All hail the new "King of TV!"
How does the idea of being holed up in a dark room for hours while the industry's best TVs are tested against each other with various patterns and clips in order to crown a winner sound? Well, if you answered "awesome," then you just might be a true AV enthusiast... and my new best friend!
Earlier this week, High-Def Digest was invited to attend the 2016 Value Electronics TV Shootout held at CE Week in New York City. The annual event, put together by Value Electronics, a leading independent audio video retailer in Westchester County, NY, places the year's top TVs side by side in order to choose the new "King of UHD TV."
The four selected Ultra HDTV models were measured and compared against each other based on various display aspects, including black level, perceived contrast, color accuracy, motion resolution, HDR/WCG, and more. The audience then voted on the different picture quality attributes to determine a winner.
Joel Silver of the Imaging Science Foundation hosted the event, along with remarks from Value Electronics owner, Robert Zohn, and special guest speakers from LG and various AV websites. Likewise, several more professional TV reviewers, professional ISF certified calibrators, product specialists, industry analysts, and AV enthusiasts were also on hand. Preview sessions were conducted on June 22 and two full sessions were held on June 23.
I attended the first preview session on June 22 and the concluding afternoon full session on June 23. Below, I'll offer details on the competing displays used and the tests conducted, along with my own impressions of each TV and my feelings on the winners. Let the shootout begin!
To properly test and compare the competing displays, each TV was calibrated to SDR standards using high-end meters and software. Unfortunately, HDR calibration tools are still being finalized and are not available for each television (the very first HDR calibration software option was actually launched during the show), so each display used its manufacturer defaults for HDR testing.
The four competing displays included:
All of the Ultra HDTVs were placed side-by-side in alphabetical order from left to right. And as an added point of reference, a Pioneer Kuro plasma HDTV (once hailed as the absolute best TV on the market) was placed all the way to the left of the Ultra HD TVs. Throughout the shootout, various test patterns were used to judge the different voting categories, including:
- Black Quality
- Perceived Contrast
- Color Accuracy
- Moving Resolution
- Off-Axis Performance
- Screen Uniformity
Likewise, several tests were conducted with the lights on and then with the lights off in order to determine which display had the best Overall Day and Overall Night performance. Each category was rated on a scale of 1-10 for each TV and voters could also list their overall pick for best TV. All tested panels were concurrently fed through a professional HDMI distribution amp from a 4K media server, 4K streaming, USB, and the latest 4K signal generator for test patterns. Ultra HD Blu-ray material was played back through the upcoming Panasonic DMP-UB900.
Those familiar with typical display calibration software should have a good idea of what the process was like. Host Joel Silver walked us all through the different test patterns -- including numerous pluges, an 8-bit Ramp, checkerboards, and color bars -- pointing out what we should look for while occasionally bringing out the meters to indicate specific results. Likewise, tests for local dimming (a thin white line scrolled across a black background) and 1080i deinterlacing were employed as well. As the various tests were conducted, Silver encouraged all of the voting participants to get up close and personal with each TV, and so we all took turns walking down the display line to fully evaluate their performance.
In addition to SDR, the TVs were all placed in their HDR mode as well for several test patterns, allowing them to really strut their stuff while letting us see how each display handled the enhanced color gamuts, brightness, and contrast. Unfortunately, since the VIZIO Reference Series display doesn't support HDR10, it was not able to show the test patterns in HDR.
Finally, after all the charts and bars and pluges were done, we got to see clips from the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of 'Kingsman: The Secret Service' playing side-by-side in HDR. Once again, since the VIZIO isn't capable of HDR10 Ultra HD Blu-ray playback, clips from Netflix's 'Marco Polo' were demoed in Dolby Vision on that display instead. And to cap the shootout off, we were treated to one final clip, this time from a standard Blu-ray concert disc featuring B.B. King, giving us a great comparison of how each TV handles SDR content and 4K upscaling.
Before going into my individual impressions for each display, I do think it's important to note just how impressive and similarly well performing each of the competing models really was. At times, it was actually quite hard to spot specific differences or true weaknesses between the TVs. With that said, the test patterns and demo material did reveal a few key pros and cons, and ultimately there was a fairly clear overall winner.
So, without further ado, let's weigh in the contenders and detail my personal results from the fight!
LG 65-inch OLED65G6P OLED ($8,000) - LG's flagship Signature Ultra HD TV features an OLED panel to deliver perfect blacks and wide viewing angles. Likewise, the model includes an integrated soundbar speaker system, 3D playback, and a thin Picture-on-Glass design. In addition, the TV has been certified as "Ultra HD Premium" and includes wide color gamut support and full HDR compatibility with support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision (the only display in the shootout to support both formats).
Pros - Thanks to its OLED screen, the LG had a rather sizable advantage over its competitors when it came to black levels. As the only TV capable of displaying true black on a pixel by pixel level, the G6 was the clear winner for that deep inky look. To this end, the local dimming test was one of the most telling. Since the G6 doesn't have a backlight or have to rely on local dimming it passed this test perfectly, making the others look like amateurs. Likewise, the TV offered very strong performance for perceived contrast in a dark room, uniformity, off-axis viewing, and HDR. With all of these attributes combined, the LG offered the most balanced performance for actual content in a dark setting.
Cons - As impressive as the OLED was, the display was not without a few quirks of its own. Despite all of the competing displays achieving (roughly) the same color and grayscale measurements after calibration, the LG set had a comparatively cool cast to it during some test patterns that the other models did not exhibit. This slightly teal tinge was not really apparent during actual content, however. Likewise, though all of the other colors looked great on the color bar test, yellow did have a faintly green tinge to it. Finally, though uniformity and off-angle viewing were noticeably superior to the LCD models, both still weren't quite up to par with some of the best plasmas (RIP) that I've seen.
Samsung 78-inch KS9800 FALD LCD ($10,000) - Samsung's flagship LCD Ultra HD TV features a cadmium free 10-bit, curved-screen Quantum Dot Display with 1,000-nits and full-array local dimming. In addition, the display meets the "Ultra HD Premium" specs and includes support for HDR10 and 96% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. Sadly, however, like all of Samsung's new displays, the TV does not include 3D.
Pros - The Samsung really excelled when it came to bright room viewing, and offered the best perceived contrast for daytime watching. To this end, the set also provided the punchiest HDR playback (with the lights on) and rendered very impressive and accurate colors when viewing from the center.
Cons - Unfortunately, as jaw-dropping as the Samsung display was with the lights on, the set suffered in a dark room, leaving a bit to be desired when it came to black level performance. The local dimming test also produced the most egregious and wide ranging blooming. Likewise, though decent, off-angle viewing was among the worst of the bunch, and while colors were fantastic from dead on, they tended to wash out quite strongly from the side, especially red which veered more toward orange.
Sony 75-inch X940D FALD LCD ($8,000) - Sony's flagship LCD Ultra HD TV features slim full-array direct backlight local dimming. Likewise, the display supports TRILUMINOS tech for wide color gamut playback, 3D, and comes branded with the company's "4K HDR Ultra HD" logo ensuring compliance with the Consumer Technology Association's (CTA) HDR definition with HDR10 support.
Pros: The Sony display was among the strongest overall performers, and it managed to almost always stay near the top of the pack for every test. To this end, the Sony produced an even grayscale, accurate colors, great HDR performance, and solid black levels. Likewise, the set offered better local dimming implementation than the Samsung with less blooming during the torture test. Viewing angles and uniformity were also quite good for an LCD, though not on par with the LG.
Cons: Like all LCDs, colors and contrast did still suffer from off-axis and the panel had some issues with the Red Blue Color Multiburst test, offering the worst performance of the group. And, as pleasing as the picture was, the LG still bested the TV with the lights off and the Samsung had a slight edge with the lights on (but only from a centered position).
VIZIO's 65-inch Reference Series FALD LCD ($6,000) - VIZIO's premium LCD Ultra HD TV features an 800-nit panel and full-array local dimming with 384 active zones. Likewise, the display uses quantum dot technology for wide color gamut support and comes equipped with Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range playback (but not HDR10). In addition, the TV incorporates an integrated 3-channel soundbar with separate rear satellites and a wireless subwoofer.
Pros: For an LCD set, the VIZIO really excelled when it came to black levels. With that in mind, the results from the local dimming test were especially eye-opening. While the Sony and Samsung both produced a relatively wide dispersion of blooming, the VIZIO managed to maintain comparatively small light bleeding localized to just around the scrolling line. Colors, grayscale, uniformity, and off-angle viewing were also very solid in most instances. And though HDR10 material could not be played, the Dolby Vision clips of 'Marco Polo' looked absolutely spectacular.
Cons: Sadly, since the VIZIO doesn't support HDR10 it made some comparisons for color and perceived contrast rather hard (though SDR performance was about on par with the pack). And while off-angle viewing was decent, a red test pattern quickly became orange from off-axis -- much more so than the other displays. Furthermore, the TV was not capable of displaying above white.
Once the dust settled, LG's 65-inch G6 OLED was crowned the winner for "Best Overall Night" and "Best Overall" performance, making it the new "King of TV" -- a result I fully agree with. Meanwhile, Sony's 75-inch X940D FALD LCD snagged the highest score for "Best Overall Day," and though I do think the Samsung was punchier in a bright room, when factoring in uniformity and off-angle viewing, I also completely agree with this result. With that said, I do think some of the scoring for the VIZIO display is a little low compared to my own impressions, and I can't help but feel like the set's inability to play HDR10 content made it difficult to fully judge its picture quality against the other sets.
To view the full results from the Value Electronics 2016 TV Shootout, click here!
High-Def Digest would like to extend a big thanks to Robert Zohn and Joel Silver for hosting the event and inviting us to participate! While I would have preferred a little more focus on actual content comparisons from movies and TV shows, the shootout was an enlightening experience and an overall great time for any AV geek like myself. We're looking forward to seeing what next year's shootout has in store, but for now, the LG G6 is definitely the Ultra HD TV to beat.
What do you think about the Value Electronics 2016 TV Shootout results? Do you own or plan to buy any of the participating displays? Let us know your thoughts in the forums!