As the year comes to pass, it’s time for us to once again reflect on developments in the television industry over the past 12 months, as well as reveal what our readers thought were the best TVs within this period, and anoint our 2013 TV of the year.
Perhaps the biggest news (to us anyway) was Panasonic announcing its exit from the plasma display panel (PDP) market, which sent shockwaves through the videophile community. That the Japanese manufacturer decided to quit after launching its best plasma TV ever – namely the Viera ZT60/ZT65 series – earlier in the year made the announcement all the more difficult to swallow.
Ironically, a TV technology which came into its own in 2013 was probably the one that drove the final nail into Panasonic plasma’s coffin – we’re of course referring to 4K ultra high-definition (UHD). Not only did TV makers start introducing sensibly-sized models (in 2012 the only ones you could buy were 84-inchers) this year, the price premium commanded by 4K Ultra HD televisions over flagship 1080p HDTVs also shrank fairly rapidly. We expect 4K to be the dominant theme again in 2014, more so if there are concrete developments to bring more, nay, ANY native UHD content to the public when the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicks off in Las Vegas next week.
2013 also saw the first large-screen OLED TVs trickle into stores (and into our test room), having suffered repeated launch delays owing to low production yields. And they were truly worth the wait, fulfilling their early promise to deliver the sort of true 0 cd/m2 blacks that eclipses even the best-performing PDPs.
With the curtain falling on 2013 even as we type, it’s time to choose the best-performing products we’ve reviewed this year. In no particular order…
4K TV Of The Year
4K Ultra HD was such a prominent theme throughout the year 2013 that we felt it deserved its own category. And Panasonic’s TX-L65WT600 stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to both specifications and performance, at least until new UHD models are announced when CES 2014 rolls around next week.
At this time of writing, no other 4K UHD television can claim to feature the highest level of HDMI 2.0 support (18Gb/s bandwidth with 12-bit 4K@60Hz frame rate) and full 4:4:4 chroma reproduction. Panasonic even managed to equip the Viera WT600 with a VA-type LCD panel, which delivers much deeper blacks than the IPS LCDs the company’s been using over the years. Add in low input lag (by 4KTV standards), squeaky clean video processing, and outstanding calibratability, and it’s hardly surprising that the TX-L65WT600B takes home our inaugural “4KTV Of The Year” award.
Projector Of The Year
There’s ever only going to be one winner here, right from the moment it was unleashed at the IFA 2013 consumer electronics trade show in Berlin back in September. We’re of course talking about the Sony VPL-VW500ES which offers native 4K resolution and higher frame rate (50fps/60fps) support at a scarcely believable price point of under £10,000.
The Sony VW500′s picture quality impressed us when we tested the 4K projector last month – in some ways it’s actually better than the outgoing VPL-VW1000ES which costs twice as much. At this price, we think the VPLVW500ES will continue to set the benchmark for other 4K projectors – if any – launched in 2014, so very well done to Sony’s engineers!
TV Of The Year
We sent out a web-based questionnaire to 5,692 HDTVTest newsletter subscribers two weeks ago, asking them to vote for what they thought was the best TV this year. Here’s the result:
Panasonic’s ZT60/ZT65, the best – and last – plasma TV the Japanese manufacturer will ever produce, topped the poll, driving home how much the company’s plasmas will be missed when sales officially end on the 31st of March next year. The Viera VT60/VT65 PDP series came in a close second – an indication of how similar its picture performance is to the range-topping ZT.
But in our book, the display that delivered the best picture in 2013 is the one which came in third in the survey, namely Samsung’s KE55S9C curved OLED TV. Perhaps it’s the screen’s curvature, or the expensive price, or the fact that it’s not widely exhibited that prevented the Samsung S9C from getting more votes, but the pop and vibrancy generated by the set’s true 0 cd/m2 blacks puts its image quality even beyond the best plasmas like the Panasonic ZT and the legendary Pioneer Kuros.
Of course, there’s another OLED television on the market that’s capable of providing such a mesmerising black-level response, and that’s the 55EA980W from LG Electronics. But as we previously mentioned in our review of LG’s OLED offering, we think the Samsung just shades it with its full-res active 3D, provision of black frame insertion (BFI), and cleaner true RGB subpixels, making the KE55S9C our 2013 “TV Of The Year“.