FLAT PANEL REVIEWS

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Thomas J. Norton  |  Jun 07, 2013  |  0 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,300 At A Glance: Rich black level and good shadow detail • New color technology • Bright, punchy 3D

The new KDL-55W900A is Sony’s newest, top-of-the-line, non-XBR set. All of the XBRs, going forward, will be Ultra HD (4K) sets, but the KDL-55W900A, as all of the KDL designs, is firmly in the standard HD, 1920 x 1080 camp. It’s an edge-lit design with local dimming, but its marquee feature has nothing to do with contrast and black levels. Color is the plot here, and Triluminos, a term Sony has used in the past (see sidebar), promises a wider color gamut.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Mar 07, 2014  |  1 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent color and resolution
Good blacks and shadow detail
Satisfyingly bright 3D
Minus
Typical LCD off-axis limitations
Minor 3D flicker and ghosting

THE VERDICT
It may lack the headline-grabbing, 4K bling-zing of Sony’s XBR Ultra HD designs, but this 65-inch KDL series HDTV sits at the top of the company’s bread-and-butter line and offers more than enough features and performance to satisfy a wide range of buyers.

With all the ink spilled these days about the trendy but expensive Ultra HDTVs, a plain vanilla HDTV, with its resolution of 1920 x 1080, may seem a little ho-hum. But Ultra HD (4K, or more correctly, 3840 x 2160) is still consumer 4K content-starved with its specs not yet fully complete, and the jury is still out as to whether or not it will offer significant benefits in typical home screen sizes. Its price of admission also remains high. As a result, top-of-the-line, non-Ultra HDTVs, such as Sony’s new KDL-65W850A, remain serious players in the high-end video market.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Dec 13, 2012  |  5 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,500 At A Glance: Plasma-quality blacks • Near flawless color • Bright, vivid 3D

All LCD HDTVs require some form of backlighting. The LCD panel’s pixels modulate the light and provide filtered color, but without backlighting to shine through the panel, you’d have no picture. Recently, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) have replaced the fluorescent backlights used in older flat-screen LCD sets. LCDs aren’t perfect in blocking light (which is why so many early models had poor black levels), but if you can shut off or dim the LEDs on demand, the LCDs’ light-blocking chores become far more efficient. And LEDs can do this; they can be shut off and turned back on almost instantaneously in reaction to the signal coming in.

Al Griffin  |  Dec 18, 2012  |  0 comments

When it comes to picture quality, LCD TVs ?with a full-array, “local dimming” LED backlight tend to outperform their edge-lit LED brethren by a not insubstantial margin. We’ve covered the particulars of LED backlight tech before, so I won’t get sidetracked in explaining it here, but the finer control afforded by a full-array design allows for improved contrast and, for the most part, better uniformity when displaying dark images. Sony was among the first TV makers to push full-array for LCD, and then mysteriously put the tech on hold. But it roared back in 2011 with the XBR-HX929 line, a series that pushed full-array to new heights. The newest such sets to arrive from Sony are the HX950 series, which started shipping in late 2012. Can they match, or even exceed, Sony’s vaunted HX929 TVs?

Thomas J. Norton  |  Oct 21, 2014  |  5 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  |  Jul 11, 2013  |  21 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $7,000
At A Glance
: Four times the native resolution of standard HD • Advanced color technology • State-of-the-art 3D

With the introduction of its new 2013 XBR sets, Sony has shown that it’s serious about bringing Ultra HD, popularly referred to as 4K, to consumers at prices that, while still high, are less seizure-inducing than the $25,000 sticker on its 84-inch XBR-84X900 (Home Theater, June 2013).

Technically, 4K is shorthand for a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels—the professional 4K format. Consumer 4K sets, on the other hand, have a resolution of 3840 x 2160, exactly four times the pixel count of full HD 1080p. Regardless of the industry’s plan to refer to such sets as Ultra HD, 4K has already crept into the lexicon as the popular term for 3840 x 2160 home video.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 03, 2016  |  2 comments

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

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive edge-lit local dimming
Respectable off-axis viewing
Bright, punchy HDR
Minus
Often redundant menus
Tight remote control layout

THE VERDICT
Full-array local dimming remains the gold standard for LCD Ultra HDTVs, but Sony has now upped the ante with the best edge-lit set we’ve seen.

The last time I reviewed one of Sony’s 4K sets, it had large speaker enclosures attached permanently to the sides of the screen, with a separate “subwoofer” firing out the back. This made for an inconveniently wide design, and with the introduction of Sony’s new 2016 models, those audio “wings” are now history.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Nov 15, 2016  |  9 comments

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’t today’s best LCD UHD/HDR set (and perhaps the best of any type), it’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 “show car”—something that might appear in a store near you in a couple of years, if ever.

Al Griffin  |  Mar 07, 2013  |  0 comments

To hear Sony tell it, the future will be in 4K. This stance comes as no surprise: The company’s 4K-rez digital cinema projectors have been installed in over 13,000 theaters, and at least 75 Sony-produced titles have either been shot with 4K digital cameras, or transferred to the higher-rez format from film. And Sony isn’t just pushing 4K for theaters — it wants viewers to experience it at home. 

Bob Ankosko  |  Nov 26, 2014  |  First Published: Nov 25, 2014  |  6 comments
Wondering if you should step up and buy a new TV this holiday season? Take our 30 second quiz...
Darryl Wilkinson  |  Jul 05, 2012  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,795 At A Glance: Built-in multifan airflow cooling system • Discrete IR input • Watertight cable entry compartment cover

A number of years ago, I wrote an article about putting together a backyard home theater using an inflatable front-projection screen from Sima. It was a blast—and more than just a blast of air from the pump that inflated the Michelin-Man-dream-date, 72-inch-screen-covered blimp in less than 6 minutes. I took the setup to a friend’s house one Saturday during my “research” where we had a three-family movie night on the patio in his backyard. Sodas and margaritas flowed freely that evening. Much popcorn was popped. I don’t think any of us remember the actual movie, but to this day none of us has forgotten how much fun we had—more fun, as a matter of fact, than we’d ever had watching a movie the proper way inside the house.

Barb Gonzalez  |  Apr 17, 2015  |  First Published: Apr 16, 2015  |  10 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  |  Jul 13, 2011  |  0 comments

At 3D theaters, you’re handed lightweight passive glasses that work in tandem with a polarizing filter positioned over the projector’s lens. When viewing at home with a 3D TV, you use bulky, battery-powered glasses with active shutter liquid-crystal lenses. Passive glasses in theaters are cheap and easily replaced. But at an average cost of $100 per pair, glasses used at home represent a sizable investment. Better to put them in a safe place — and keep ’em away from kids!

Al Griffin  |  Oct 16, 2012  |  0 comments

For a company whose supposed emphasis is LCD TV manufacturing, LG sure makes some good plasmas. Its 50PZ950, which we reviewed in the September 2011 issue, earned a Certified & Recommended stamp, both for its accurate, eminently tweakable picture and for its innovative Magic Motion remote-controlled “Smart” GUI. New for 2012 is the 50PM9700, which follows in its predecessor’s footsteps by being THX 3D-certified, Smart, and also Magic Motion remote-controlled. There are a number of other differences between the two models, but here’s one that immediately stands out: At $1,299, the 50PM9700 sells for about $300 less than the 50PZ950.

Geoffrey Morrison  |  Jun 05, 2012  |  0 comments

Manufacturers are finally making a big push to position the TV as the central hub it was always meant to be. Case in point: LG. Not only does its 55LM7600 feature the company’s excellent Smart TV interface, but it also has a Web browser, multiple USB inputs to attach flash or hard drives, and more. This 55-inch set represents TV/computer convergence driven from the TV side, complete with a gorgeous, computer-style icon-based interface and a “Magic Remote” that works like a wireless mouse.

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