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Who Makes the Best HDTVs?
February 25, 2009 | by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
With the prices of flat panel HDTVs dropping dramatically over the past year, it’s almost difficult to differentiate between the big screens on display at your local retailer.
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Posted by Jason Unger  on  02/25  at  10:04 AM

Alright, here are my 2 cents…

I’m biased because I own one of their TVs, but Pioneer makes amazing plasmas. The Kuro is easily the best looking TV I’ve ever seen, and it’s really disappointing that they’re dropping out of the market.

Posted by Steve Khosrova  on  02/25  at  12:35 PM

My neighbor has a Pioneer Elite Plasma so I’ve been able to view that unit outside the store. I’ve always liked it, but it has never ‘wowed’ me.  I was looking over the available units during the holidays and was impressed with the newer LED LCD technology of the Samsung units. I didn’t compare the Sony and didn’t see them side-by-side, but the best way to describe the difference between the Pioneer and the Samsung was like this; The Pioneer was like looking at a beautifully detailed photograph, but the Samsung was like looking out of a window.  The material viewed was Hancock on Bluray. The brightness and contrast made the picture more life like. The Samsung had a bit more brightness than I think I’d like for long viewing, but maybe that can be tuned.  I turned off the automatic picture setting of the Pioneer and turned up the Plasma brightness and it helped, but it still couldn’t match the LED LCD for that visual ‘pop’.

Posted by Dan  on  02/25  at  01:41 PM

Its so odd that with Pioneer polled as being the best HDTV producer then why have they announced their intent to hault production of LCD’s and Plasma’s?

Posted by Paul  on  02/25  at  03:08 PM

I would say that since Pioneer units are still readily available for sale, it’s completely valid to include them in this survey.  Pioneer makes the best overall HDTV’s but the Local dimming backlit LCD units are closer behind than ever before.  Mind you it’s ironic that the Sony unit at $7,000 still isn’t as good overall as a $5000 Pioneer Display.

The Sony (much like any LCD currently on the market) is horrible for off axis viewing, whereas plasma is not.  The Sony tv is an impressive display, and it does do some things as well as the Pioneer, some may argue better.

This brings us as to how do we judge a display?  If we are strictly talking about how pleasing the picture is, then there is no objective method to pick a winner.  Thankfully, there are a multitude of criteria used for video, which can be applied. 

I prefer the Pioneer becasue it can most closely conform to D6500 and has remarkably accurate color points.  This helps to ensure that I am seeing the closest representation possible to what was captured on film. 

Maybe I’m a purist, but I want to see material how it was shot, not how my tv feels like displaying it, however pleasing that may be.

Posted by Steve Khosrova  on  02/25  at  03:27 PM

I can understand your preference to recreating what was shot on film.  For speakers, that is like recreating the the music as it was recorded. But I ask, for a set of speakers, doesn’t the reproduction of the Sound Stage also matter?

If you agree, then I consider that equal to the contrast/brightness of a display.  It is necessary to try and reproduce the realism of what was filmed.  That is what impressed me about LED LCD displays.

Posted by Jon  on  02/26  at  07:17 AM

I recall reading about Pioneer’s decision to curtail production/ manufacturing of their HDTV line.  However, judging from this poll, unless it would be due to a total lack of market share, why would they ?  Maybe EH can shed light on this. 

We have 3 HDtv’s in our home and take particular note that Mitsubishi didn’t make list.  I know why- I have one thanks to my haste in accepting the suggestion of my home theatre installer.  Of course, the lack of a higher quality HD cable signal (720i) from Time Warner Cable, too many trees for satellite, and no FIOS certainly doesn’t help.

Posted by Jason Unger  on  02/26  at  09:48 AM

@Jon - Pioneer was squeezed in a tough spot. Their Kuro plasmas cost significantly more than most other TVs the same size, but most any reviewer would say it was worth it.

Their prices just couldn’t keep up with the drop we’ve seen over the past year or two.

When you walk into Best Buy and see one 50” plasma for $3K and one 50” plasma for $1K, which do you think most people would buy?

Posted by Jon  on  02/26  at  12:24 PM

Good point…  The “Kuro” models being in the higher-end of Pioneer’s product line, it’s not apt to be within the average consumers price range or a major seller at most “box” stores..

In any event, for Pioneer to make such an announcement is a definate sign-of-the-times.

Posted by Paul  on  02/26  at  02:40 PM

I think that a Pioneer Elite plasma is still the best tv on the market right now.  As has been pointed out, Pioneer has stopped making displays, so the current crop of Kuro’s will be surpassed by some other manufacturer, and soon I’m betting. 

The question wasn’t “What HDTV’s are consumer’s actually buying in sufficient quantities that the manufacturer can stay in business and make a profit.” it was “Who makes the best?”

Currently it’s Pioneer.  I think their biggest mistake was not offering a price competitive value line, and taking advantage of the halo effect from having the best tv on the market.

I realize this may not have been possible, or cost effective, but people do it all the time when shopping.  If I can’t buy the best, at least I can get a lesser model from the same manufacturer.

Posted by Steve  on  02/26  at  03:01 PM

Has anyone taken a good close look at the new LCD LED’s to compare them to the Pioneer units?

Posted by Paul  on  02/26  at  03:30 PM

Home Theatre compared tha Pioneer against the Sony, and Samsung LCD’s.  They threw in a $2,000 Panasonic Plasma for comparison since all the other tv’s were over $5k, just to see what you were loosing.  The Pioneer won, but not by much.  The Sony was second, largely because it was so expensive and it’s off axis viewing angle sucked.  I don’t remember who was third and fourth.

Posted by Joe  on  03/02  at  02:50 PM

As a reseller of ‘broadcast” models as well as prosumer-consumer models, I love Panasonic’s blacks and more bang for the buck pricing levels. Can most consumers really differentiate between 1080i & 1080p? Not from my standpoint but there are some who can but I’ve always found it better to be completely upfront with customers. Especialy when you rely on their ‘word of mouth’ & referrals. Nothing worse than baffling them with bull#*%^ and then them finding out afterwards!

Posted by JT  on  03/08  at  06:09 PM

As a designer of “broadcast” equipment, I can tell you that the terms 1080i and 1080p are really meaningless with today’s technology.  LCD’s, Plasmas, and even DLP’s don’t “scan” the image either interlaced (i) or progressively (p) like the old CRT equipment did.  Those terms apply only to analog “scanning” technology, although you still see the old terminology used in some advertising. 
  Modern (MPEG, DVD, ATSC) television signals are characterized by pixel count (640x480, 1920x1080. etc,), and refresh rate (24 FPS, 30 FPS, 60 FPS, etc.).  Picture information is sent in the form of frequency, phase, amplitude, bit rate, and pixel information, rather than analog “brightness and color at a point in the scan”.
  Of course when the digital signal is converted to or from an analog signal, the “old fashioned” terms of bandwidth, interlaced, progressive, etc. associated with analog signals are applicable to that analog signal.  To my knowledge, there is no commercially available program material transmitted in 1080p format.  1080p signals are usually generated from digital or lower quality analog material.
  As far as the display technology, no modern method employs “scanning”.  Plasma is most like the old CRT’s in that colored phosphors on the display surface are excited to “glow” by an electric current.  In CRT’s a negatively charged electron beam is scanned onto the phosphors of the picture tube.  In plasma TVs positively charged atomic nuclei (plasma) is used to excite the phosphors.  The difference is plasma TVs are not scanned, but rather excite each individual pixel of phosphor continuously.  Discounting the quantum nature of plasma, the phosphors can be excited to a continuously variable level of brightness (analog).  Unfortunately over time, the phosphors will degrade in their ability to emit light, and the sealed glass plasma containers (pixels) may leak.  This can cause image burn in, and gradual picture quality degradation.  Still, plasma TV’s most closely resemble the picture quality of a good, flat face CRT.  Within the size, bulk, and aging limitations of a good (professional quality) CRT, most modern displays are not as good in terms of sharpness, clarity, contrast, and brightness.
  LCD’s function as a “light valve”, by continuously varying the amount of light passing through each pixel (analog).  LCD’s require a backlight, usually a florescent panel.  These panels last a long time, but can eventually dim or even burnout. 
  DLP’s use tiny mirrors to reflect light.  They very the brightness of pixels by the amount of time they are “on” compared to the amount of time they are “off”.  Since this time interval can be varied over a wide range (digitally), the human eye is fooled into perceiving that any particular pixel is dimly or brightly lit.
  Neither LCD’s nor DLP’s are susceptible to image burn in.  Most DLP’s use a high intensity projection lamp and a wheel with colored filters to project a full screen image of that particular color.  Again the images are displayed sequentially, so fast that the human eye is fooled into believing it is watching a full-color picture.  Of course these high intensity light bulbs can grow dim overtime, and will usually require replacement during the life of the television.
  A new type of DLP television that does not use of a projection lamp or spinning color wheel shows great promise.  It uses separate very special red, green, and blue LEDs that can switch on and off over 2,000 times per second!  These LEDs are also unlikely to dim or fail during the life of the set.  Since these sets display 100% of the light from the LED when it is on (as opposed to one color from the projection lamp/filter wheel combination) these sets are capable of very bright and wide-ranging color display’s, even beyond most currently available program material.

My advice, if you’re looking for a small picture (up to 50 inches) one of that new generation LCD’s is the way to go.  For larger picture displays, it looks like these LED DLP’s will be the future.

Posted by Steven  on  03/16  at  05:52 AM

I will take a good Panasonic Plasma with THX anyday over the other models. They just plain look good, and works!

Posted by Paul  on  03/16  at  02:03 PM

Jason, is it possible to have posts removed from the EH site?  I’ve noticed that spammers have been hitting the comments section with greater frequency lately.

If Electronic House can remove the posts after they are put up, it might discourage them from posting again.

If there is no way of removing a post, maybe a spam reporting option, so spam can be hidden?

Posted by Chuck McKenney  on  03/16  at  02:08 PM

Paul - I am frequently removing spammer posts and banning certain users. I apologize for the distraction it’s causing.

Posted by rocky  on  03/17  at  05:29 PM

JT’s comments from a so called designer of broadcast equipment, makes me doubt his self
proclaimed credentials, based on his LCD comments,  NO mention of viewing angle fall off,
NO mention of visiible blur,  especially at right angles to the viewer,  I recently watched an
english first division game on a Sony Bravia 240hz
46”  and on at least 7 occassions balls being
kicked at high velocity were smearing badly showing two or three trailing images of the ball,
this observance has been noted on more than one
once on other current model sets such as
samsung ect, its inherent in the LCD limitations
JT also failed to mention that SED is sitting in the
wings ready to come forth from Canon, when
the current depression is over,  if JT is looking for
CRT comparisons its there,

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