The LCD television market is alive and well, with every major television manufacturer (including LG Electronics) attacking the 4K marketplace using some variation of an LCD-based panel. In fact, LG and Panasonic are the only two manufacturers entering 2016 with OLED television models (Panasonic will likely announce shipping for its 65-inch curved CZ950 OLED later this year). With OLED receiving heaps of praise, it’s easy to brand LCD tech as a second-class option. Don’t be fooled, it’s not. Quite a few of the top-tier LCD models offer simply stunning picture quality.
Today’s article is a crash-course look at the top new LCD models offered by four of the industry’s primary manufacturers, focusing on some of the more interesting tech revealed at CES 2016. Special thanks go to Value Electronics’ Robert Zohn for providing information and observations from the CES show floor.
Last week we highlighted three UHD Blu-ray players announced at CES 2016, including a surprisingly compact model offered by Philips. This entry is surprising not only in physical form, but also because it will likely come to market before several big manufacturers (particularly Sony and Oppo) reveal models of their own. On the television side, Philips is also making a splash by offering consumers a very tempting feature on all of its Ultra UHD models: High Dynamic Range. Now that’s exciting. The company also is outfitting all of its TVs with different variations of a proprietary “Ambilight” technology that sheds light on a wall behind the television.
The new 8600 series (8901 and 8601) represents Philips’ flagship offerings with televisions ranging from 55 to 65-inches. Both series have Dolby Vision HDR, enhanced 10-bit color at 82-percent of the larger Rec. 2020 color space, and 240-Hz motion smoothing capability. They also ship with onboard 802.11ac WiFi with MIMO antennas, Ethernet, and App-based Android TV functionality. The step-down 7000 series also offers 4K viewing with HDR (no Dolby Vision), but has a 120-Hz refresh rate, smaller screen sizes (50 and 55-inch) and a modified version of Ambilight. The 6000 series is Philips’ standard HD offering, with performance specifications similar to the 7000 series minus HDR and UHD resolution.
According to Robert Zohn, Samsung was the only manufacturer actively promoting curved screens at CES; LG Electronics and Sharp showed curved screens but with a “much reduced line-up for 2016.” I’ve always felt the use of a curved screen on a television to be a bit gimmicky, and hope that Samsung will begin to shy away from this feature next year. Nevertheless, the company will make a push to sell curved models for at least another 12 months, touting a new and improved screen glare reduction technology that should improve off-axis viewing.
Headlining Samsung’s CES reveal was a new line of SUHD televisions that feature Quantum Dot technology for enhanced color reproduction. They also carry 1,000 nit HDR capability and 10-bit color reproduction. The 88-inch KS9500 takes over as the company’s flagship television. Pricing will be announced soon.
Sony’s XBR-75940C was my pick as the winner of last year’s Flat Panel Shootout at CE Week 2015, and Sony has always produced very strong performing televisions. This year looks to be no exception with the reveal of its newest lineup of 4K televisions, the XBR930D and the XBR-X850D series. The 930D will ship in 55 and 65-inch screen sizes and include full HDR capability. It also has Sony’s new Slim Blacklight Drive, which uses zone-based localized dimming to create deep blacks and brighter peak highlights. Noticeably absent are large side speaker arrays that marred the overall appearance of last year’s 75940C model. The 930D is all about a sleek and slim visual appeal.
Thanks to Sony’s use of Android TV, both the 930D and X850 series will have access to Google Play, Amazon Video, Netflix and other popular streaming services. In addition, owners will have access to a new Sony App called “Ultra.” With Ultra, users can purchase and stream 4K HDR movies and TV shows directly from Sony.
With so much focus on LG’s OLED advancements, it’s easy to forget they also have a foot in LCD territory. The company’s new “Super UHD” is a premium line of four different series of 4K televisions that rely on LED/LCD picture tech. Screen sizes in the UH7700, UH8500, and top-of-the-line UH9500 series range from 49 to 86-inches. Looking to address some of LCD’s weaker working points, LG says these three series have advanced display features such as True Black Panel and Contrast Maximizer to help deepen blacks and improve viewing angles. They also carry HDR and expanded color palates in the form of LG’s proprietary Color Prime Plus technology.
The flagship UH9500 is incredibly thin (.22 inches) and essentially has no bezel. LG, in conjunction with Harmon/Kardon, outfitted this model with a speaker system that the company says delivers excellent sound “despite the thin profile.” Like other models in LG’s 2016 lineup, the UH9500 comes with LG’s webOS 3.0 Smart TV platform.
If none of these LCD models resonate with you, then perhaps LG’s first production 8K TV will. This mammoth 98-inch flat panel is set to ship sometime during the second half of 2016.
Image Credits: Philips, Samsung, Sony, LG Electronics