30 second quiz...
Al Griffin Posted: Nov 12, 2014 3 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,200

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive black depth and uniformity
Excellent color
Good set of streaming options
Low-glare screen

Minus
Picture processing adds edge-enhancement, noise
Poor handling of images with film grain
Washed-out-looking highlights

THE VERDICT
Vizio’s P-Series comes with a full-array LED backlight and 4K Netflix streaming, but its performance is marred by overly aggressive video processing.

Editor’s Note: This review has been updated following a recent firmware revision. Please see postscript at the end of the review.

Vizio is known for making TVs that consistently beat the competition on price—often by a significant margin. In some cases the performance of Vizio’s sets also ends up being equal to or better than the competition, though the company’s track record on that count isn’t as consistent. The last two Vizio HDTVs Sound&Vision tested, the 2014 entry-level E- and step-up M-series models, delivered very good performance at an affordable price. Now the company’s P Series, its first UHDTVs for 2014, have hit the street. It should come as no surprise that the price here is nice: the 65-inch P652ui-B2 model I tested lists for $2,200. But does Vizio’s budget bigscreen UHDTV continue the company’s streak of high performance/low cost? Let’s take a look.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 11, 2014 4 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,500 (4 pair 3D glasses included)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Blacks, contrast, and shadow detail to die for
Lightweight
Minus
Not 4K
Cinema mode soft in default settings

THE VERDICT
This new LG is the OLED that videophiles have been waiting for, and an improvement over the 55EA9800 we reviewed last spring—with equal or better performance and, not least of all, a dramatically lower price.

Now that we’re about to turn the page into 2015, OLED HDTVs, so promising a year ago, appear to be at risk. The limited yield for OLED panels, resulting in a high retail cost, has driven most HDTV makers to the sidelines.

But not LG. They continue to vigorously support the technology. And with a current price of $3,500 for the new 55EC9300, they’re clearly tossing a Hail Mary into a market crowded with cookie-cutter LCD sets. At 55 inches (diagonal), this may be a relatively small set for the price, and it’s still just “Full HD” (the industry buzzphrase for 1080p sets). Whether LG scores a touchdown or gets intercepted remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that buyers will be the winners.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 21, 2014 4 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Exceptional blacks and shadow detail
Excellent color and resolution
Impressive sound with optional subwoofer
Minus
Price
Small screen for 4K

THE VERDICT
Short of sitting very close, you’ll need a screen bigger than 55 inches to see the full benefits of 4K resolution. But the XBR-55X900B is, nevertheless, a champion in all respects, including one we didn’t anticipate: state-of-the-art edge-lit local dimming.

The XBR-55X900B is the smallest set in Sony’s X900B series, which also includes the 65-inch XBR-65X900B ($5,000) and the 79-inch XBR-79X900B ($9,000). Fifty-five inches is a relatively small size for achieving the maximum benefits of 4K resolution. But it’s also perhaps today’s most popular size for the principal home HDTV, so there’s no denying its market importance for Ultra HD as well.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 08, 2014 2 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent color
Top-class detail—in both 4K and Full HD
Great blacks and shadow detail
Minus
Typical LCD image fade when viewed off-center

THE VERDICT
A superbly performing—and exceptionally inexpensive—Ultra HDTV that looks great with today’s 1080p content.

Ultra HD is still meandering toward its Happy Place. Yes, it offers four times as many pixels as Full HD does at 1080p (“Full HD” being the industry’s new go-to term for “standard HD”). But source material at this native resolution is still hard to come by in any quantity. Most material viewed on an Ultra HD set, for the foreseeable future, will still be upconverted from Full HD, typically by the set, to “4K” (in quotes, because Ultra HD’s 3840 x 2160 resolution falls just short of true 4K resolution as defined in the cinema world). Can this provide a visible improvement over 1080p displayed on a 1080p set?

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 16, 2014 0 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Crisp detail
Excellent color
Bright, vivid 3D
Minus
Middling contrast and black level
3D ghosting

THE VERDICT
It can’t deliver the deep blacks found on today’s best flat panels, but the Sharp LC-60UQ17U offers top-notch detail and color, along with the ability to display 4K source material with excellent, though not full 4K, resolution.

TV manufacturers continue to search for ways to keep prices down and sales up. But with 4K Ultra HD the hot ticket these days, it’s not an easy task. While Sharp already has a 4K model in the market and others planned for the fall, the company also offers a less expensive alternative: Quattron+, or Q+. These aren’t full Ultra HD sets, as their basic pixel structure is still 1920 x 1080 (Full HD), not the 3840 x 2160 required for Ultra HD. But Sharp’s Q+ sets will accept a 4K input, and with a bit of technical hocus-pocus, the company says they’ll deliver something between Full HD and true 4K.

Al Griffin Posted: Jul 10, 2014 6 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,250

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Great black levels and screen uniformity
Mostly accurate color
Good set of streaming options
Low-glare screen
Minus
No gamma presets or adjustments

THE VERDICT
While it’s not quite the deal you get with Vizio’s lower-cost E series HDTVs, this M series set offers excellent performance at a very good price.

Vizio opted to take some bold steps for their 2014 lineup of LCD TVs. The first was to get rid of 3D—no huge loss there, since most folks don’t watch 3D outside of movie theaters anyway. The second was to add a full-array local-dimming backlight—and not just to some of the new models, but to all of them. The entry-level 55-inch E series set that we reviewed in the July/August issue featured 12 dimmable zones. For the 60-inch M602i-B3 under scrutiny here, that number gets bumped up to 36. Do all those extra zones make the M602i-B3’s black-level performance three times as good? Read on to find out.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: May 15, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $730

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Backlit local dimming for superior blacks
Good color
Remarkable value
Minus
Wobbly stand
Occasionally buzzy sound

THE VERDICT
It’s not without flaws, but the Vizio E550i-B2 offers more of what we like in a quality HDTV than we ever expected to see at such a low price.

You still can’t get a decent, major-brand 55-inch HDTV for under $500. You can, however, get one for under $800. The new 2014 E-Series may be Vizio’s budget line, but it’s not bare bones. It omits 3D (as do all of the company’s 2014 HDTVs, including the highest-end models), and there’s no picture-in-picture mode. But it offers the same bang for the buck that has, in the relatively few years since Vizio’s founding, rocketed the company to a U.S. market-share position that has left long-established HDTV makers gasping for breath trying to keep up.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Apr 28, 2014 4 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $7,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Astonishing blacks
Crisp, clean detail
Exceptionally bright 3D
Minus
Poor dark-gray uniformity
Expensive for a 1080p set

THE VERDICT
It costs a bundle, has a relatively small screen, and isn’t perfect. But buyers will be rewarded with a picture that, in the ways most important to enthusiasts, is unequaled by any other type of consumer display.

At the 2014 CES, it became clear that, for most HDTV manufacturers, OLED was on the back burner. LCD Ultra HDTV, or 4K, was the big story. But at least one manufacturer, LG, remains aggressive on the OLED front. The company has announced four new models for 2014 and, at the same time, drastically cut the price (as of March 2014) on the 55-inch model 55EA9800, launched late last year and reviewed here.

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