For the second year in a row, Sony’s flagship Master Series OLED TV has won the title of “King of TV” from the Value Electronics TV Shootout evaluation event, taking three out of four performance categories and tying with LG’s 65C9P OLED TV for the fourth category — “best streaming TV.”

After the voting from a panel of “expert judges” was tabulate, the Sony 65A9G narrowly beat out LG’s 65C9P OLED and two 4K full-array LED-LCD TVs to earn the honor.

The 15th Annual Value Electronics TV Shootout took place this year at the CE Week consumer electronics show in New York City’s Javitz Center, Wednesday. It pitted four flagship 4K Ultra HDTV models from three leading high-end flat-panel TV brands — Sony, LG and Samsung. In the end, the performance of each television and the voting for the best display was closer than ever, with no model that obviously appeared to standout or fail at first glance.

The field of competing flagship 4K Ultra HD televisions included:

Sony’s 2018 Master Series full-array LED-LCD TV with local dimming, the 65Q9F (Sony’s 2019 flagship Master Series LCD model this year is an 8K display that was not included in the shootout).

Samsung’s 2019 flagship 4K QLED LED-LCD TV with local dimming the 65Q90R.

Sony’s 2019 flagship Master Series 4K OLED TV — the 65A9G

LG 2019 65C9P 4K OLED, which has the same picture performance capabilities as the company’s higher tier 2019 4K OLED models due later in the year.

Speaking as a member of the voting judges’ panel, evaluating the differences in various performance qualities was as difficult as it’s ever been this year. In fact, many of the differences were the result of decisions made by each television maker in how to set things like peak luminance, tone mapping clipping limits and so forth.

In the end, consumer preference is going to be as important as ever in a buying decision this year. These are all excellent displays, and no one will go wrong selecting any one of them.

Value Electronics, which hosts the event every year, is a leading independent specialty AV electronics retailer located in Scarsdale, NY. The store’s proprietors, Robert and Wendy Zohn, have been staging these events every year to give customers and interested parties an opportunity to see what is openly available as the state of the art in home television display technology.

The criteria used to judge performance included the following four viewing parameters:

  • Best SDR Day Mode: (won by the Sony 65A9G OLED TV)
  • Best SDR Reference Mode: (won by the Sony 65A9G OLED TV)
  • Best HDR TV: (won by the Sony 65A9G OLED TV)
  • Best Streaming TV: (tie between the Sony 65A9G OLED TV and LG 65C9P OLED TV)

The televisions were setup and professionally calibrated by neutral professional Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) calibrators Kevin Miller and John Reformato, with oversight and consultation from ISF founder Joel Silver, who established the criteria used for the judging.

The panel of expert judges who voted included professional video colorists, finishers, video scientists and TV reviewers. (Full discolsure, we were represented among the voting reviewers.)

The sets were connected using state-of-the-art switching, distribution, HDMI cables, and test equipment from AVPro MediaStore and Metra Home Theater. Silver and Miller displayed test patterns and 4K content synchronized across the four screens. Content was played via Panasonic Ultra HD Blu-ray players, a Kaleidescape 4K media server and streaming media through each television’s onboard streaming platforms.

Among the demonstration material was an assortment of new 4K/HDR test patterns from the forthcoming new 4K Ultra HD calibration disc from Spears & Munsil. Silver and Miller also selected a range of video samples from popular movies and programs to best measure criteria performance.

Judges were asked to compare picture quality in four key areas: dynamic range, color saturation, color accuracy, and motion resolution.

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The competing televisions consisted of four 65-inch models including two 4K Ultra HD OLED TVs and two 4K OLED models, positioned side-by-side. In the middle was placed a Sony BVM-X300 4K OLED monitor that is widely used for studio post production and grading. This provide the reference to determine how each competing television presented as closely as possible the actual creative intent of the content producers.

Due to the physical limitations of the room, two televisions, one on each end of the row — the Sony 65Z9F 4K LED-LCD TV and the LG 65C9PUA, were slightly tilted in at an angle toward the row of seated judges. This helped to improve the picture quality performance of the LED-LCD TV for judges seated toward the middle of the row.

The LG OLED TV, which doesn’t have the same viewing-angle limitations as the LED LCD TVs, looked good from most angles. However, it should be noted that the Samsung 65Q90R 4K Ultra HD LED-LCD TV, which has significantly improved off-angle viewing capabilities this year, was positioned off-axis to most of the seated judges and did suffer a slight dropoff in contrast and color performance from that viewing position. The Sony 65A9F LED-LCD would have also suffered if lined up linearly with the rest of the row.

However, all of the judges were strongly encouraged by the presenters to get up and look at the televisions with a direct center-screen line of sight to get a fair perspective of each display’s abilities and limitations. The judges were also told to use the reference picture on the BVM-X300 as the standard by which to compare how each television matched the originating source display.

The tabulated scoring follows below:

Category Winners

CategoriesWinning Models
Best SDR Day ModeSony A9G OLED TV
Best SDR Reference ModeSony A9G OLED TV
Best Streaming TVTie (Sony A9G & LG C9 OLED TVs)

SDR Day Mode

ModelDynamic RangeColor SaturationColor AccuracyMotion Resolution
Sony Z9F LCD9.
Samsung Q90R LCD7.887.387.138.13
Sony A9G OLED7.638.638.889.38
LG C9 OLED8.438.388.59.13

SDR Reference

ModelDynamic RangeColor SaturationColor AccuracyMotion Resolution
Sony Z9F LCD7.888.257.889
Samsung Q90R LCD7.
Sony A9G OLED9.389.259.389.5
LG C9 OLED8.888.888.59.25

HDR Reference

ModelDynamic RangeColor SaturationColor AccuracyMotion Resolution
Sony Z9F LCD7.87.888.139.25
Samsung Q90R LCD7.758.257.638
Sony A9G OLED8.888.758.759.5
LG C98.388.58.59.25


ModelDynamic RangeColor SaturationColor AccuracyMotion Resolution
Sony Z9F LCD7.257.638.137.38
Samsung Q90R LCD7.387.7587.25
Sony A9G OLED8.138.388.887.88
LG C98.138.258.387.88

Brief Observations

The Shootout strives to find a television that reproduces the look the artists intended as closely as possible. This necessitates using the Sony OLED production monitor as a reference source. The BVM-X300 is a very expensive peak 1,000 nit self-emissive OLED display with a 30-inch screen. It produces very bright specular highlights with near perfect black levels. It does not tone map, although all of the televisions do. None of the competing models was able to produce the contrast, color and brightness effects exactly like the monitor. But all are getting closer and closer ever year.

It’s our observation that self-emissive displays like the two 4K OLEDs do a better job replicating deeper tones which appear to enhance color saturation, high dynamic range and contrast.

It seems natural that in several aspects the OLED TVs have a decided advantage over the LED-LCD TVs when evaluating image quality, perceptually. We thought the LG 65C9P was very impressive this year, and offered a noticeably brighter overall image than the winning Sony 65A9G. The television continues to show a slight green shift in some color shading, but LG was able to significantly improve the look of flesh tones this year to more accurate represent the look of the production monitor.

In evaluating day-mode SDR, the Sony 65Z9F was an outstanding performer for dynamic range, and presented fine shadow detail without crushing, but it didn’t quite match up as well as the OLEDs in color accuracy and had some issues with blooming that led to some visible bleed through into letter box borders, as we observed last year. But due to the brightness performance, this should be a fine television for viewing in sunlit rooms or when watching television with bright room lights left on.

The Samsung 65Q90R had some of the same limitations, due to the backlit LED light source that’s required, but this set handled black levels better. The viewing angle was much better this year, better than any LCD TV we’ve seen to date, and the anti-screen glare filter and muted mat screen surface was exceptional and made for an image that looked like a projection screen.

The two 4K Ultra HD LED LCD TVs were extremely impressive this year. These presented the brightest images, which is excellent for specular highlights, color accuracy and color volume. However, the technology in both models continues to have issues with blooming and haloing (less so in the Samsung) as seen in bright white objects on black backgrounds. Samsung has also made a decision to have the Q90R perform slightly brighter than the electro optical transfer function (EOTF) curve. (Kevin Miller changed this in the contrast settings to follow the EOTF curve exactly). Samsung made a decision to handle EOTF in this way, presumably to give more punch to brightness in some areas, but this also contributes to a somewhat grayer blacks overall in HDR and SDR.

All of the sets did an excellent job of presenting streaming content, with images that are getting harder and harder to tell apart from 4K disc based material or downloads.

By Greg Tarr

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