2D Performance 3D Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $5,500 AT A GLANCE Plus State-of-the-art local dimming Class-leading HDR brightness Above average off-center viewing Minus Price THE VERDICT With the top manufacturers jostling for a view from the top of the Ultra HD pyramid, Sony has taken an express elevator and is racing fast for the checkered flag. But enough with the mixed metaphors. If this TV isn&rsquo;t today&rsquo;s best LCD UHD/HDR set (and perhaps the best of any type), it&rsquo;s not for lack of trying. Sony has given us their best technology here, and it shows. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2016, Sony demonstrated a prototype of a future LCD TV design incorporating what the company called Backlight Master Drive. We found it dazzling, as did most of the show-goers with whom we spoke. Nevertheless, we all looked at it as a &ldquo;show car&rdquo;&mdash;something that might appear in a store near you in a couple of years, if ever.
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $6,000 AT A GLANCE Plus Full Ultra HD capability including HDR and wide color Superb blacks and shadow detail Integrated soundbar with subwoofer and surrounds Minus Expensive HDR limited to Dolby Vision Ineffective color management system (CMS) 2D only THE VERDICT Most current 4K sets deliver only the 4K slice of Ultra HD&rsquo;s full pie. The RS65-B2 goes all the way, including 4K resolution, advanced color, and high dynamic range. In a recent review of Vizio&rsquo;s relatively affordable M65-C1 Ultra HDTV (soundandvision.com), I reflected on that company&rsquo;s vision in having &ldquo;sale prices low enough to attract millions of buyers.&rdquo; But reality has a way of intruding on a dream, and a state-of-the-art Ultra HD set isn&rsquo;t cheap to produce. With its new, two-model Reference Series (the 120-inch, RS120B3, which sells for $130,000, and the 65-incher under review here), the company now challenges the thin-aired peaks of cost-no-object sets previously dominated by older, more established brands. In fact, only selected dealers and some custom installers even carry the Reference Series.
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&rsquo;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&rsquo;s check things out.
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&rsquo;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&rsquo;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.
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&rsquo;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&rsquo;t anticipate: state-of-the-art edge-lit local dimming. The XBR-55X900B is the smallest set in Sony&rsquo;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&rsquo;s also perhaps today&rsquo;s most popular size for the principal home HDTV, so there&rsquo;s no denying its market importance for Ultra HD as well.
2D Performance 3D Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $4,000 AT A GLANCE Plus Excellent color Top-class detail&mdash;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&mdash;and exceptionally inexpensive&mdash;Ultra HDTV that looks great with today&rsquo;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 (&ldquo;Full HD&rdquo; being the industry&rsquo;s new go-to term for &ldquo;standard HD&rdquo;). 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 &ldquo;4K&rdquo; (in quotes, because Ultra HD&rsquo;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?
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&mdash;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&mdash;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.
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&rsquo;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&rsquo;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&rsquo;s budget line, but it&rsquo;s not bare bones. It omits 3D (as do all of the company&rsquo;s 2014 HDTVs, including the highest-end models), and there&rsquo;s no picture-in-picture mode. But it offers the same bang for the buck that has, in the relatively few years since Vizio&rsquo;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.
2D Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $40,000 AT A GLANCE Plus Accurate color Superb resolution Near state-of-the-art black level and shadow detail Huge, bright picture Minus Price THE VERDICT The UN85S9AF is a hyper-expensive flagship for Samsung, and more of a technology demonstration than a product for the masses. But the money, as they say in Hollywood, is up there on the screen to see. I once joked about the humongous 100-inch-plus HDTVs many manufacturers trot out at trade shows, suggesting that the best way to get them into your house was to place the TV where you thought it should go on the slab of your house under construction, then build the house around it. Samsung’s new 85-inch (diagonal) Ultra HD isn’t that big, but it’s close.
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $1,099 AT A GLANCE Plus Accurate color (after adjustment) Good screen uniformity Affordable price Minus Half-baked Cloud TV user interface Not-great remote control THE VERDICT Smart TV shortcomings aside, Toshiba’s LCD offers very good picture quality at a low price. With plasma TV tech seemingly on a path to early, unwarranted extinction, prospective TV buyers unwilling to spring for OLED soon won’t have much choice other than to purchase an LED-backlit LCD TV (aka “LED TV”). And while the performance of such sets has improved quite a bit over the years, the better ones are still expensive for what you get&mdash;particularly in comparison with same-sized plasmas. So, what’s a quality-conscious consumer to do? Roll over and get eat the high prices? Not necessarily.