We Pick 2015’s Top TVs For The Holidays
We recently attempted to make the process of selecting a 4K Ultra HDTV easier by sorting 2015 television models into categories determined by picture quality capabilities, features and performance. Now, with just a few weeks left in the holiday shopping season, we will try to make the selection even easier, by giving you our top picks in each area.
Listed below are some of the TV models from each bracket that we felt had the best features, delivered the best pictures and sound and, importantly, offer you the best build quality in the hope that you won’t be shopping for a replacement unit anytime soon.
(Note that prices are listed as they appeared at the time this was written and posted and are subject to change at any time. Clicking the links will bring you to the latest prices.)
See our top 4K Ultra HDTV picks and a few Full HDTVs worthy of consideration after the jump:
Premium 4K Ultra HDTV Features
A1 – The top class of televisions includes the best LED LCD or OLED 4K UHD TV models available today. The LED models all feature full-array (or direct-lit with local dimming) LED LCD TVs and others. In each case, these displays present the absolute best black level performance, color depth and accuracy, most useful smart TV features, and the latest inputs capable of accepting metadata for HDR and other picture enhancements.
Other features you can expect here is: high-quality upscaling of lower-than-4K-resolution content, HDMI 2.0a inputs, HDCP 2.2 copy protection, and HEVC H.265 decoding to receive streamed HD content from Netflix and other VOD services; the ability to present close to a DCI-P3 color gamut (must be greater than Rec. 709), a 120Hz native refresh rate panel; and an on-board Wi-Fi smart TV system with the ability to stream content with 4K UHD resolution and HDR.
We actually had a tie for the two TV models we felt offered the best performance in this class:
The $4,997.99 LG65EF9500 (also available in 55-inches) offers one of the most incredible pictures we’ve seen in a consumer TV this year. First, the screen is flat, which is a welcome change to many from previous curved OLED screens. Finally, the virtually razor-thin top half of the screen provides a form factor for mounting the set almost flush against a wall with an optional bracket. The absolute black levels this organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology affords delivers a picture with beautiful contrast that enriches color saturation. Most importantly, the days of diminished off-angle viewing are finally gone with this model, allowing you to see the same rich, high contrast image from virtually any angle, just like we once enjoyed with plasma screens. LG’s webOS smart TV platform is one of the best in the business for finding and connecting to relevant content, and set-up is made easy with a quirky little cartoon bird that takes you through each step of the process. The platform enables popular 4K UHD streaming apps like Amazon and Netflix, and even supports streaming content with HDR metadata. The on-board harman/kardon sound system offers some of the clearest, upfront dialog I’ve heard in a TV this year.
Samsung’s flagship 65-inch 4K UHD TV of 2015 is the UN65JS9500 (also available in 88 inches and 78 inches). It has a nice full-array LED backlighting system with local dimming that produces deep black levels that get close to levels of OLED. It also produces very bright light output, which is useful for creating a sense of reality from bright objections in HDR pictures. Part of Samsung’s SUHD family of TVs, the JS9500 features quantum color using Nano-Crystal coated blue LEDs that expands the visual color palette and improves display efficiency. The TV also includes PlayStation Now that offers cloud-streamed PlayStation 3 games using a DualShock 4 wireless controller. Importantly, the set also includes Samsung’s high quality video processing and up-conversion to offer a picture to match the striking visual appeal of the curved screen, thin-bezel design.
A2 — These models are 4K LED LCD TVs with most of the same features as the A1 sets except they use edge-lit LED lighting with a simulated approach to local dimming and will present HDR at some lower unspecified level of brightness and/or black levels. These models will be capable of receiving and displaying HDR metadata (although the level of brightness is TBD) and will have a wider color space than Rec. 709, in addition to the other features from above.
Our selection is:
Sony’s 65-inch XBR-65X900C (also available in 55-inches) is one of the thinnest LCD TVs ever produced. The screen features an OLED-like 0.2 inch panel depth over the entire breadth of the screen. Sony provides a hanging bracket that helps enable a floating-screen look against the wall to accent this highly attractive thin-cabinet design. Sony recently revealed the set will be among a handful of top 2015 performers that will get an update to accept HDR metadata, enabling a wide contrast performance on top of a brilliant 4K Ultra HD resolution picture. The set also includes Sony’s Triluminos technology to offer a wide color gamut and X-Tended Dynamic Range circuitry to deepen black levels that enrich colors and widen dynamic range. Sony’s X-Reality PRO upscaling engine offers some of the finest upscaling technology in the business, so that Full HD and even 720p content material looks very close to native 4K.
Midrange 4K Ultra HDTV Features
A3 – These 4K Ultra HDTV models will have most of the same features as the A2’s but will omit the ability to accept or display HDR. Our selection is:
The 65-inch 65UF9500 features LG’s new webOS 2.0 smart platform, 4K (UHD) resolution, a 120 Hz native refresh rate, passive 3D functionality, and LG’s ColorPrime LED technology that uses a special phosphor formulation to expand the color gamut, although it lacks the black level depth that distinguishes LG’s OLED TVs. LG has cut the price substantially from the original $4,499.99 suggested retail price.
B1 – These 4K Ultra HDTV models will have most of the same features as the A2’s including HDMI 2.0a inputs and HDR capability but step down to native 60Hz refresh rate panels. Our best example selection is:
Despite the native 60Hz refresh rate, Samsung’s UN60JS7000 has a relatively low level of motion blur. It has a pretty good viewing angle for an LED LCD TV and supports a wider color gamut than the Rec. 709 standard calls for. However, the set’s black levels could be better. All of Samsung’s 4K UHD TVs will also accept metadata for HDR, although this set isn’t likely to achieve the full brightness or darkness benefits the technology affords.
Other screen sizes in the series include:
B2 – These 4K Ultra HDTV models have most of the same features as the A2’s, including a 120Hz native refresh rate panel, add full-array back lighting with local dimming but will not offer HDR metadata support.
At just $899.99, the Hisense 55-inch 55H9 may be one of the best values on the market. The set is part of Hisense’s ULED family, with full-array LED backlight (85 zones of local dimming), a 120Hz native refresh rate, a true Octa-core processor, dual-band Wi-Fi reception and Total Technology sound from dbx-tv that uses high-performance speakers, the dbx-tv Total Sonics audio enhancement suite, Total Volume that addresses unwanted changes in loudness between programs and commercials and Total Surround, which produces a surround-sound effect. Hisense backs it all up with an industry leading four-year warranty.
Economy 4K Ultra HDTV Features
B3 — These 4K Ultra HDTVs will include most of the features of the B2 models, add HDMI 2.0a inputs and HDR support, but step down to direct or edge-lit LED panels and don’t have the full wide color gamut of Nano-Crystal (quantum dot) displays.
The Samsung JU7500 offers a good picture quality with good handling of motion blur and respectable upconversion. It also has low lag time, which makes it a great display for video gaming. Other screen sizes in the series include:
B4 — These 4K Ultra HDTVs will include most of the features of the B3 models, including HDMI 2.0a inputs and HDR support, but step down to a 60Hz native refresh rate edge-lit LED LCD panel.
The Samsung 65-inch UN65JU6700 offers a nice bright picture which is suited to a range of room lighting situations. For those who like it, the curved screen offers an attractive cabinet design. The set also includes Samsung’s Tizen platform with a good selection of apps and a fast response time.
Other screen sizes in the series include:
B5 — These 4K Ultra HD LED LCD TVs will feature direct or edge-lit panels, 120Hz native refresh rates, HDMI 2.0 inputs with HDCP 2.2, HEVC H.265 decoding, and WiFi with smart TV functionality. The winner is:
The LG 65UF8500 (also available in 60 inches) 4K UHD LED LCD TV benefits from an attractive design using LG’s ultra-thin bezel Cinema Screen frame. It also has above average sound from the harmon/kardon enhanced audio system, passive 3D support and LG’s robust webOS 2.0 smart TV platform that is operated with a fifth generation Magic Remote.
B6 — These 4K Ultra HD LED LCD TVs have most of the key features of the B4 models but step down to native 60Hz refresh rate LCD panels, have HDMI 2.0 inputs with HDCP 2.2 copy protection and do not read or display HDR or wide color gamut data.
LG’s 55-inch 55UF7600 is a basic smart 4K UHD TV offering a number of extras. First, the set includes LG’s webOS 2.0 smart TV platform with 4K apps. It also includes LG’s Tru-4K Engine upscaling circuitry and Triple XD Engine, which combine to produce a good image from lower-resolution sources at a value price point.
Other screen sizes in the series include:
Our Full HD Pick
Not everyone can make the case for getting a 4K Ultra HD TV, and for good reason; even four times greater resolution than Full HD 1080p can be hard for some people to discern at typical viewing distances. Besides, a wide color gamut and good contrast performance can be enjoyed every bit as much in Full HD, if the TV supports them. It’s that last part that gets tricky. There just aren’t a lot of high-performance big-screen Full HD TVs left any more that can match the features and performance of most 4K UHD models.
That said, LG still sells a couple of 55-inch Full HD OLED TVs that offer mind-blowing black level and contrast performance with deep natural colors and ultra-thin cabinet designs.
Our pick for best Full HD is:
The 55-inch LG 55EG9100 OLED TV is less than half the price of last year’s similarly sized OLED TVs. The 55EG9100 is an update of the earlier 55EC9300 that was first introduced in 2014, and it comes with all the latest features including webOS 2.0.
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By Greg Tarr
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