So I spent much of the day checking out different stores and viewing environments comparing the Vizio e701-a3 vs the Sharp LC-70le650u.
From what I could tell the Sharp had an ever-so slightly better (albeit barely discernible) off-axis viewing experience. Keep in mind that the backlight level settings affect this perception drastically so I had played with the settings on both units to compare apples to apples.
The next thing I noticed is that the Vizio (in my amateur opinion) had a more natural color representation while the sharp seemed more overstated and unnaturally bright. I had played with the settings on the Sharp to tune this down, and it did look good, but it still was apparent. The Sharp's color was punchier, and a little more "exciting" but to me this made it look more cartoonish and unrealistic at times. The employees at the store were getting nervous with me changing all the settings over the course of an hour....lol.
I also noticed in two of the stores I checked out, that the Sharp had some of the same issues as the Vizio around the corners and bottom bezel areas where light is not cast or distributed evenly, only evident on solid color or white screens. I'm sure this is problematic to the Edge-Lit technology itself and there is most likely variances in the manufacturing process for each line, so I don't think the problems I have with my Vizio having this are exclusive to Vizio.
So after comparing these two comparable units, I walk away feeling like the Vizio is still a better choice for my tastes, especially given the fact I paid $1489 for it on black friday, while the lowest I could find the Sharp was for $400 or so more. Current price on the Vizio is still $200 cheaper than the Sharp. In the end if I am going to keep a 70 inch LED TV around $1500-$1900, I would keep the Vizio e701-a3.
However, that brings me to revisit the next question: Should I keep the LED or just downsize to a 65" plasma?
I prefer plasma any day of the week in the right environment. But alas, my living room has a lot of light streaming in opposite and to the side of the screen. My blinds do cut it down a bit, but they certainly do not black out the sun.
Sunday afternoon football is a priority for me. That is why I decided to go LED with the matte screen to begin with, and the e701 fit the bill just fine, with a large screen size to boot on this point.
So I began to look at plasmas all over again. I noticed that 2013 Panasonics have gotten some good reviews, and there's one 65 incher that is in the same budget I'm looking at. It's the Panasonic TC-P65S60 (referred to hereafter as S60). Its a 65 incher under $1500. It does not have 3d or some of the other bells and whistles I would never use. Seems like a good deal to me but I was worried about the glare issue being a plasma....sure enough it does not have the AR filtering the higher end Panasonics have. I then discovered that Sams Club and Costco have a special arrangement with Panasonic in that they are selling a special limited stock version TC-65PS64 (referred to hereafter as S64) which is identical to the S60, but has the AR filtering found on the ST and high-end VT series plasmas. Very cool! Of course this means I had to go to a bunch of stores AGAIN today and compare the S60 to the ST60 and see if the AR filtering would make that much of a difference side by side. To make this short, I believe it definitely does make a difference, although it still will not be as diffusing as an LED matte screen.
However, I think my strategy right now is to return my Vizio e701-a3 back to costco, for a $1489 refund and turn around and buy the Panasonic 65" S64 for $1399. I think it's worth a shot, and at this price I don't think it can be beat. I will miss the extra 5 inches though.
Sorry for the crazy long post, but what do you guys think, should I return the 70" LED Vizio e701-a3 for the 65" Plasma Panasonic TC-65PS64?