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2016 Vizio SmartCast P-Series

     Updated May 1, 2016: HDMI 2.0a + 10-bit panel

Long live the Vizio P-Series! Vizio has announced an update to the 2014 P-Series televisions that brought affordable full array local dimming (FALD) backlight technology that improves picture contrast by dynamically controlling light output across individual zones based on video content. The new 2016 Vizio SmartCast P-Series brings many visual improvements including ultra high-definition (UHD) resolution, high dynamic range (HDR), and expanded color support via Dolby Vision

The new SmartCast TVs include a P-Series Tablet Remote with its 6-inch 1080p screen that promises to make finding the content you want to watch not only easier but less interruptive to the viewing experience. The Android tablet uses its Wi-Fi (over LAN) link to the TV for control, and it can fall back to a direct Bluetooth connection if necessary.

Best 2016 TVs + Tech

Specs for the new SmartCast P-Series TVs

  • 3840x2160 pixel resolution
  • Up to 128 zones of active dimming
  • 600-nits peak light output (full field)
    • 150,000:1 contrast ratio (claimed)
  • VA-panel type (except for 55-inch)
  • 120Hz refresh rate (except for 50-inch)
  • 10-bit panel w/10-bit+ processing
  • 96% DCI-P3 color space coverage
  • Google Cast enabled
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1 LE
  • 5 HDMI
    • 4 HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 (HDMI 2.0a soon)
    • 1 HDMI 1.4 (4K60 4:2:0)

One item of note missing from the new P-Series compared to most HD/UHD TVs is an ATSC tuner for over-the-air (OTA) digital reception. The single tuner hardware in most TVs is effectively useless without DVR functionality, so the lack of a OTA tuner in this "home theater display" won't be a deal-breaker for most people.

Screen sizes and prices for the new Vizio SmartCast P-Series UHD TVs

  • 50-inches (P50-C1): $1000
         60Hz/VA-type/126-zones FALD
  • 55-inches (P55-C1): $1300
         120Hz/IPS-type/126-zones FALD
  • 65-inches (P65-C1): $2000
         120Hz/VA-type/128-zones FALD
  • 75-inches (P75-C1): $3800
         120Hz/VA-type/128-zones FALD

Panel type
The Vizio P-Series use VA-type LCD panels for improved contrast with poorer off-axis viewing compared to IPS-type panels. The exception in the P-Series is the 55-inch model that utilizes an IPS-type panel. Also, the P-Series TVs have an LCD refresh rate of 120Hz except for the 50-inch version that operates at 60Hz.

Wide color gamut (WCG)
The 2016 Vizio P-Series achieves its claimed 96% of DCI-P3 color gamut coverage through the use of phosphor-enhanced LEDs - typically blue LEDs coated with green/red (yellow) phosphor material. While this approach is different than the 65-inch R-Series that uses a quantum dot impregnated film for even greater color coverage, it is similar to the 120-inch R-Series' LED technology.

Unfinished business
The P-Series is an incomplete 2016 UHD TV until it receives an update that adds HDMI 2.0a - the update is expected by the end of June. Until then, P-Series owners only have VUDU for experiencing HDR/WCG content in the Dolby Vision format. There is no UHD Blu-ray player support without HDMI 2.0a, and it seems that it goes hand in hand with the P-Series' lack of HDR10 support. Given the connected nature of the P-Series TVs, these issues are expected to be addressed.

Recommendation
My recommendation is to stick with the 65-inch and 75-inch models for the best image quality. The 50-inch model is a 60Hz display and the 55-inch's IPS panel make them the oddballs in Vizio's P-Series lineup.

The new Vizio SmartCast P-Series TVs are available for order on the Vizio website.

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     This article will be updated as new information is made available

The Best 2016 TVs

There are still plenty of terrific deals on 2015 TVs and home theater gear, and the 2016 models have started appearing in stores. This year's best TVs deliver an improved 4K ultra high-definition viewing experience that combines a greater range of detail and color reproduction that is far more impactful on the viewing experience than simply having more pixels.

Here is what you can expect from the manufacturers' best efforts for 2016

LG Electronics UHD LCD TVs

LG Electronics UHD OLED TVs

Samsung SUHD LCD TVs

Sharp Electronics

Sony XBR D-Series TVs

Vizio SmartCast P-Series TVs

Technology topics

Quantum dot color

4K UHD format and content


Robert's Favorite Home Theater Gear

Updated: Great TV Deals

Best 2016 LCDs: Sony

Updated March 19, 2016: pricing and specs

Sony has a mature and compelling 4K ecosystem. The company has developed and delivered everything from professional capture equipment with some of the best cameras and edit gear, consumer and commercial content distribution, and great TVs and projectors. For 2016, Sony's best TVs are ready to present today's best sources of ultra-high definition (UHD) entertainment with full fidelity while standing ready for the soon-to-be flood of high dynamic range (HDR) and wide color gamut (WCG) content.

Sony's 2016 premium TV lineup shares some common tech traits including:

  • Android TV operating system (OS)
  • Google Cast support
  • Voice Search/Voice Command
  • HDR compatibly
  • Home automation control via Harmony Hub

Owners regularly bemoaned the instability of Sony's implementation of Android TV on its 2015 televisions, but I do appreciate its look and feel compared to previous user interface (UI) designs. Google Cast makes it simple to share and display content from a mobile device, Mac/PC, or Chromebook on the big screen.

Best 2016 TVs + Tech

2016 XBR TVs
The Sony XBR-X930D Series and XBR-X940D TV feature ultra-thin bezel designs and clean cable management options - they want to make sure it looks good on its stand or hung on a wall. The X930D TVs include screen sizes of 55-inches and 65-inches while the X940D is only available in a 75-inch size. These TVs can accept and process HDR video signals with increased brightness, contrast, and color saturation compared to any previous Sony television. One differentiator between the X930D TVs and the X940D is in the implementation of the Slim Backlight Drive system - the X930Ds utilizes an edge-lit LED backlight with dual light guide plates to provide greater light output and granularity of its local dimming capabilities, and the X940D features full array local dimming. The X940D's full array backlight should provide improved contrast and brightness compared to the X930D TVs, and the 940's full array should also provide better off-axis contrast performance as well.

XBR-X850D Series
The Sony XBR-X850D features more screen size options (55-inches, 65-inches, 75-inches, and 85-inches), and it should prove to be a good balance of price and capabilities for an HDR-compatible UHD TV. The X850D TVs are edge-lit without local dimming capabilities, so I'm tempering my off-axis viewing expectations regarding brightness and picture contrast. However, with Android TV also powering the X850D, it may become a popular option for budget-minded videophiles shopping for a smart TV.

 

Robert's Favorite Home Theater Gear

Updated: Great TV Deals

     This article will be updated as new information becomes available

Best 2016 LCDs: Samsung

Updated March 31, 2016: availability and 3D

Samsung introduced its premium SUHD line of televisions in 2015 that improved the image quality of previous designs with technology to enhance color, increase brightness, and to provide a better-optimized interface for a screen with more than 8-million pixels. Today, Samsung Electronics introduces a flagship TV and Blu-ray player that seek to deliver a best-in-class viewing experience for the maturing ultra-high definition (UHD) video format.

The Flagship - KS9500 Series

The Samsung KS9500 SUHD TV series is the successor to the simply stunning JS9500 that continues to wow our eyes. The design of the KS9500 (pictured above) retains the elegant Y-shaped matte-finished metal base stand, but the screen perched upon it now features a unique "bezel-less curved design" that keeps a viewer's attention firmly on those new pixels. While the top and sides of the KS9500's frame are indeed nearly imperceptible when viewed from the front, the bottom edge is just wide enough to center a Samsung badge.

Interesting specs for the KS9500 include:

  • 10-bit VA-type LCD
  • Sizes: 55-inches65-inches
  • 1000-nit minimum (HDR playback)
  • Quantum dot color
  • Ultra Black anti-reflection tech
  • 4200mm radius screen curve (55-inch+)
  • HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2

One item conspicuously missing from Samsung's 2016 premium TVs is support for viewing 3D content - the general lack of popularity of this feature and cost savings are the most likely reasons for its abandonment.

The KS9500's enhanced 10-bit panel is aiming for a "1000-nit minimum" of light output - a significant increase compared to Samsung's 2015 edge-lit TVs. This performance is achieved through improved efficiency of the blue LEDs in its backlight unit (BLU) as well as the ability for that light to more easily penetrate the color-enhancing quantum dot-impregnated film. For more information about quantum dot technology, please see this helpful article. These are impressive brightness claims that a Samsung representative said were obtained when displaying a 10% window - I was pressed to measure ~900-nits on the 2015 JS9500 when displaying a smaller, less challenging 2% window.

Best 2016 TVs + Tech

The Ultra Black technology of the KS9500 is a "moth's eye" layer of film that features nano-scale patterns made of up structures smaller than the wavelength of visible light. This surface structure mimics the characteristics of a moth's eye and enables the screen surface to prevent strong sources of external light from creating harsh reflections. Sharp Electronics has made impressive demonstrations of moth's eye tech since at least 2012, and anything that can help an LCD minimize glare and reflection will improve perceived picture quality and display efficiency.

Curved screen TV designs are about as polarizing of a home theater topic as I've encountered in recent years. Samsung will continue to utilize curved LCDs for its premium offerings. However, it is slightly reducing the radius of the curve for screen sizes 55-inches and larger. The KS9500 Series is available in screen sizes of 55-inches and 65-inches.

2016 Vizio SmartCast P-Series TVs

Review: Samsung's Best 2015 TV

Under the hood, Samsung's TIZEN operating system (OS) has received some upgrades and a new look.

Paired with a new Samsung Smart Control remote that increases the robustness of its universal control features and offers a simplified setup through connected device detection, the 2016 Smart Hub requires less digging to get at frequently viewed content and apps. Other features of the refreshed interface include:

  • PlayStation Now - quality gaming without the console
  • EXTRA Service - additional content information
  • Smart View - upgraded Android/iOS sharing app
  • NeuLion-enabled - live UHD sports streaming
  • IoT (Internet of Things) hub - connect/control 200+ devices

I appreciated seeing some 2014 and 2015 Samsung UHD TVs receive the PlayStation Now update as it finally delivers a quality gaming experience without the need for console hardware - just add a controller. And live UHD sports streaming via NeuLion?!? I'll take some of that!

Review: A Great Bluetooth Speaker

UHD Blu-ray Arrives

The era of the Ultra HD Blu-ray Player has arrived. The Samsung UBD-K8500 is an ideal match for a TV like the company's KS9500. The K8500 is HDR compatible and content will be encoded to take advantage of the gigantic Rec.2020 color space (that a TV will conform to its hardware capabilities.) A prototype unit I previewed featured dual HDMI ports - the additional port for audio-only output to a compatible AV receiver. Visually-speaking, the HDR demo video previewed was a scene from A Million Ways to Die in the West, and the combination of a staggeringly high bitrate, HDR visuals, and wide color gamut were pure eye candy. Twentieth Century Fox, Sony Pictures, and Warner Brothers have all announced plans to release dozens of Ultra HD Blu-ray titles in 2016. The UBD-K8500 is available now.

Robert's Favorite Home Theater Gear

Updated: Great TV Deals

     This article will be updated as new information becomes available

Best 2016 OLEDs: LG Electronics

Updated August 9, 2016: images, specs, and availability

LG is in a unique position with its OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display technology - OLED produces epic picture contrast and color saturation in a design that can be a scant few millimeters thin. Critically, LG is the only company currently shipping OLED TVs to consumers - Panasonic will join the OLED ranks later in 2016 starting with European customers.

For 2016, LG brings a new generation of 4K OLED TVs under its Signature line of premium products. LG's 2016 4K OLED TVs and its new LG SUPER UHD LCDs support all current formats of high dynamic range (HDR) video including HDR10 and Dolby Vision. The 2016 4K OLEDs have also received "Ultra HD Premium" certification under the requirements of the UHD Alliance (UHDA) that specify minimum brightness and black levels, input capabilities, and HDR format support - this certification will be the label to look for when shopping for the most future-proof 2016 TVs. The only 1080p OLED model in LG's 2016 lineup will be the EG9100 carried over from 2015.

Best 2016 TVs + Tech

Best 2016 LCDs: LG Electronics

Additional features common to all 2016 LG 4K OLED TVs:

  • 10-bit panel
  • 10-bit processing
  • RGBW sub-pixel structure
  • BT.2020 gamut support
  • 14% wider gamut than 2015 OLED
  • Forward-firing speakers (G6/E6)
  • Crystal back cover (G6/E6)
  • 2.57mm thin
  • webOS 3.0

Signature OLED

The LG G6 OLED TV (pictured above) is the company's flagship TV for 2016. It's difficult to express in words how important black level is for impressive video reproduction, and the ability for LG's new OLEDs to achieve a nearly imperceptible measurement of 0.0008-nits is clearly appreciated when viewing in dimly lit environments where the eye is most sensitive to light. OLED's superb black level also has the added benefit of making colors appear more richly saturated - the Helmholtz-Kohlrausch effect.

All of LG's 2016 OLED TVs continue to feature a RGBW (RGB+white) subpixel structure comprised of white OLED material topped with a color filter. The use of a white-only OLED material simplifies manufacturing (compared to discrete RGB OLED pixels) while enabling increased brightness. The G6 will be available in screen sizes of 65-inches and 77-inches. LG failed to deliver a 77-inch OLED in 2015, so the G6 will likely be the first to break the 65-inch retail barrier.

One clever design touch with the G6's harman/kardon-enhanced AV base is the ability to fold back and out of the way for a wall mount installation. With the base in its standard position for table top use, the speakers are front-firing for improved audio performance. The back cover of the G6 and E6 TVs is a glass sheet that the ultra thin OLED panels are attached to. This durable "crystal" back can be further enhanced with static artwork as was demonstrated (below), however, LG provided no time frame for when or if this adornment would be made available to potential owners.

Review: LG Portable LED Projector

Signature E6
LG's new E6 OLED TV (pictured below) brings similar harman/kardon audio enhancements and translucent glass back cover as the G6. Screen size options with the E6 series include 55-inches and 65-inches. Like the G6 series, the E6 is also a flat screen design.

Sources of HDR UHD content continue to grow, and LG highlighted content from YouTube, Amazon, and over-the-air via ATSC 3.0 technology. Below is a short clip of the new E6 series 4K OLED TV in action - pardon the funky background music, but I felt it sounded better than the loud mess of a crowded show floor.

Curved OLED
Of course, there has to be a curved 4K OLED option in LG's 2016 lineup, and the LG C6 OLED TV series is it. Also available in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes, the C6's "blade slim" curved design will appeal to fans of the curved shape, and I find curved TVs are better at minimizing distracting room light reflections.

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Flat OLED

If you are looking for the best flat screen OLED deal in LG's 2016 lineup, then the LG B6 OLED TV is for you. Available in 55-inch and 65-inch screen sizes, this "blade slim" flat design isn't scheduled to appear until later this year, and it should prove to be a very popular option going into the Summer season. Given the minor grumbling about the above-average video lag with LG's 2015 OLED TVs (~50ms), it will be interesting to see if the new designs can cut that in half or more.

OLED Signage
LG's display division also demonstrated a variety of advanced OLED designs including prototypes with plastic substrates that enabled flexible display designs that could be (gently) rolled up. Dual-sided (and very slim) OLED displays were also demonstrated, and convex/concave signage demonstrations using several OLED panels tiled together proved very eye-pleasing (below).

Robert's Favorite Home Theater Gear

Updated: Great TV Deals

     This article will be updated as new information becomes available