Plasma, OLED, LED/LCD and 4K TVs - we've seen the lot this year!
What a year 2013 has been in the world of television technology with many high points, including the emergence of new technologies, but we're also faced with the prospect of losing an old friend.The beginning of the year saw CES 2013 where almost all of the big players brought 4K TVs to the party. A few had OLED to show and a couple of those even had a combination of the two with which to whet our appetites for things to come.
True to their word, Panasonic outdid themselves with their plasma range but by the end of 2013 announced they would no longer continue to support the technology. Going forwards it's LED, in the short term, and OLED, looking further ahead, where Panasonic will concentrate their efforts and they became the first manufacturer to announce a HDMI 2.0 capable TV at IFA 2013, with the WT600.
Sony seems to be betting the house on 4K and have been the most active, amongst the majors, in driving down prices of Ultra HD. OLED seems to be on the backburner for them at the moment but that didn't stop them getting in on the curved fad, with a warped and weird LED TV also shown at IFA.2013 has been a crossroads in terms of TV technologies
Samsung continues as the dominant global manufacturer going in to the new year, albeit narrowly. Although like their Korean rivals and closest competitors - LG, they have fingers in many pies including 4K, LED, Plasma and OLED.
The pair also lead the pack with their Smart TV offerings but don't mention spygate and certainly don't talk about 3D any more. What was once heralded as the saviour of the industry is nothing more than a footnote on the spec sheet nowadays and instead Ultra HD is the answer.
We await the ultimate fate of plasma TVs at CES 2014 but we're sure to see our fill of 4K and hopefully many more OLEDs but, for now, let's look back at the best of 2013.
Since it's so long and thanks for all the fine pictures, let's give top billing to a Panasonic Plasma. They promised us 'Beyond the Reference' with the ZT60/65 and duly delivered a display with true videophile credentials. The specially created Studio Master panel was designed to minimise the internal reflections created in the plasma cells and produced black levels we've not seen in a consumer TV since the days of Pioneer's legendary Kuros.
It wasn't all about black levels and dynamic range either, the ZT65 was capable of an outstandingly accurate colour performance, blessed with superb video processing and capable of delivering fast paced action with excellent clarity thanks to its silky-smooth motion processing. It was certainly a fitting way for Panasonic to end their association with plasma but it certainly doesn't make the parting any easier to take. We should also make special mention of the VT65, GT60 and ST60 too as even the lesser ranked plasma TVs produced sublime images. Thanks Panasonic but are you sure you don't want to reconsider?
They might be slightly obsessed with 4K - don't call it Ultra HD in Sony's presence - but that didn't stop them producing a 1080p TV of superb quality. They starved the UK of their flagship LED in 2012 but it was worth the wait for a display capable of these levels of finesse. The 905 really delivered the goods in terms of its picture. Out-of-the-box accuracy was exceptional, video processing was generally excellent and the local dimming feature proved highly effective without introducing unwanted problems, which is very much a rarity amongst LED TVs. Not that native black levels weren't impressive in the first place and gaming performance was out of this world, in terms of input latency. Perfect for the PS4, they would no doubt tell you.
As we remarked at the time, It's always a good sign when you're struggling to find any faults with a TV and Sony's W905 was just such a display. It barely puts a foot wrong and delivers a winning combination of performance, design and features that make it difficult to resist.The big 2 Japanese manufacturers might be struggling financially but they still have the know-howSamsung F9000
Of all the UHD TVs in all the world, we think this is probably the best we've seen yet and it's possibly the finest piece of LED TV engineering we've reviewed to date. Not only was the F9000 capable of producing utterly glorious Ultra HD pictures but also of giving a touch of gloss to lower resolutions too. The scaling algorithms used are simply phenomenal and that Samsung have been able to manufacture an edge-lit set, in these sizes, with such superb screen uniformity almost defies belief.
That's not all, the F9000 sports the best local dimming system we've seen to date, giving this 4K set pictures oozing with dynamic range and punch. Colour reproduction was also spot on and we like the fact the One Connect box gives flexibility and assurance, going forwards, over the evolving nature of the Ultra HD standards. With the 55-inch version currently doing the rounds at well under £3,000, the future is more affordable than we might have expected at this stage. However, the lack of native 4K content available means it might be best holding off, for now, but that doesn't stop Samsung's mighty F9000 from being one of the TVs of 2013.
Samsung KE55S9C OLED TV
If 4K is the future format of TV, then surely its natural home is with OLED technology. If the standards bodies get their way – and we hope they do – Ultra HD won’t just be about increased resolution, it will demand more dynamic range, wider colour palettes and improved frame rates. Frankly, current LED/LCD TV technology is not up to the task but Organic LED is showing incredible promise. It’s taken longer than expected for the manufacturers to gain the necessary techniques to produce a viable domestic OLED but, finally, we’re starting to see them trickle through.
OLED is THE future
Our first big-screen OLED reviewed was the 55-inch Samsung KE55S9C which we think lives up to all the hype. It produced the kind of black levels that would make a ZT65 ashamed and dynamic range that quite simply sets the bar higher than ever before. That’s not to mention the stunning image accuracy and excellent video processing. There are some incredible features too, such as two viewers being able to watch completely different programming (including 3D) simultaneously and all the usual bevvy of Smart TV goodness from Samsung. We have some concerns over the curved screen and gamers might be put off by the input latency but the biggest stumbling block currently, is the price, which is a wallet-worrying £7,000. Still, the future is here and we can’t wait to see more OLED.
So, there we have it, 2013 has given us more choice than ever before of how, what and when we watch our TVs and the range of technologies available to do so has never been wider. The immediate future is set to be 4K LEDs but we're hopeful that OLED will break into the mainstream before too long.
What are your hopes for TV technology going forwards and what have been your highlights of 2013?
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