Sony’s wildly expensive XBR8 televisions hit in 2008, and showed us all that LCD could finally reach the lofty heights of image quality attained previously by plasma. Sure, LCD performance and image has improved as time has gone by, but the predominant factor in the XBR8’s visual excellence was the addition of LED backlighting.
Samsung, LG and Toshiba got on the bandwagon in 2009. Samsung offered a mixed bag. Their top of the line 8500 series was outstanding, but their lesser LED sets were not impressive. This was due to them being side lit instead of back lit. Side lit LED sets have a very sexy, thin profile, but they are incapable of the feat that makes LED sets so attractive in the first place: local dimming.
In an LED backlit television, the LEDs are arranged in a matrix behind the panel. Dimming individual LEDs is what allows these sets to attain previously impossible black levels and dark detail reproduction. We are talking inky black, which in turn really makes the colors pop. It really was the final hurdle for LCD, and these sets heralded the dawn of a new age of inexpensive LCDs with videophile imaging.
Why not just get a plasma? Best image quality, I mean the things look like liquid running good material. Prices are down. Screens are bigger. They wear out fast, that’s why. If you live in a house with a spouse and children, chances are your tv is on a lot. In a world where my tv was in a sealed room and only got used for movies, I would own a plasma. That’s not my world. My tv sees a lot of Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network duty during the day, and when I get home and the kids are sleeping I want to enjoy my toy and pop in the latest Blu Ray or stream some HD content off the web. LED LCD is just the thing.
What about DLP? In 2010 DLP is dead. Dead as in door nail. Mitsubishi is the only manufacturer still offering DLP sets. Yes, you can get a huge screen dirt cheap, but the image doesn’t cut it anymore. Five years ago LCD was not ready for TV duty, and technologies like DLP and LCoS kept rear projection alive. In 2010 it’s no contest. LCDs have improved exponentially, while DLP is still the same old DLP.
what does LED add to the equation?
- They’re green. LEDs consume very little power.
- They’re durable. LEDs run a long, long time before failing. Also, their light output doesn’t suffer appreciably while they wear.
- Local dimming. The star of the show. The reason that LED LCD can offer incredible blacks, dark detail and eye popping color.
Both the LG LH90 series and Toshiba’s SV670U series were universally lauded as being darn close to the best that plasma or LCD could offer. This was great news for consumers, as both of the 55″ models in these two series were under $3000. 2010 promised to be a great year for someone in the market for a new TV, because generally technology gets better and cheaper with the passage of time.
However, at this year’s CES I was stunned. The manufacturers showed LED sets all right. The problem was that, with the exception of Vizio, the matrix backlit models all occupied the upper stratosphere of their model lines, with the televisions they are offering for 2010 that occupy the price tiers that most of us will be looking at were side lit. They decided that we value lifestyle over performance. Unbelievable.
Am I ignoring Vizio? No. They have become a big player in LCD television in a few short years. Their prices are excellent. Their TV is very good for the money. For me, they have to prove that their quality is on par with the established brands before I include them in the same conversation as Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, LG, Panasonic, Pioneer, Sharp and Mitsubishi.
The fact of the matter is that the average consumer is not terribly informed, and won’t be going into the showroom with the same critical eye that I do. Chances are that people will only get to see these sets in the showroom with a cable or satellite high def feed. Frankly, I would be hard pressed to find all the fatal flaws in a set under those conditions. People will notice the sexy form factors, so perhaps the manufacturers know exactly what they’re doing.
If you’re like me, you want the very best possible image and audio you can afford. Don’t be fooled by all these new sets coming out in 2010. Yeah, they’re pencil thin. They have built-in internet crap like YouTube and Netflix. They also have inferior image quality than the 2009 models I mentioned. As for the internet stuff, I guarantee that your next Blu Ray player will have that built-in, so it really doesn’t matter if your tv doesn’t have it.
If you can afford one of the higher end LG or Toshiba sets, then more power to you. If your budget isn’t quite as ambitious, you need to get out there right now and see if you can get one of the LG xxLH90 or Toshiba xxSV670U sets while they are still available. At this writing the 55″ LG can be found out there for around $2500, less if you’re lucky. This set has been discontinued, so once they’re gone, they’re gone. This set has a matte screen, so if your viewing room is bright this may be the better choice for you since the Toshibas have a glossy screen that is very sexy, but also very reflective.
The Toshiba 55SV670U is currently selling for as low as $1799. This set has incredible performance for that price, and you should take a hard look at it if you’re in the market for a new television. Just do it quick, because it may not be long before these disappear now that the 2010 models have been announced.