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1080p LCD TV Shootout

by Vincent Teoh
8 March 2007

Introduction

Let's cut to the chase... this is by far most popular question our readers have submitted to us since our inception: which is the best LCD TV among Samsung LE40F71BX, Sharp LC42XD1E and Sony KDL40W2000?

There are several very good reasons why these three models invariably make their way onto the shortlist of today's consumers shopping for an LCD TV. All three boast the full HD native resolution of 1920 x 1080, can accept 1080p video signals, and – with price tags ranging from £1100 to £1400 – are well within the reach of the masses.

Because Colin and I are in the fortunate position of having seen and tested all three 1080p LCD TVs in their full calibrated glory, we decided to carry out a shootout to answer the above question once and for all.

Methodology

The 1080p LCD TVs involved in this shootout were the Samsung LE40F71BX, the Sharp LC42XD1E and the Sony KDL40W2000. All 3 were purchased from online retailers rather than sourced directly from manufacturers to prevent unfair optimisation for a favourable review.

When conducting this comparative analysis, the last thing we wanted to do was to "use the default settings" (unless the title at stake is 'highest colour temperature' or 'most prominent red push') or "set brightness and contrast as equally as possible" (each display device has a different black/white ceiling and gamma profile so black crush and white clipping almost always occur if adjusted this way).

Instead, we calibrated each 1080p LCD TV on its own according to the standards set by ISF until we were satisfied that it was performing at its fullest potential. We then compared the calibrated LCD TVs and ranked them across 16 different subcategories that we thought would affect your daily enjoyment of the TV.

Not content with the subjective evaluation method (a gushing review followed by 5-star award anyone?) so prevalent in today's AV magazines, we devised a scoring system that is highly objective, specific (i.e. the result doesn't apply to other HDTVs not tested in this shootout), but most importantly, empowers you with the possibility of influencing the final outcome.

There were 6 points up for grabs in each subcategory. The best-performing LCD TV within each subcategory would be awarded 3 points (maximum); the runner-up 2 points; and the last, 1 point (minimum). Whenever there was a draw, the points would be shared equally between the tied LCD TVs until all 6 points were assigned.

Here's the beautiful part: because the points were awarded in a linear fashion based on subcategory ranking, you could apply your own weighting depending on your individual taste to arrive at your own category/final score. For example, if the ability to accept 1080p over VGA, HDMI and component is important to you, simply double the existing scores across the "Connectivity" subcategory – the winner will end up with 6 points, the runner-up 4 points and the loser 2 points. The final score will reveal the LCD TV most appropriate for you.

Without further ado, let's kick off with – what else? – picture quality...


 

Questions/Comments

Bryan says: 03/08/2007 - 09:25

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I particularly liked the clear scoring criteria allowing the reader to re-evaluate with their own quantitative bias of criteria. For instance, to me a price difference of £300 translates to "I'll probably want to keep the TV for at least another year in order to get my money back out of it", and considering that the technology is still evolving quickly I may prefer to buy something "good enough" and replace sooner. Fantastic.
winnie says: 03/08/2007 - 11:47

thanks for the review. I was wondering if you will do a side by side comparison of the best LCD here and a similar priced plasma as im still undecided which technology to go with.
Taomyn says: 03/09/2007 - 00:42

If "DNIe" was the main factor for the poor rating the Samsung gets here then the testers need to look at some of the "tweaks" that can be done in the service menu. Unfortunately Samsung made some poor decisions with some of their settings, and with the early firmwares, all of which can be easily improved on (with a little care).

For a real life example of how good this LCD is take a look at this rather massive thread on AV forums (http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=403913) - there's a nice long line of people showing how dissatisfied they are with Sony and more so the Sharp and how pleased some were when they switched to the Samsung.
Dale says: 03/09/2007 - 02:44

Very good review I must say and subjective compared to some magazines which I could mention.

As you have calibrated each TV to close to the D65 standards is there any possibility of posting these settings (colour, temperature, rgb levels etc) for the Sony, Samsung and Sharp TV so fellow readers of this website can get the most out of their TV's?

Once again a very good review.
Shinken says: 03/09/2007 - 03:53

Great comparison review for 3 1080p TVs many people have been looking at. Personally I returned my SHARP due to bluring on football & got the Samsung.

Many of us know how to & have accessed our Samsung service menu but do not have access to a colorimeter to configure greyscale. We would really appreciate the settings you got after calibrating the greyscale.


Also what TVs are you planning to test next?
LJR says: 03/09/2007 - 04:43

Great review. Being a simple pedlar of tin I have to admit to not having a clue about all this ISF and other terminology. I guess from my perspective I am struggling to identify a clear winner for my needs. I am looking for a 40" LCD which will support 1080p (at least 1080i through component, as well as 1080p through HDMI) - this is because I want to connect both an Xbox 360 through component (or VGA) and a PS3. I won't use it for SD or terrestial TV viewing and so I can concentrate purely on the HD aspect. It seems that the Sony is about the best I can hope for although the 1080i through component restriction is annoying (albeit unsurprising given their interest in HDCP).

Anyway, excellent, objective, reviews here. Kudos!
Adrian Cope says: 03/09/2007 - 05:45

I enquired at samsung.co.uk about 1:1 pixel mapping over HDMI. Customer support said that the LE40F71BX now does 1:1 out of th box for any unit manufactured after the end of 2006, and that if I did get a unit with this issue, to contact them so they could sort it.
Alistair says: 03/09/2007 - 13:23

What does "1:1 mapping through its "Underscan" mode over HDMI" mean please. Its on the wall and having made yr adjustments from the Sharp test, was fantastic (sung yr praises on AVforums!!). Now about to hook up Pioneer VSX-AXA4Si amp receiver and dvd545 through 10m of HDMI, and feeling depressed before I even install them

Thanks
Vincent Teoh says: 03/09/2007 - 14:13

@Bryan: Thanks for your kind words.

@winnie: Yes we plan to compare the Sony KDL-40W2000 head-to-head to the Pioneer PDP427XD in the near future.

@Taomyn: Trust me – we spent days testing the individual "tweaks" in the service menu... even with "Gamma", "Dynamic Dimming" and "Dynamic CE" all turned off, some DNIe processing was still being applied therefore spoiling the picture. In any case, the fact that you have to venture into the service menu to disable these settings thereby theoretically voiding your warranty must surely count against this set.

For the record, after disabling all the post-processing we could find in the service menu, we went back into the user menu to calibrate greyscale using the "Colour Manager". Unfortunately the individual RGB cuts/gains range was limited (for example, there was still too much blue measured using our instruments even after we dialed "B Contrast" & "B Brightness" down to 0), so we had to access the service menu – again – for greater control.

That in itself presented another problem: the service menu was mapped to the "Dynamic" mode with "Cool1" colour temp selected and "Energy Saving" turned off (read: highest backlight) by default. This severely restricted the dynamic image range we could achieve, which – along with the inaccurate colour gamut – resulted in unsatisfactory picture quality for movies especially when compared to the Sharp and Sony.

If you can fully describe all the "tweaks" you did in the service menu that allowed you to achieve D65 with a smooth gamma curve around 2.2 to 2.8 and contrast ratio above 600:1, we're more than happy to be proven wrong.

As for the forum thread you mentioned, I'm sure there are many satisfied Samsung LE40F71BX owners out there... after all, it's perfect for HTPC and game console use. We are merely presenting our views as impartial, independent testers who have calibrated and seen all three 1080p LCD TVs, rather than biased owners wishing to justify their own expensive purchase, to whom "side-by-side comparison" means looking at the panels in Currys showroom in their uncalibrated form.

@Dale: I'm sorry that we're unable to give out service menu settings especially when it comes to cuts & gains – these are so powerful (and hazardous) that a measuring instrument is necessary to make any adjustments.

@Shinken: At the moment Colin's gearing himself up to review the Pioneer PDP427XD plasma. After that we will have used up all our funds (we buy the HDTVs ourselves) for this project, and will have to see if we can generate some revenue to continue.

@LJR: Thanks. Good luck with your buy.

@Adrian: The Samsung LE40F71B that we tested had a manufacturing date of January 2007 but did not do 1:1 over HDMI out-of-box. If anyone can confirm what Samsung told you that's extremely good news of course.

@Alistair: Once you hook up a 1080i or 1080p source via HDMI, flip open the bottom of your remote, press the "Wide Mode" button (3rd from the left), then select "Underscan" to enable 1:1 mapping.
Shaun Hollingworth says: 03/10/2007 - 07:09

Sharp's digital noise ?

What digital noise ?

I just got a Sharp LC46XD1E and looking at the Sky EPG FED DOWN THE UHF AERIAL from another room, but there IS NO DIGITIAL noise..... I have never seen a UHF picture so completely and utterly clean... Plain areas of highly saturated colour look almost like the set is being fed via RGB instead of UHF.
The sharp is great. Unlike the Toshiba 47WLT66 I tried which went straight back after one day.

The Sharp set has serial number 701 and I can find little to fault it at the price I paid... Unlike the overpriced year old 32 inch Sony Bravia we have in our bedroom...


More later.
Vincent Teoh says: 03/11/2007 - 10:11

@Shaun: I'm glad you're happy with your LC-46XD1E... the one that we tested in the shootout was the LC42XD1E.
Shaun Hollingworth says: 03/11/2007 - 14:06

@Vincent
There shouldn't be any differences electronics wise should there ? Only the screen and the backlight are different.
The rest of the circutry is the same..

So I think my comments should apply to the 42 incher as well. In any case, I looked very closely at one of these too, for some considerable time, in the dealer's demonstration room, with various signal sources, and did not find any noise on that either. It was the cleanest sets picture wise, I've seen in a very long time, so I still don't understand your comments. Perhaps you got a bad one ? Even my old 36" CRT based Toshiba 36ZP18 (now in use in our teenager's sitting room) is noisier and grainier...
WMurphy says: 03/11/2007 - 22:28

Many thanks for the clear and unbiased reporting on this site, long may it continue.
My question is I know these sets are designed for HD content but as you know the majority of viewing is on bbc itv c4 etc etc be it freeview or analog.
What do they perform like on standard def broadcasts? I have heard plasma/lcd Tv's with lower pixel counts work better with standard def ,is this true?
Roger says: 03/12/2007 - 07:18

What I would like to know which doesn't appear to be covered by your review is how do the various SD inputs perform on these sets in terms of the upscaling. How does the internal freeview signal compare (on the 2 sets that can handle freeview), what about an SD signal provided via scart from an external source (Sky, DVD or set-top)? Obviously these are future-proof sets but I'd only expect to be viewing HD content less than 10% of the time for the foreseeable future therefore the quality of SD content would be of much more importance to me.

Thanks in advance.
shaun hollingworth says: 03/12/2007 - 11:59


I'd like to hear opinions about SD display capabilities as well.

I can say the upscaling on the Sharp 46 inch I own (same electronics as the 42 inch) seems to be excellent.. Unlike some other LCDs I have seen, own, and tried out..

Of course the source material has to be reasonable, and that isn't always the case.
Scott Duncan says: 03/12/2007 - 14:33

Could you please post up the picture settings you used for the Sharp?
Petter says: 03/12/2007 - 17:58

I`m going to buy the Sharp 37 XD1E, will the picture settings you posted in the review of the 42 inch modell (questions/comments) give the same result with the 37 incher?
(without all the other variations in mind, e.g,source variatons,room lighting variatons).
Vincent Teoh says: 03/12/2007 - 22:39

@Shaun: Yes, it's possible that the difference we're seeing is down to individual set variation.

@WMurphy: In our experience, HDTVs with lower pixel count handle SD better because less scaling is required to fit the original source onto the panel. For example, the best SD performer we've tested so far is the Panasonic TH42PH9 plasma with a native resolution of 1024 x 768, closely followed by Philips 42PF9831D (1366 x 768).

@Roger: Yes, I mulled over whether to include a section on SD & HD handling but thought that it would just be a reiteration of the "Video Processing" section (scaling, deinterlacing, MPEG noise reduction, etc).

In our test, the Sony KDL-40W2000 handled SD content best due to its superior video processing; its internal digital tuner was slightly softer compared to an external decoder but this could be corrected with sensible edge sharpening. As for the Sharp & Samsung, it's best to outsource the scaling and deinterlacing to external devices... a HTPC mapped 1:1 worked best for us.

In other words, if you're intent on using SCART connection then based on our test the Sony will provide the best picture because it scales and deinterlaces better than both the Sharp and Samsung.

@Scott: The settings are posted over at the Sharp LC-42XD1E review comments.

@Petter: The result is of course not guaranteed, but there's no harm in trying.
David says: 03/13/2007 - 07:00

Nothing relevant to the topic but i'v fixed the sites problems with the page displaying half way down the page. If you would like source files email me. Delete this message by all means. thank.s
Martin says: 03/16/2007 - 07:19

Hi I must say this is the best review site I have found on the web. Can you find out any info on the new range of samsung lcd tv's. I have read the reviews and the issues seem to have been addressed in the new LE40M87BD. For example freeview tuner hdmi 1.3 3 hdmi sockets and better sound as I wish to use this with the new sony PS3 I think this will be the perfect set. I must say that samsung's help desk is of no help what so ever !!!!!
Phil George says: 03/18/2007 - 07:20

hi there, I am looking to buy a flat screen TV and been holding back because I am not impressed with the way all seem to really struggle on the “fast camera pan” or "motion Blur". I know Plasma's are supposed to be better for this, but still do it. I did hope the fall in pixel response times on LCD TV’s would improve things, but in my opinion it hasn’t by much. I would really prefer to have an LCD over Plasma screen, and have been encouraged by all the news on the web about LCD screens coming out at 100 Hz. But as yet I can’t find much more than news, they say screens will be on sale this April, but no-one is really singing about them yet.

As I have been saving for some time now, I have a budget at a stretch of £2500, and I’m really getting itchy feet. Should I bite the bullet and buy the best LCD I can buy, or should I wait a little longer for this new technology.
Cheers, Phil

Jani says: 03/21/2007 - 07:57

Hi!

Is it possible to publish the results of your calibration? I mean what were your settings for Sony on the test?
Colin Tang says: 03/24/2007 - 08:31

@Jani
The calibration is over at the picture quality page.
Jani says: 03/27/2007 - 01:45

Hi Colin,

I actually though about the precise picture settings for Sony. So that I can try the same settings at home also (e.g. brightness, contrast, gamma, sharpness, ...) or at store when comparing Sony to other screens.
James says: 04/02/2007 - 10:54

You mention that "The Sharp LC42XD1E could only obtain 1:1 mapping through its "Underscan" mode over HDMI" can you explain what this means & what impact it has on the viewing experience.


Ryan Barrett says: 04/07/2007 - 10:53

From the Sharp marketing booklet I've got in front of me, the LC46XD1E has more features - picture in picture - and different contrast ratios.

So maybe the electronics are different?
António Oliveira says: 04/12/2007 - 10:48

I want too ask, if the SONY KDL-46 W 2000 is so good as the model SONY KDL-40 W2000 Bravia?
and beetwen this two SONY and the SAMSUNG LE40M87BD, who is the best??

thanks...
Ozyaman C says: 04/12/2007 - 13:20

In brielfy that Sharp beat the other rivals as well!
But as I mean 46"(Sharp's own panel)!
42" panel thru CMO's!
Sharp supply more series/models to the market as well as
USA market.
Yeah Sharp goes on first degree+
Sony runner-up!sory for F-Samsung!
Bye+