Sony 65A9F Master Series 4K OLED Wins 2018 ‘TV Shoot Out’
Sony’s new Master Series 65A9F 4K Ultra HD OLED TV narrowly beat out a field of the four top-performing 4K flat-panel televisions for 2018 in voting by a panel of “expert” judges to win the annual “TV Shoot Out” presented by Scarsdale, N.Y. high-end electronics retailer Value Electronics Sunday.
The $4,499.99 Sony 65A9F took the top honor in the event by beating out the $3,499.99 LG 65E8 4K OLED TV (second), the $3,499.99 Sony Master Series 65Z9F (third) full-array 4K LED-LCD TV and the $2,999.99 (on limited-time promotion) Samsung 65Q9FN full-array 4K QLED LED LCD (fourth).
The victory was the first time a Sony television has won the TV Shoot Out competition, and it did it by unseating LG, the only current supplier of the world’s large-format OLED display panels. LG 4K OLED televisions had won the Shoot Out for the past three consecutive years.
Still to follow is the tabulation of voting from the rest of the audience. Those results will be posted as they become available.
“This is the first time in 14 years that Sony has won the TV Shoot Out and it was the professional voters that made that decision. It was very close. So close in fact that it came down to one point in one category and a tie in another,” said Robert Zohn, Value Electronics proprietor and host of the TV Shootout event.
Zohn was referring to scoring tabulated for three viewing categories using up to five different picture quality characteristics important in each category.
The competition was set up by some of the industry’s leading experts on television calibration including Tyler Pruitt (Portrait Display’s SpectraCal, CalMan software), Matt Murray (president of AVPro, professional testing equipment distributor), Dave Abrams (Hollywood “calibrator to the stars”), and John Reformato, electrical engineer and ISF calibrator, along with the family and staff of Value Electronics.
The televisions were presented behind a pair of Sony BMV-X300 30-inch 4K/HDR RGB OLED mastering monitors, which are used for color and brightness grading by most studios and content producers today.
The task of the judges and participating audience members voting in the overall competition was to compare the images on the monitors against the competing televisions to determine how well each TV measured up to the look of the original source material. Not considered were: price, brand, technology type, features, picture performance measurement metrics, risk of image retention, sound, HDR profile type, or design styling.
Basically, it came down to an eyeball judgment of how well the pictures compared to the picture on the $45,000 each X300 4K OLED production monitor. True, the monitor used to determine the contest standard was made by Sony, but it uses a different OLED panel technology and smaller screen size than Sony’s consumer OLED televisions. Because of its wide use in Hollywood by directors, cinematographers and colorists around the world, the Sony BMV-X300 monitor is used by most TV manufacturers for reference in designing top-performing consumer 4K/HDR video displays to present the original intent of the content creators.
The nine-member “expert” judges panel consisted of some of the people who helped calibrate models used in the contest and who selected the criteria along with expert calibrators, display technology developers, and members of the consumer electronics media reviewers’ community, including one from this publication (full disclosure).
As determined by the experts who set up the event, the competition was divided into three viewing categories: Best Living Room TV (SDR Day Mode/Video Processing, with room lighting), Best Home Theater TV (SDR Reference Mode, dark room viewing), and Best HDR TV (HDR Reference Mode, dark room viewing).
Each viewing mode category was then diced up into different picture quality characteristics that are important for the conditions. Pruitt from SpectraCal selected many of the clips used to illustrate the conditions of the criteria the judges were to consider. With the exception of Best Living Room TV, where SDR motion and video processing were weighed, most of the categories used freeze-frame static images. The Best Living Room TV category was also conducted with ambient light turned on in the room, as well as some afternoon twilight coming in through the small store’s front window. Judging for the remaining two categories was conducted in an almost totally dark room.
Judges were told to give each criteria box a score of 1 to 10, and these were totaled up to arrive at the results.
To avert the automatic dimming adjustment made by the OLED models (this is used to prevent motion retention) the sets were periodically turned off and back on to reset brightness levels.
The remarkable result of this year’s voting was how close each model was in delivering exceptional picture quality. In each case, consumers have some very tough decisions to make in purchasing their next TV. None of these models is by any means a poor performer. They are the top of the class among this year’s TVs.
No model was perfect, and each had its own strengths. The OLED models offered the widest viewing angles, but the two LED-LCD TVs were judged based on direct center viewing, except in the Best Living Room TV category where off-axis viewing was a specified criteria for judging. (See the tabulation scoring below to determine how the judges ruled on that and other categories).
In fact, Samsung’s 65Q9FN full-array QLED television, which finished fourth in overall voting for the contest, ranks near the top of the class of 2018 televisions reviewed so far by HD Guru, primarily for its extremely bright HDR pictures, wide color gamut, highly accurate colors and high color volume.
All competing products came out of Value Electronic’s inventory.
Zohn pointed out that other “second tier” and less well-known brands with capable products did not have televisions in the competition because they are typically not sold through the high-end AV specialty retail channel that Value Electronics has access to, and as Zohn honestly pointed out, he didn’t feel the need to give any help to big box stores, warehouse clubs, etc, that might have exclusive or near exclusive deals to certain brands or models.
As for the audience, manufacturers’ representatives were present on site during the judging from Sony (see the above picture taken immediately after the scoring was announced) and LG. The competing manufacturers’ representatives did not make any presentations before the judging, and they had no direct influence over the voting or the outcome.
The judges’ ballots were submitted anonymously.
Some observations from the event: the Sony 65X9F LED LCD TV was a solid performer but it presented some blooming, particularly in the bleeding of light into the letterbox border of Blu-ray-based test clips. The LG 65E8 4K OLED showed very noticeable green color shift compared to the monitors, particularly on flesh tones. Both the Sony 65X9F and the 65Z9F came closest to matching the slightly pinkish skin tones seen on the BMV-X300.
The Samsung 65Q9FN was presented at a slight angle to the seated viewers, relative to the other four sets. At some seating positions this presented a better picture for off-axis viewing than others. However, expert judges and audience members were all told to walk up to each model to get a close look at the pictures and the reference monitors from dead center.
Neither LCD model had very bright lighting directly overhead. We’ve observed that overhead light does help contrast and color reproduction on the Samsung and we presume the same would apply to Sony 65Z9F. However, both are known to perform well in dark theater room conditions this year.
Below are the lists of cumulative ratings for each category and subcategory by the “expert” panel of judges. Results from the ratings by the general audience will follow in an update. Stay tuned.
By Greg Tarr
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