The new TV release cycle follows the same pattern every year. Spankin' fresh sets hit shelves in the spring, nothing happens during the summer, prices drop in the fall leading up to even more aggressive sales for Black Friday and the holidays, followed by CES in January where new models are announced. Think of it as Vivaldi's 4K seasons.
Don't look now, but summer is here and so are the new TVs of 2015. Most of the ones we'll highlight are 4K models because those are the ones TV makers have chosen to highlight and, frankly, the ones we expect to perform best.
We're working on reviews of many of these sets now, but with for the moment the Vizio E series is the only 2015 TV we've actually reviewed. Stay tuned.
Updated June 15 with new models and the latest pricing and availability information.
Price: $8,999 (65-inch)
The outlook: The first OLED TV of 2015 is the 65EG9600 series: 65 inches, 4K resolution, curved and seemingly very similar to last year's 65EC9700, but $1,000 cheaper. It's also available in a 55-inch size for $4,500.
With the heights the 2014 55EC9300 achieved with its 1080p resolution and a $2,500 price tag, we fully expect the EG9600 to be the best-performing TV we've ever reviewed. But even if you can afford one, we'd still hold out for the flat version shipping later this year.
Price: $4,999 (65-inch)
The outlook: Samsung's answer to OLED in 2015 is...LCD. Well, they're calling it SUHD (the S doesn't signify a particular word, according to Samsung, just the same kind of premium-ness as a Galaxy S phone), but it's just LCD gussied up with quantum dots, HDR, mostly curved screens and, in the case of the flagship JS9500 series, full-array local dimming with a backlight that can reach up to 1,000 nits in highlights. We expect superb picture quality, perhaps the best LCD ever, but beating OLED and its perfect black levels will be difficult.
Price: $7,999 (75-inch)
The outlook: Sony currently eschews the curve, at least in the US in 2015 so far, but the picture-related aspects of its best 2015 TV are otherwise similar to those of Samsung's: an LCD panel augmented by full-array dimming and Triluminous technology that "offers the same benefits as Quantum Dots." The big difference? The huge speakers.
The expensive, 75-inch X940C is the only 2015 Sony TV announced so far with full-array dimming. Sony makes a similarly-speaker-saddled 65-inch version, the XBR-65X930C, that loses the full-array LED backlight for one of the edge-lit variety. Both are also HDR-compatible. The superb performance of the 2014 XBR-X950B and XBR-X900B raises expectations for both of these 2015 Sonys.
Price: $3,299 ($65-inch)
The outlook: LG's best mainstream LCD TV for 2015, the UF9500 tries to set itself apart from the pack with "Prime UHD" color. LG touts a 25 percent increase in color gamut and improved light output, thanks to new phosphor-based (not to be confused with quantum dot-enhanced) LEDs. The company has taken pains to differentiate its homegrown color-improving LED tech from quantum dots, and recently told CNET it was scrapping the quantum dot TV it showed at CES.
The UF9500's picture is also augmented by local dimming from an edge-lit array. Its style gets a bump up from cheaper LG LCDs too, thanks to an ultraslim cabinet.
Availability: Sometime in 2015
The outlook: When the "R series" was first introduced at CES 2014, 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. Now Vizio says the TV will ship "sometime" before 2015 ends.
It comes in one resolution, 4K, and two sizes: the 65-inch RS65, and the 120-inch RS120. Its HDR is powered by a full-array local dimming backlight with 384 zones and reaches a peak brightness of 800 nits. Vizio touts its wider color gamut but doesn't say exactly how wide, which is a step down of sorts from its initial claim that the set could approach Rec. 2020 color. Gamers will appreciate that the set can display 120-frame-per-second content (currently available only from PCs) with "low latency."
When it does arrive, the Reference series will be the first TV with Dolby Vision HDR compatibility.
Pricing has not been announced, although an apparent mistake on Vizio.com listed the 65-incher at $4,000. We'll see.
Price: $2,999 (65-inch)
The outlook: Remember that sense of disappointment you felt, perhaps as recently as four slides ago, when you read that Samsung's best SUHD TV would be curved?
The JS8500 offers a bit of remedy, delivering a taste of Samsung's latest TV tech in flat form. The main difference between it and the JS9500 is edge-lit versus full-array backlighting, with the accompanying drop in peak light output and, we expect, overall picture quality. That said, the JS8500's numeric near-predecessor, the HU8550 (pictured), was an excellent performer in its own right.
Price: $1,699 (65-inch)
The outlook: Vizio's mid-line series for 2015 adopts 4K resolution for lower prices than ever. The 2015 line extends from 43 inches at $599 to 80 inches at $3,999, and aside from the bump in pixel count, it appears basically the same as the 2014 M series. That's not a bad thing: we loved the old M for its excellent picture quality -- anchored by full-array local dimming -- and value.
Price: $3,999 (65-inch)
The outlook: While the fat-speaker Sonys might deliver the best picture and sound, the set Sony chose to highlight at CES is slimmer than your phone. The company calls the X900C series, also available in a 55-inch size for $2,499, the thinnest LCD TV ever. Parts of the TV's cabinet, namely the top half of the set, measure just 0.2-inch thick, which is actually 0.05-inch thinner than LG's 55-inch OLED TV. How that razor-thin depth affects picture quality, particularly screen uniformity, will be interesting to explore once we get a review sample. I also like the fact that Sony includes a custom ultra-flush wall mount in the box.
The 75-inch XBR-75X910C ($4,999) is a bit thicker, which is probably a good thing for a TV that big, but otherwise basically identical.
Price: $2,499 (65-inch)
The outlook: You may have noticed a theme if you've gotten this far: we're excited about TVs with local dimming. Especially flat ones. The JU7100 is Samsung's least-expensive TV for 2015 with hardware-based local dimming (as opposed to software tweaks) that happens to be flat. As such we expect very good picture quality, for a price that significantly undercuts those SUHD sets detailed earlier. The JU7100 also offers 4K resolution, but it lacks the SUHDs' frothy extras such as quantum dots.
The outlook: After some fits and starts last year Sharp is going whole-hog with 4K in 2015, debuting three new series. The least expensive is the UB30, which starts at $599 for the 43-inch version. We're most intrigued by the 65-inch size, however, which is the only set in all of Sharp's 2015 line to offer local dimming. On the downside, none of these models get Android TV, sticking instead with Sharp's homegrown Smart TV system.
Price: $230 (32-inch)
The outlook: One of our favorite TVs last year earned our admiration not for picture quality, but for its superb Smart TV implementation, thanks to Roku. For spring 2015 those smarts will make their way into more televisions from the original brand, China's TCL, as well as two entirely new ones for Roku TV: Sharp and Insignia, both of which are available exclusively at Best Buy.
Whichever brand you go with, you'll know they'll be cheap and have more apps and simpler interfaces than any other Smart TV platform.
Price: $999 (65-inch)
The outlook: It might not be 4K, but it's still a very good performing TV for a great price. The secret to the E's success in our review is -- wait for it -- local dimming, allowing it to outperform TVs that cost hundreds more. It's all the TV most people need right now.