Value Electronics HDTV Shootout: And Then There Were Three... HDTV Scores

A note from Robert Zohn of Value Electronics:
Here are the 2013 Flat Panel Shootout Evaluation final results based on the votes of the attendees and our panel of experts. This year it's been a difficult task to declare a winner. Here's why:

The results came out so close that it is difficult to award one winner. The ZT60 won the popular vote in important categories, black and overall picture quality, but the F8500 had the highest scores overall and also won in important categories, like contrast ratio and day modes. In the past nine years it has always been very clear who won our Flat Panel Shootout event.

The attendees liked the higher light output of the F8500, so when tabulating the ballots, the F8500 is the winner. They saw the F8500 as even sharper, which I would assume is also because of the brighter image in low and high ambient light conditions. Many participants told me the F8500 whites looked cleaner, brighter and in their opinion, whiter.

So the public has spoken and we therefore crown Samsung’s F8500 series PDP the new "King of HDTV" for 2013.

We also recognize and congratulate all of the development engineers at Samsung for making the most significant advancement in PDP technology this year.

Please also take note that the panel of experts selected the VT60/ZT60 as their personal choice. But even their choice was only a slight preference. As DeWayne put it to me.... “To me, and just for example, if the VT60 is a 10, the F8500 is a 9, as I don’t care about panel brightness above 30fL”

However, we strongly recommend all consumers to use the same logic that the three expert panelists explained during our closing Q&A: end users should make their buying decision based on viewing habits. The three top contenders are all so very close this year that I don't see a clear winner and these three panels deserve our top recommendation equally.

In fact, all of the 2013 displays in our event this year are exceptional and have made significant advancements in picture quality, build quality and design. So my sincerest congratulations to Sony, Panasonic and Samsung for stepping up the game on PDP and LED display technology advancements.



David Vaughn's picture
I just have to say that Robert is one of the classiest guys I've gotten to know in the AV business and I love his passion regarding this shootout.
Rob Sabin's picture
Gotta agree with you there, David. And he's got a really nicely done shop in Scarsdale now; a recommended stop for anyone in the Westchester region.
David Vaughn's picture
Rob, I actually have two friends that have ordered TVs from him and had them shipped to California!
MrSatyre's picture

Known Robert professionally for a number of years now, and couldn't agree more. Always such a pleasure to have around and talk with. Class act, all the way.

Deus02's picture

Just curious, would the introduction of a first-class video processor like a "Lumagen" in to the mix here working in conjunction with any of the LED/LCDs, when compared to the plasmas, help at all to close the gap on black levels and color accuracy?

Rob Sabin's picture
Interesting question. One of the expert calibrators could better answer this, but I'd guess the answer is no. It's possible outboard processing might have improved the color accuracy somewhat on paper, though I don't think color was "off" enough with these TVs after a basic calibration to be visually meaningful. The bigger issue is that I don't think a processor would have been able to create deeper blacks where they don't exist, and in a subjective, comparative test like this, that has the potential to affect how we view other categories like color. The minimum black level on an LCD (with real content on screen, not a full black pattern that allows the LEDs to shut down) would likely be inherent to the set's hardware and the software triggering the LEDs. None of these TVs featured full-array local-dimming backlights that might permit true plasma-like blacks if well executed, although the Sony and Samsung LCD sets, at least, have sophisticated processing for edge light local dimming to optimize what that approach can acheive. But I think in a side by side comparision like this, it's hard not to punish these sets in the color category because, lacking the deeper blacks of the plasma TVs directly alongside, the colors don't have quite the same impact. And, although the audience did get up from time to time to look directly at the LCDs head on, for most of the time those in attendance were viewing these sets from off axis where the Sony, in particular, exhibited notable color shifting and loss of contrast. That may have affected scores, though not the general impression. I thought it interesting that the Experts rated the LCDs higher on Color than the audience did.
mblackm2's picture

I just bought a VT60 from him and I live in GA. Supposed to arrive in Wed. I'd rather support him and VE than a BestBuy type store. He offers much better customer service I love the Shootout.

Jarod's picture

Great right up! I look forward to this event each year with excitement. It's always very enlightening. Ive done business with Robert on a few occasions and it was always a pleasure. Hell of a nice guy. Its rare to find a guy as friendly and passionate as him.

Deus02's picture

So, obviously, the limitations in the technology of the LCDs on display, when compared to the plasmas, makes it that they just don't have the capability of achieving comparable black levels and this, to date, has generally always been the case. I must admit from my own personal biases, watching a movie on any LCD, regardless of the manufacturer, is generally always like watching a movie on a large computer, it just doesn't look "film like" and very real.

Having said all that and although I have yet to see one, it is interesting to note that reviewers have previously raved about the more expensive Sharp Elite line of LCDs and how comparable the blacks are to plasmas, but, for some reason, despite the technology being there, this capability has yet to filter down to less expensive lines of LCDs, OR is it coming?

Rob Sabin's picture
I have been surprised to find that despite the demonstration of what full-array local-dimming LED can do in its best form we've seen the manufacturers actually stepping away from it. The apparent cost associated with doing it this way in a competitive marketplace must be the key factor, along with aesthetics -- edge lit sets can really be made ultra-thin. Even Sony, which had by far the best LED LCD introduced to the market last year in the full-array/local-dimming XBR-HX950, backed away this year and the new 4K XBR models all use edge-lighting, which provides far less precise control of blacks. In the end, this will all go away if and when the world goes to OLED, which combines some of the best characteristics of plasma (self emanating pixels with no required backlight and the ability to deliver deep blacks) and incredible thinness. But all that remains to be seen...

notabadname's picture

Yes, I am frustrated by this myself. Even the new $20,000 plus 84" monsters from LG and Sony are using edge-lit. It is hard to grasp that the premium, flagship "Ultra" HD sets would use this compromised approach. Does any one really care whether a 7 foot panel is an extra inch thicker? It still looks thinner, by proportion than a 50 inch screen does with edge lighting. We know, and I have seen, that LED full array can match the mighty Kuro. So it is not really a question of which technology is, or can be better. I personally would prefer LED and be free of image retention and break-in issues. I'm either watching letter-boxed films or playing video games with static image elements. I would like to have seen this comparison if it had included an Elite, just to compare the best in each technology.

gunhed's picture

Good to see plasma fans are spoilt for choice. As Robert sold his Kuro 141FD used in previous shoot-outs, was the 50 inch pioneer supplied by D-Nice by any chance ? I ask this because he can drop the black level on most 101FD/500M sets to well below factory spec.


prepress's picture

The Kuro was Robert's personal KRP-500, taken from his home gym.

Rob Sabin's picture
Yes, I can confirm this--Robert's personal monitor taken from his gym room; I'm pretty certain D-Nice did the calibration on that piece.
Big Al's picture

I've never been one to keep up with the latest technology...I was seem to be a few years behind (decades?) Anyway out here in the West everybody seems to think that LCD TVs are the best. I haven't heard anyone suggested a plasma is better in along time. Since a new TV will be an inevitable part of my future, I thank you for this information.

anakinskye's picture
MrSatyre's picture

I am intrigued by the claim in that article that Panasonic is indeed using technology patents purchased from Pioneer in their latest designs. I spoke with them several weeks ago literally about this very topic ("Whatever happened to those patents we sold you?")and was informed that they had never implemented any of them because of cost in a very dicey market and economy. Instead they had used them as idea springboards for improving their own techniques. Predictably, I'm sure a lot has been lost in the translation. Regardless, the new panels from Panny are superb, no doubt about it, so hat's off to Panasonic!