At CE Week 2016, four TVs—one OLED and three FALD-LCDs—were lined up next to each other to see which could garner the highest vote tally from an audience of enthusiasts. The votes are in—about 80 in all—and the 2016 Value Electronics TV Shootout “King of TV” is the LG OLED65G6P, the company’s flagship 65″ HDR-capable OLED display.
Ultimately, the G6 OLED ($8000 MSRP) won in every voting category except for “overall day,” and did so by a fairly wide margin. The G6 is an emissive display, meaning each pixel generates its own light and is independently dimmable—all the way down to pure black. Meanwhile, the three LCD competitors—Sony’s XBR-75X940D ($6000 MSRP), Samsung’s UN78KS9800 ($10,000 MSRP), and Vizio’s RS65-B2 ($6000 MSRP) all featured FALD (full-array local-dimming) LED backlighting and VA (vertical alignment) panels. VA LCDs are known for their high contrast and deeper blacks when compared to IPS (in-plane switching) LCD panels, but they have a narrower viewing cone in which colors and contrast are optimal.
The event was expertly presented by Joel Silver, the founder of ISF (Image Science Foundation). The very notion that you can calibrate a consumer TV is Joel’s idea, and his knowledge on the topic is both broad and deep. It was amazing to see Joel get through four hours of often-technical explanations regarding video technologies with such ease.
Joel took the audience through all the image-quality parameters that were judged in the shootout. He encouraged people to stand up and scrutinize the TVs, which is vitally important when judging the image quality of TVs with limited optimal viewing angles.
Attendees at the shootout voted on seven picture quality-related categories: black quality, perceived contrast, color accuracy, moving resolution, off-axis performance, screen uniformity, and HDR/WCG (high dynamic range/wide color gamut). Additionally, they voted on the more general “overall day” and “overall night” categories. It’s worth noting that HDR/WCG only accounted for 11 percent of the total vote, even though it’s a major selling point of all the contenders.
When it comes to UHD/4K resolution versus HDR with WCG, Joel stressed that higher dynamic range and wider color gamut are much more obvious improvements to viewers than the leap to 8-megapixel resolution. To support the claim, he pointing out tests performed by ISF that reveal the typical resolution of a commercial 35mm film print intended for commercial use is equivalent to just one megapixel. (How was that determined? A 35mm print of a resolution test pattern was created as any movie release print would be made—it was the fourth generation from the original camera negative—and shown to groups of experts at a seating distance of 1.5 picture heights from the screen in six different theaters around the country. The viewers were asked to identify the finest resolution they could discern in the pattern, which corresponded to about one megapixel.)
This was the first year that UHD footage with HDR and WCG in the voting process. However, the voting on these capabilities was confined to one category out of nine. I understand that HDR footage is still a bit hard to come by, but there’s more and more of it every day, and I would have liked to see HDR and WCG separated into two categories.
The ballot box.
The final overall scores for the four TVs were as follows:
First place: LG G6 (8.9)
Second Place: Sony X940D (8.0)
Third Place: Samsung KS9800 (7.3)
Fourth Place: Vizio RS65-B2 (6.9)
Here are the votes by category.
Unlike years past, the ballots from professional reviewers, calibrators, and other industry pros were not tabulated separately from the general audience. Most of the attendees were deemed to be very sophisticated—many were active AVS Forum members—so it was decided to tabulate all ballots together.
This marks the third consecutive year that OLED has taken the “King of TV” crown. OLED’s wide viewing angles and ultra-deep blacks are its strong suits, and in a dark room, the extreme contrast ratio it achieves can be seductive—even if it comes at the cost of losing some shadow-detail rendition. The critical and consumer reception of OLED has been tremendous, so its victory in this competition does not come as a surprise.
Sony’s X940D took second place in the shootout. It was number one in the “overall day” category, and scored above the other two FALD-LCD displays in every category. Although only available in one size, it is a home theater-centric flat display that shows the potential of FALD-LCD combined with HDR with WCG.
Samsung’s KS9800 came in third place and garnered lower scores than both the LG and the Sony in every single category. This result came as a significant surprise to me. I thought it was more than competitive in several voting categories, but the audience clearly saw things differently.
I noticed the KS9800 featured in the shootout had a dark softball-sized circular splotch in the screen that is potentially indicative of a faulty LED in the FALD array. Numerous comments were made about its visibility in actual content and how that affected votes.
I’ve seen a few KS9800s over the past month or so, and this is the first time I have seen such an obvious flaw in one. It makes me wonder if there was a defective LED in the backlight array given the size and shape of the defect. Another thing I noticed during the shootout was that the KS9800 occasionally displayed muted colors and it required a reset of the HDMI connection to get proper HDR/WCG performance out of it.
The Vizio Reference had the toughest time of any TV at the shootout. Its inability to play HDR10 content during the HDR/WCG comparison segment was a definite handicap. While it beat out the Samsung in the viewing angle vote, the RS65 scored the lowest of all the TVs in all other categories. As with the Samsung KS9800, I was surprised by the low scores given to the Vizio by the audience. I thought it kept up with its competitors and expected a tighter race between the FALD-LCDs.
One thing I felt was missing from the shootout was a true reference monitor to judge color. It’s hard to judge color accuracy without a point of reference, and in that sense, the color accuracy category was a bit of a misnomer. People were voting on the image they thought looked best, not necessarily the one that was most accurate and reflected the artist’s intent. Granted, it’s possible for the most accurate color to be the most pleasing to look at, but without a reference monitor, there’s no way of knowing. I did appreciate the inclusion of a calibrated Pioneer Kuro plasma TV, which looked great when showing BT.709 content with the lights dimmed.
HDR technology is still in its early stages, so there were some issues with setting up the TVs, including challenges in calibrating them for HDR playback. In fact, the TVs in the shootout were not calibrated for HDR; instead, they were in their default HDR modes. Furthermore, incompatibility with the HDR10 format (despite it being the standard used on Ultra HD Blu-rays) prevented the Vizio Reference from showing the same HDR demo footage as the other TVs.
One solution to this problem would have been to show the same movie from UHD Blu-ray on the LG, Samsung, and Sony TVs and streaming from Vudu on the Vizio. There are currently at least two movies available from both sources—Mad Max: Fury Road and In the Heart of the Sea. Of course, it would have been very difficult to synchronize playback, and it would have been HDR10 on three sets compared with Dolby Vision on the Vizio, so it’s probably not an entirely fair comparison, but at least it would have been better than showing different clips on the Vizio.
I can see why the audience gave the “King of TV” nod to the LG G6 OLED. The shootout concentrated on BT.709 content and dark-room viewing, which are areas where OLEDs excel. It’s a contest designed for people who buy top-tier TVs, have them professionally calibrated, and watch them with the lights out. In other words, the tiny fraction of TV viewers who happen to be hardcore AV enthusiasts.
I can’t say I agree the OLED was superior to the Samsung for “overall day” viewing. I did not see that it offered better motion resolution or HDR/WCG performance than the LCDs. Nevertheless, the votes show that the majority came to a different conclusion. I look forward to seeing the calibration-measurement results for any insights they might offer regarding the discrepancy between my impressions and the attendees’ votes.
Each of the four Value Electronics TV Shootouts I have attended offered a unique perspective into the capabilities of the top TVs on the market. It’s truly remarkably to revisit the 2013 event and realize OLED, curved screens, and HDR-capable TVs were still on the horizon—and 3D was still a thing! Now the tables have turned, 3D has mostly fallen out of favor (though the LG and Sony do offer it), and HDR is considered the hot new technology that will get people to buy a new TV.
On Thursday, June 30, 2016, Home Theater Geeks will air an episode about shootout. Scott Wilkinson’s guests will be Robert Zohn, Joel Silver, and me. The show streams live from 2-3 PM (roughly) Pacific time (5-6 PM Eastern time), and you can watch it at live.twit.tv. Join the chat room by clicking on the “Live Chat” tab or go to irc.twit.tv where you can post questions the guests. Scott will be monitoring the chat room during the show and passing on relevant questions to the guests.
It’s amazing how quickly TVs are evolving, and that includes both emissive and transmissive displays. This year featured the best flat-panel displays I’ve seen to date. They are unequivocally better than what came before, regardless of the brand. I’m looking forward to the future—who knows what four more years of progress will bring? I do know that it will only get better from here.