I'm in somewhat the same situation. We moved a *long* distance last fall to a place with *very* expensive electricity. Fearing the possibility of getting it here and having it not work or having to feed its voracious appetite for power, I left my 2007 Pioneer Elite Pro-110FD with my son. Right now all our viewing is on a 26" Sony LCD from 2008. I'm looking tor a 65" TV and have a hard stop on spend of $4k. It just seems crazy to spend that and over that seems beyond crazy to me. Like you, I feel very spoiled by the PQ from the plasma.
I was back where we moved from for two weeks in January and spent an afternoon at a Best Buy looking at TVs. (We don't have a Best Buy here. I'd have to fly to get to one. Only places with TVs here are Costco, WalMart, KMart, and Rent A Center. Certain concessions have to be made to live here…) Most 2014 LCDs of reasonable price were just somewhere between terrible and mediocre. Either motion or black level/shadow detail or color reproduction made most all of them look worse than 2007 vintage plasma. Some of this, no doubt, is based on the as-shipped demo settings that sell TVs to a *lot* of people. Oh, and without dragging a blue shirt around, you just get whatever demo material the set is displaying and lots of that is mediocre for any purpose beside seeing highly saturated color stuff. FWIW,
I thought the set that looked the best *overall*--without spending $5k or whatever for the Sony 950, was the Panasonic AX800. It wasn't perfect. But it had what looked like a "faithful" picture across the broadest range of the demo content. Some others looked better on some of the demo content.
I, too, was initially shocked to see all this product churn from some posters here. Trying set after set at home and finding something to complain about with every one of them. Back it goes, try another. This is very worrying to me since when I order one, I'll likely have to order it sight unseen. And getting them here and, worse if it comes to that, returned, is an expensive and time consuming thing. (Amazon won't ship TVs larger than 40" or so here, for instance.) I was so concerned by this that I even started a poll thread to find out how common going through multiple sets to get an acceptable one was. It got no traction and dropped off the front pages in a hurry.
Over time, I've concluded several things about this. First, the occurrence of churning through multiple sets appears more frequent than it probably is. Posters on AVSF are not a representative population and the people who are likely to go down that path are disproportionately likely to post about it early and often. Second, a lot of these people seem to have unreasonable expectations about what the images are supposed to look like in general and what is achievable with LCD technology in specific. People expect not to see any blooming around white characters on black fields on the credits. Heck, even film does this at the theaters. (Back when the theaters had film…) People expect a 18% grey screen viewed in total darkness to appear exactly uniform corner to corner and edge to edge. At consumer prices, CRTs couldn't do it, plasma couldn't, computer monitor LCDs can't do it. (Though a great monitor LCD gets closer because it's smaller therefore less of an engineering and manufacturing challenge.) And on and on. Oh, and what television we watch shows a static 18% gray screen? Third, reading AVSF may exacerbate the unrealistic expectations problem.
Am I saying LCD is great or that the people who have been through multiple sets (the highest count I've read here is 10) are just inventing things? No. Clearly LCD continues to suffer from its thee basic shortcomings. It's not fast changing states, it isn't all that opaque when it's opaque, and whatever light you see has to be forced through it. Most of the defects and most of the engineering effort spent developing LCDs for 20+ years now have all been about these limitations. But they are what they are and, since nothing better is on offer, you can skip TV or learn to live with them and try to find the best one for you and get on with watching and be done with pondering.
So, my advice--and what I'm trying to do:
- All reports suggest to me that 2014 was a year to rollout 4K and 2015 is a year to try to optimize it. Seems like most every 2015 model is getting much better reports on PQ than comparable 2014s. So think 2015 model.
- You have to decide if you want curved. If you do, it greatly narrows your choice space. I don't. The last cylindrical TV screen I had was called a Trinitron. If I were a gamer or wanted it just for the HT use case, I might feel differently.
- You'll have to buy a 4K whether you care about 4K or not. The manufacturers are pushing HD to the bottom of the line for PQ and features. So think 4K. (I think they are intentionally shortchanging the HD sets for PQ just to make it easier to upsell to the essentially content-less 4Ks, but that could be an entire other thread.)
- Expect to spend $3k to $4k or wait until after Black Friday. (Or, maybe, buy Vizio.) That seems to be the price point where the mass market stuff is gone and the stuff for us crazies really comes into its own.
- Be realistic in your expectations about black level, uniformity, and backlight artifacts. You can expect good. But don't expect perfect and don't think that what matters is test conditions not viewing actual content.
- Don't discount the brain's adaptive power to accept whatever it's fed visually and make sense of it and ignore the rest. Whatever something looks like when analyzed to death, if you are watching for content the brain will do its best. It's why "motion pictures" work in the first place.
My short list approximately in order of my current interest level--YMMV:
- Panasonic TC-65CX850U -- price still unknown, assuming it comes in at or below the $4k price point
- Sony XBR-65X850C -- if it really has a VA panel; black levels on the 850B were meh at best
- Sony XBR-65X900C -- if it has better PQ than the $500 cheaper 850; not if it's just $500 worth of thinness
- Samsung UN65JS8500 -- too bad it has that silver bezel and Tizen; otherwise it seems like one of the first Samsungs I can imagine buying
I could be full of s*. But that's what I think.
Oh, and don't call them LED TVs. That's Samsung marketing-speak for "LCD that suck a little less". They are LCD TVs with LED backlights. But they are still LCDs.