The outlook: One of Vizio's most exciting announcements of CES 2014 was putting a price on its P series. This is one of the least-expensive 4K resolution TVs available -- for example, Samsung's least-expensive 4K TV so far, the HU8550, starts at $2,500 for the 50-inch model. And unlike the no-name Seikis and TCLs of the world, Vizio's P actually includes lots of important extras, starting with full-array local dimming, a picture-enhancing feature found on no sub-$40,000 Samsung TVs.
The outlook: Among the value-priced TVs of 2013, one of our favorites was the E series, the first at its affordable level to feature local dimming. For 2014, Vizio is offering that technology in even more sizes for prices that undercut just about everybody. Full details on the entire E-series lineup are now available, and everything 55 inches and smaller is on sale now. The larger 60-, 65-, and 70-inch sets will arrive later.
Sony KDL-W950B series
Price: $2,499.99 (55-inch); $3,299.99 (65-inch)
The outlook: As the successor to our favorite LED LCD TV for picture quality last year, the KDL-55W900A, with the same kind of edge-lit local dimming, this Sony looks like a winner. It gets most of the picture-quality enhancements of Sony's higher-end, 4K X900A series without the extra pixels that you probably won't be able to discern. We also wouldn't be surprised if that exorbitant price fell even more significantly than usual later in the year.
Sony XBR-X950B series
Price: $7,999 (65-inch), $25,000 (85-inch)
The outlook: Sony's 4K resolution XBR-X950B series, available only in 65- and 85-inch varieties, packs the company's premiere LCD picture-quality enhancements. It promises full-array local dimming, the kind not seen on the market since Sony's own superb XBR-HX950. The downside? It'll be very, very expensive.
The outlook:For better or for worse, Samsung is going all-in on curved TV this year, and the H8000 series is the cheapest non-flat card in the deck. It loses the 4K resolution of the step-up curved HU9000 and HU8770 series, but keeps the hardware-based edge-lit local dimming. On paper, it seems like a curvier version of 2013's excellent UNF8000.
The outlook: Samsung's best LED LCD TV for 2014, the HU9000 gets every conceivable bell and whistle. That includes more zones of local dimming than the step-down HU8770, a built-in camera, the same kind of One Connect box featured on high-end 2013 Samsungs like the F9000, and a "Multi-Link Screen" that can divide the screen into four separate windows, each showing different content (live TV, You Tube, a Web page, and another app, for example).
The outlook: Don't want a curved TV, you say? Then the HU8550 is your highest-end Samsung for 2014. It looks like a close match to our favorite 4K resolution TV in 2013, the UNF9000 series, except for its availability in a lot more sizes. For now, the HU8550 qualifies as Samsung's "mainstream" 4K TV, although it still costs an arm and a leg compared to models like Vizio's P series.
The outlook: Toshiba did its best to tout the higher-end 4K resolution L9400 series at CES this year, but we're more excited about the L7400. Its availability in just 47- and 55-inch sizes, as well as the Toshiba nameplate and mere 1080p resolution, hint at a perhaps-affordable price, while its full-array local dimming may indicate superior picture quality. We'll see.
The outlook: Everybody is doing 4K TVs this year, and Sharp is no exception, but more interesting are its less-expensive, pseudo-4K "Quattron Plus" models, namely the UQ17U series. It offers double the vertical resolution of 1080p TVs, as well as the company's unique four-color subpixel structure. It can also accept and display 4K signals. On the other hand, it still costs more than Vizio's P series, which features real 4K resolution, so its value proposition is still a question mark.
The outlook: LG announced numerous 4K and OLED models at CES, and even some TVs with both. One of the most interesting is the oldie-but-goodie 55EA8800, aka the Gallery OLED TV. That's because, of all the OLED TVs you might be able to buy in 2014, it's the only one with a non-curved screen.