For the past twelve years, Robert Zohn of Value Electronics has brought the top TVs from the top manufacturers into one room to see which one wins over the crowd, taking home the moniker of the "King of TVs." The event is called the "TV Shootout" (formerly "Flat Panel TV Shootout") and it's a great way to see the top performing, top-rated televisions all in the same room, with the same content, calibrated to their peak performance.
As with last year, Robert brought the shootout from his store in Scarsdale, NY (where he previously held the event) to New York City as one of the featured events at CE Week 2016. Last week, four of the top TVs on the market today from LG, Samsung, Sony and Vizio went head to head in Manhattan as a crowd of industry professionals, journalists, hobbyists and invited guests viewed a variety of content on the sets and picked their favorites.
Although previous shoot-outs have seen up to eight different TVs in the running, this year only four made the cut: one OLED set: LG's 65-inch OLED65G6P ($7,999) and three LED-lit LCD TVs: Samsung's 78-inch UN78KS9800 ($9,999), Sony's 75-inch XBR-75X940D ($5,999) and Vizio's 65-inch RS65-B2 ($5,999). All three of the LED/LCD sets use full array LED backlighting with local dimming in order to improve black level performance and overall picture uniformity. Content shown on the sets over the course of the shootout included full HD 1080p test patterns and program material, 1080i test patterns to test scaling and deinterlacing, and 4K (Ultra HD) test patterns and program material. Content was fed primarily from an early production Panasonic 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player through a high bandwidth video switch capable of passing through digital audio/video streams of up to 18 Mhz to each TV.
Attendees were asked to rank each TV from 1 to 10 on a variety of picture attributes: black quality, perceived contrast, color accuracy, off-axis performance, screen uniformity, HDR (High Dynamic Range) and (Wide Color Gamut), overall daytime/bright room performance and overall nighttime/dark room performance. Video guru and co-founder of the Imaging Science Foundation Joel Silver led the crowd through an informational and educational background of the advances in TV technology that have allowed TV makers to squeeze higher performance out of their TVs each year. He also pointed out what to look for in the specific test patterns and content. Other guest speakers including Lee Neikirk from Reviewed.com/USA Today and Caleb Dennison from Digital Trends said a few words about what they look for in a TV under review.
The shootout was held in five one-hour preview session to advance press attendees on Wednesday June 22nd, then in two longer three and a half hour voting sessions to other journalists, video professionals and hobbyists the following day. After the voting was in, the LG OLED arose as the overall champion and was crowned the "King of TVs" by Value Electronics. The LG set received the highest marks in all categories except "daytime performance" where the Sony set edged out the LG OLED with a score of 8.7 (vs. the LG's 8.3 score in that category). The full composite scorecard for all four sets is included below.
This year I attended one of the one-hour preview sessions plus about half of one of the extended sessions. And while I wouldn't dispute the results - the black levels and color saturation of that LG OLED were hard to beat - I will say that there were a few mitigating factors that kept the sets from being on a completely level playing field for the evaluation.
The Vizio was at a bit of a disadvantage for the comparison as it does not yet support an HDR 10 input signal. HDR 10 is the particular flavor of HDR that is currently easiest to find in program material, and the only HDR flavor currently available on Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc. The Vizio currently features an alternate HDR format known as Dolby Vision. So the presenters ran some Dolby Vision-enabled 4K streaming content from Netflix (the original series "Marco Polo") through the Vizio while the other three sets were playing Ultra HD Blu-ray clips from HDR-enabled 4K movies such as "Kingsmen: The Secret Service." And while I did appreciate seeing the female form in all its unadorned beauty in glorious 4K resolution with Dolby Vision HDR, it was difficult to compare apples and oranges in such a setting.
The LG set also uses Dolby Vision HDR, but unlike the Vizio, it also supports HDR 10 content. Meanwhile the Samsung set had some issues locking to an HDR-enabled 4K signal, which may (or may not) have been related to the 4K signal being split out and fed to multiple devices. Both the Sony and the LG sets identified the HDR 10 signal quickly and set themselves into HDR-optimized picture modes. In many cases, the signal shown on the Samsung was not exploiting the set's HDR capabilities.
The full results and event details are available on the Value Electronics web site. And Robert Zohn, owner of Value Electronics, comments, "Consumers are advised to use the voting results to assess which criteria are most important to them and review each category to determine the TV that best matches their priorities and viewing conditions." The sets included in the shootout are available for purchase directly from Value Electronics as well as from other online and Brick and Mortar dealers.
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