This year promises to be an intriguing one for videophiles. Consumers have a number of choices to make: 1080p HD versus 2160p UHD resolution, flat versus curved screens, LCD versus OLED versus plasma panels. At the high end, there are 21:9 aspect-ratio screens and HDR (high dynamic range) displays to consider, as well as UHD-capable OLEDs. I saw examples of all of these TVs at CES 2014, but it is impossible to judge the quality of any TV while standing in a convention center—the ambient lighting is far too bright and there is no way to confirm the settings.
The best way to judge a TV is to compare it to other TVs. Ideally, the comparison is between calibrated TVs, in optimum lighting conditions, using the same reference material. As you can imagine, that's not an easy thing to pull off, which is why it's a good thing that Robert Zohn of Value Electronics in Scarsdale, NY, decided it was a good idea to organize an event based on comparing TVs in a controlled environment.
Last year was my first time attending the VE shootout, and I'm looking forward to this year's event—it's the tenth anniversary! Although Value Electronics is a TV retailer, a lot of effort is put in to making sure it is a fair competition. All the TVs receive a professional calibration—for both day and night viewing—and the comparisons occur under appropriate lighting, with all the windows blocked out for the night portion of the judging. While I would not go so far as to call the competition scientific in nature—there are too many variables to account for, and it's not a blind comparison—it is fair. For instance, the calibrators are among the very best in the industry: Kevin Miller, DeWayne Davis, and David Mackenzie.
Robert Zohn talks to the audience full of enthusiasts at last year's event
The 2014 VE shootout is tentatively scheduled for a weekend in late May, although the date is not yet firm because many of the TVs intended to be in the shootout are not shipping yet. If need be, a later date could be chosen. I hope that the 2014 TVs come to market sooner rather than later because I'm anxious to see this showdown.
This year's shootout will be interesting because the TV industry is at a technological crossroads. Plasma technology is still around and offers truly compelling performance for the money. Brand new, pricey OLED UHDTVs are now a reality at home theater-worthy screen sizes. LED-lit UHD 21:9 screens that can replace a front-projection home-theater rig are also a reality. Sadly, the shootout won't feature one of those widescreen wonders.
Whereas the 2013 shootout turned into a battle of the top HD plasmas, this year there is a lot of competition coming from the UHD LED-LCD segment thanks to the re-adoption of full-array backlighting with local dimming—quite a few top-tier LCD UHDTVs looked spectacular at CES. I'm curious how they'll hold up when subjected to added scrutiny at the 2014 VE Shootout.
The event itself will take place over two days, with an HDTV shootout on a Friday night and a UHDTV shootout on a Saturday night. At the end of the second night, the winning HDTV and UHDTV will duke it out in a final showdown.
For me, the event is an opportunity to compare TVs from different manufacturers on a level playing field. Last year, I thought the Panasonic VT60 and ZT60 were the best-performing panels, whereas the audience voted for Samsung's F8500 by a razor-thin margin. The truth is that either TV could have taken the crown last year.
Here are the voting results from last year's shootout
Do you plan to watch the shootout via live online streaming, or perhaps even attend? Is this event a factor in your TV-shopping process?
I will update this thread when the dates of the shootout are firm, and I'll post a list of TVs that will be in the shootout as soon as that becomes available.
Edited by imagic - 2/26/14 at 2:57pm