Fall is when TV makers roll out their most-expensive sets with the newest technologies. In 2014 that means a few newfangled OLED displays with their ultra-thin designs and stellar pictures, scads of LCD TVs with the higher resolution of 4K, and even a couple TVs with the gimmickry of curved. And in one case, a TV that combines all three.
So join us on a tour of the sets that have us most intrigued to check out this autumn.
The outlook: Sure $3K is expensive for a 55-inch TV, but the EC9300 isn't just any 55-inch TV. It's the only one this inexpensive to use OLED technology, which delivers the best picture quality we've ever seen. It's also incredibly thin and stylish, and for better or for worse, it's curved. About the only TV buzzword EC9300 doesn't hit is 4K. But wait...
The outlook: If you're a rich guy considering buying an OLED TV, your first two commands will probably be: "Make it bigger than 55 inches. And make it 4K." LG says "Yes, sir!" with the 77-inch 77EG9700. The Korean OLED stalwart claims it's the first company to commercialize just such a display after showing it as a prototype at IFA last year. Now it's real. If your wallet can handle it.
And if not, it's also available in a 65-inch version, the 65EC9700, coming in October for just 10 grand.
The outlook: When the "R series" was first introduced at CES, Vizio claimed to have produced "The best TV in the world." The 120-inch monster stole the show with its sheer size and insane specs: 4K resolution. A color gamut that approaches the lofty heights of Rec 2020 , something never before claimed by any TV. A true 10-bit panel, for finer color gradations. A full-array local dimming LED LCD backlight, complete with 384 zones and "incredibly precise" control thanks to "Active Pixel Tuning." A searing 800-nit Ultra Bright backlight combined with Dolby's own HDR processing for more realistic contrast.
Since then Vizio has been mum on further details, including pricing--which will be astronomical (see the previous slide) for the 120-incher, but hopefully competitive for its otherwise identical the 65-inch brother. We should find out more soon.
The outlook: Vizio's P could rightfully sit at the number 1 position on this list. Ever size being introduced at CES, complete with unheard-of pricing, the company's first 4K TV has loomed over the market. The P prevents some savvy buyers from taking the 4K plunge until they have discovered whether its lofty promises--anchored by the full-array local dimming that performed so well on the M series--are legit. We won't have long to wait.
The outlook:Remember plasma? Panasonic sure does, and nowhere was that memory more evident in its demo of a CES prototype earlier this year, where it first claimed to have produced an LCD TV with plasma-like picture quality. That TV is shipping soon to Europe and in the U.S. too this November, albeit with no official pricing yet. Available in 55- and 65-inches, it will be Panasonic's first with a full-array local dimming backlight, and likely extremely expensive.
In case you're wondering, we have been told the 85-inch Panasonic TX-85X940 also announced at IFA is not a U.S. model.
The outlook: Sharp's first multi-size line of actual 4K TVs, the UD27U series includes a 60-incher for three grand and a 70-incher for $4500--prices that I fully expect to fall quick once the holiday season hits, if only to compete with entry-level Samsung and Sony 4K sets, let alone Vizio's E series. The UD27's main picture quality bullet point is "THX Certified," which is no guarantee of picture quality awesomeness, but still worth a mention. Unlike many of the other 4K sets out there, it lacks any kind of true local dimming (don't let the AquoDimming feature fool you; it's only software-based).
The outlook: Tacked onto Sharp's announcement about its new 4K set was a mention of a new TV I actually anticipate recommending more: the 1080p resolution LE660U, available in 60 inches for $1200 and 70 inches for two grand. Those prices make it the successor to the the LE650 line, albeit with a thinner bezel and swankier styling (above). We're looking forward to reviewing them, mainly because the 650 was one of our favorite TV values of last year.
The outlook: I recently reviewed the first Roku TV, saying "The best Smart TV suite combined with extremely aggressive pricing makes the TCL Roku TV a phenomenal value despite its so-so picture quality." If you don't mind that final caveat, in particular for a secondary TV like the bedroom, this set is definitely worth a look.
The outlook: So why is the second round of Roku TVs from an equally-unknown Chinese TV maker potentially important? Because unlike the TCL sets, the "H4 series" from Hisense, available in 40, 48, 50 and 55 inches, offers local dimming. That means it could potentially have better picture quality than TCL's sets, perhaps (if done right) on par with Vizio's E series.
The outlook: There's rich guys, then there's rich guys. The 105-inch behemoth is for the latter category. Resplendent with all the fixins, including full-array local dimming and a 21:9 aspect ratio, a closer match to ultra-wide-screen movies, it probably won't blend quietly into your decor.