Saturday evening I took a trek to Scarsdale NY to visit Value Electronics and participate in the retailer’s annual HDTV Shootout. The Shootout, now in its 8th year, pits the best flat panel TVs against each other in a battle for image quality.
To keep things fair, Value Electronics’ owner Robert Zohn brings in some of the TV industry’s best to calibrate the sets and run the testing. Zohn then invites guests, including home theater journalists and advanced enthusiasts to take part in the Shootout and help in the scoring of the TVs. All six sets were calibrated by Kevin Miller of ISF and Tweak TV (you may remember Miller from the Electronic House Calibration Webinar last year), David Mackenzie of HDTV Test in Scotland, Ed Johnson and Dewayne Davis. The calibration team used a variety of software and hardware.
The TV selection seemed a little arbitrary to me. There were three plasmas and three LCD LED sets. Panasonic, Samsung, Elite (Sharp), and LG were the brands. There were no Sony or Toshiba models, nor were there any of the more custom-focused brands such as Runco or Bang and Olufsen (Value Electronics doesn’t sell the latter two brands, but Zohn does sell Sony and Toshiba). Zohn said he selected these because he felt they were the cream of the crop this year. I was a little surprised that Sony’s XBR LED TV wasn’t considered, as it should have easily been able to hold its own in a contest with Samsung and Panasonic LEDs, but it was Zohn’s contest, not mine. There was also no LG LED represented. Even more interesting would have been the inclusion of the OLED TVs that Samsung and LG showed at CES in January, but those sets aren’t yet on the market.
From Team Plasma:
• Panasonic TC-P65VT50
• Samsung PN64E8000
• LG 60PM9700
From Team LED LCD:
• Elite PRO-60X5FD (last year’s shootout winner)
• Samsung UN60ES8000
• Panasonic TC-L47WT50
The Elite TV (manufactured by Sharp) swept the HDTV Shootout last year, beating Panasonic’s VT30 plasma. The Elite was the only repeat visitor because that brand hasn’t yet announced new models (but probably will by CEDIA this year). All the other TVs are new 2012 models. All but the Panasonic LCD (which also happened to be the smallest at 47 inches) were 3D sets, though 3D capability wasn’t considered in the evaluation. Also not considered were the set’s smart TV or other features—including Samsung’s voice and gesture control, which was demonstrated, but not factored into the judging.
After introductions, some great sushi and wine (thanks Robert) and short presentations by representatives for Panasonic, Elite and Samsung, our friendly neighborhood calibrators posted a series of test patterns and content clips. With each new selection, our evening’s guides would point out issues, strengths and curiosities on each of the sets.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.