LCDs From Sony, Samsung, Toshiba & Philips

Can 120-hertz technology set LCD free from its motion limitations?

Given the explosion of LCD sales, one might expect LCD manufacturers to simply ease up on technology development. The average consumer seems quite pleased with LCD's image quality, so why change anything? It is to the manufacturers' credit that they continue to strive for improvement, to create a picture that both everyday users and videophiles can appreciate. Thus far, they've focused their efforts on two performance areas: motion and black level.

The issue of motion blur has received the most attention. Most LCD manufacturers have embraced the 120-hertz solution, in which the TV doubles the frame rate from 60 to 120. This is most often accomplished by interpolating frames—essentially creating a new frame in the gap between each real frame to make the motion appear smoother. Now Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Samsung have thrown their hats in the 120-Hz ring, and you know what that means. It's roundup time.

I sat down with four 120-Hz, 1080p models, and it didn't take long to discern the technology's effect on the image. While I did see some reduction in motion blur with all four products, the technology can also change the quality of the image, making film look ultra-smooth, more like video. You can disable the technology in all four TVs, but why pay a premium for 120-Hz if you don't like it? I recommend that you see a demo before you buy one of these models. You can decide for yourself whether the solution is more distracting than the problem.

I wasn't surprised to find them all worthy performers with no egregious flaws. That doesn't mean they performed identically, primarily distinguished by color and contrast, as well as different features to appeal to different audiences.