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.
From Robert Zohn:
"Below is our latest list of TVs that are likely to be included in our 2014 Flat and Curved HD and UHD Shootout Evaluation event. One or more may be dropped or added if available. Finally, not sure at this time if we’ll permit the OLED to be included in the final official decision to crown the “2014 King of HDTV” and our crowning of the “2014 King of 4K Ultra HD” So if we don’t use the OLED votes in the determination of the winner we will publish the results for the attendees and public to know if OLED would have won if they were included."
Day One the Full HD Competition
LCD/LED Full HD displays:
Plasma Full HD displays:
No final decision, but we are testing for possible inclusion LG’s 60PB6900
OLED Full HD:
LG’s new 55EC9300
Day Two the 4K Ultra HD Competition
LCD/LED 4K Ultra HD displays:
Sony XBR-65X950B full array locally dimmed
LG 65UB9800 or the 79" UB9800
Toshiba 65L9400U full array locally dimmed
OLED 4K Ultra HD:
"I’d like to include Vizio’s reference series, but it’s not launching till the fall if at all. Also I’ll ask Panasonic if they would like to participate with their new TC-65AX900U 4K LCD/LED TV.
Here’s a few more tidbits. On day one we’re doing the 1080p Shootout. However, at the opening of the event we’ll light up the Ultra HD Shootout wall, discuss the models and some of our findings. At the conclusion of each of the two days we’ll have a q/a with the expert panelists; attendees and cyberspace questions and comments will be answered.
"Also on both days before the attendees leave we’ll announce the winner of the competition Shootout. At the conclusion of day two we’ll put the winners of day one (1080p) and day two (UHD) butt next to each other, and we’ll demonstrate 1080p and Ultra 4K, unconverted and down converted and we’ll have the audience pass the two displays in a line at 1.5 x the screen height to see if they can see the advantages of UHD.
"Regarding the actual event date we are pushing for the earliest possible date, but coordination of our long term team of expert panelists, headed by Kevin Miller, DeDayne (Davis D-Nice), David Mackenzie and Ed Johnson along with our Videographer Joe So So, inclusion of all of the displays that come from our stock of random inventory is some of the items that must be taken into account. I’m also working with our previous VIP guests to be sure they will be available, and I have a few new special VIP guests attending this year and I’d like to accommodate all of these VIP guests. At this moment, it looks like the earliest date is June 27th, and I’m sure it will be no later than July 11th.
"This is all I have at this moment and much of this is still fluid so if some of this changes, please understand that all of this is still subject to our final testing of each display and the manufacturers' final decisions. Even some of my ideas and all of the changes that are triggered by our inclusion of 4K Ultra HD are subject to change.
This will be our biggest and most exciting and interesting Shootout. In the past nine years we’ve had between 6 and 8 displays competing; this year, our tenth video evaluation Shootout, we’ll have many more TVs." - Robert Zohn
Edited by imagic - 4/15/14 at 3:05pm