The time that ultra HD or 4K was only available in the top models to have been behind us for some time. In fact, full HD is only available in small sizes and the cheapest models for most brands. What kind of performance can you expect from the 4K televisions, and on which level do you make a compromise?
Choosing a new television is not a simple task. The offer is huge, and the technical specifications are complex and make it impossible to compare televisions. And what is the added value of what extra money to spend? A little help with your choice does not seem like a luxury.
Most people now choose large screens. For this test, we aim in the first place at models with a 55-inch screen diagonal. The ideal viewing distance for a modern television is about twice the screen diagonal in cm. For a 55inch model (139 cm) this means a viewing distance of approximately 2.8 meters. Which corresponds to the typical living room situation.
As a second criterion, we set the price at around 1,000 Euros. This means that in the 2018 offer we can find something in the lower-placed models. Because we also wanted to test televisions with recent gadgets. We have added a second category to 1500 Euros.
What can you expect?
- Design: A beautiful design is no exception on these sleek televisions. You notice that no expensive materials were used.
- Sound: The sound performance is sufficient for daily use, but for film and certainly for music, they are somewhat on the weak side.
- Image: The image performance is generally very good, at least for SDR (standard dynamic range) images.
- Panel types: The LCD panels of televisions use VA panels (with excellent contrast but limited viewing angle) or IPS panels (with a decent viewing angle but limited contrast). Ava panel is recommended for film lovers, while an IPS panel is a better choice for family television.
- Smart televisions: A good smart TV environment includes the most important streaming services, such as Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Video, deferred viewing services and a good media player.
- Tuners: If you do not use a set-top box for digital television, you should check whether the television has all the desired tuners. The satellite tuner is missing on some models. Recording to USB disk is not always possible.
- Connecting: A minimum of three HDMI connections is recommended. In some cases, you will also find a component and/or composite video connection.
The added value of a higher price range
To give you a better view of the market, we have also looked at a number of models from the price range of 1500 Euros. That is a sensible additional price, but you are still not in the premium field. For 1500 Euros you go home with a device with significantly better motion sharpness; an important advantage for film and sports enthusiasts. These models are also much better equipped for HDR reproduction; they achieve our minimum specification of approximately 500 nits peak brightness and 90% DC-P3 color range. Who wants a taste of the future of image, whether for gaming or film, looks better at these models.
What are the limitations?
The tested televisions are meant for the modal living room, not for those looking for a home theater. You have to make peace with a number of limitations. In the first place, you cannot expect any significant HDR performance. All these models can show HDR images, but rarely have the necessary brightness, color range and contrast to show those images as they should. Another important limitation is the motion sharpness. Viewing fast-moving images (action scenes) or fast-moving objects (the football) sharply and in detail requires a 100Hz panel and additional image processing, two things that are missing on these models. A slightly blurred edge around fast-moving objects is therefore inevitable. The fact that you will not find premium image technology such as OLED or QLED in this category is also evident.
We provide each TV with the latest firmware, reset it to the factory settings and switch to the ‘movie image mode’. We connect it to an ultra-HD-Blu-ray player and assess the results of image processing using standardized test patterns. Then we look at Netflix for an hour to estimate the overall picture quality. For this, we also use a series of film fragments on Blu-ray / DVD and video files on the USB stick. With a lag-meter, we look at the input lag, in standard mode and game mode.
We perform all measurements with SpectraCal CalMAN Ultimate, a SpectraCal C6 HDR2000 colorimeter, and a VideoForge Pro pattern generator. For SDR (standard dynamic range) images, we evaluate the grayscale, which determines whether the entire range from light to dark has the same shade and the correct color temperature. A correct color temperature (6500 K) guarantees a correct general color rendering. Low values make the image slightly redder, high values are slightly bluish. The EOTF curve (gamma) determines whether the gradient from dark to light is correct, we aim for a gamma value of 2.2-2.4. Too high values make the image darker, too low make it lighter. Color range, a saturation of the colors and a general color test determine how well the screen displays color. We measure contrast on a pattern with an average brightness of 18% (APL18).
For HDR images, we measure the maximum brightness of the screen, in a 10% window and on a completely white screen, where we also check whether the screen can hold that brightness for a sufficiently long time. We examine how well the PQ-EOTF is followed, and measure the color range of the screen.
Price: $ 999
A light metal-colored frame with a nice profile, a perfectly smooth finished back … the LG manages to avoid the typical boring-looking look. The connections are extensive: four times HDMI, a full tuner selection and Bluetooth for audio. Ease of use is a plus thanks to the handy WebOS interface. With the Magic Remote, you can easily point out things on the screen. ThinQ AI extends WebOS with extensive voice commands, but unfortunately, Dutch is not yet supported. The image processing is good and there is in motion interpolation to make fast-moving images smoother, although fast-moving objects remain vague.
This television uses an IPS panel with RGB subpixel structure. That white subpixel provides extra clarity, but you lose a little detail of Ultra HD 4K. The panel has a very weak contrast (560: 1). To improve that, LG uses edge-LED backlighting with local dimming in six columns. Unfortunately, the dimming of the columns is clearly visible, especially in dark scenes.
The calibration is good, especially in terms of color reproduction, but the screen hides too much black detail in an effort to boost the contrast. Attention with the viewing angle, the screen suffers from IPS-glow, especially visible in dark scenes. It looks like the backlight is shining through, but the effect differs depending on the viewing angle. Color range and brightness are slightly higher than expected, but a really decent HDR view is not possible on this screen.
Price: $ 849
Although the design still visibly matches that of the higher models, it still looks a bit boring. There is pruned in the connections. You get three times HDMI, but there is no headphone connection, nor Bluetooth. The TV tuner is not suitable for satellite reception and recording to a USB disk is not possible.
The Samsung Smart Hub is an excellent smart TV environment that offers an overview of all services, inputs, and settings in a bar at the bottom of the screen. The second bar above it shows additional options or content, depending on what you select on the first bar. It is a handsome and very complete platform. The included remote control is a classic zapper, lies well in the hand and has pleasant keys. Only the playback controls are too small.
The image processing must hardly be inferior to that of the higher models. Good noise reduction and upscaling provide a sharp and good picture. The motion sharpness is moderate; a hazy edge is to be expected. Motion interpolation makes fast-moving images stutter-free. The VA panel provides very good contrast, albeit with a limited viewing angle. Thanks to excellent calibration, the color reproduction is also very good. Excellent skin colors provide a very natural picture.
This Samsung supports HDR10, HDR10 + and HLG, but has too little brightness and a too-small color range to be able to speak of any kind of HDR impact.
Sony KD-43XF7000 (KD-55XF7000)
Price: $ 1000, (55 inch), $ 849, (tested 43 inch)
We have tested the 43inch version of the Sony XF70, but the television is also available in 55 inches with type number KD-55XF7000. Sony TV has a decent and rather slim design but does use a separate power supply. For that big block, you have to have some extra space. The device has a typical selection of connections for this category and provides a single TV tuner that is not suitable for satellite. Unlike most other Sony models, it does not use Android TV but a simpler smart TV system. As an advantage, it is very responsive and simple, but the selection of apps is somewhat more limited. The three main video streaming services (Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube) are present, and via the ‘Vewd’ app store, we also found Plex.
No top-end image processor in this model, but excellent results. The noise reduction is good, and with Reality Creation, you give the image a little extra sharpness, without negative side effects. As expected, the motion sharpness is limited, but thanks to motion interpolation you can eliminate stutter in fast camera movements.
Sony has an IPS screen with reasonable contrast, which improves even further with the ‘Advanced contrast enhancement’ setting. The gray scale has a very slightly visible green tone, but otherwise, the calibration is solid, with good color reproduction. The screen is at its best with clear content, but can also produce nice film performances. For HDR reproduction you can count on a lot of clarity, narrowly under our requirement of 500 nits, but the color range is too limited.
Price: $ 999
TCL, the third-largest TV manufacturer worldwide, is currently not sold in some euro country (but in Belgium for those interested) a device such as the 55DC760 shows that the well-known brands in this price category get a formidable competitor.
The attractive design is well finished, and with the striking cylindrical sound bar at the bottom, it has a unique look. The sound bar comes from JBL and performs excellently, with a large volume and audible bass. The device is equipped with a full tuner set for digital televisions three HDMI connections and Bluetooth for a wireless headset. Android televisions are the smart televisions platform.
The weakest point of this television is motion sharpness, where it leaves a lot of detail and does not offer any form of motion interpolation. The rest of the image processing is good, but cannot match the competitors. However, this compensates amply with good contrast, excellent clarity and accurate color reproduction. It is also striking that the device provides sufficient performance for a solid HDR result. The brightness scores slightly below the 500nits limit, but especially the color range is very large. Coverage 90% DCI-P3 is usually only found with more expensive models. The hdr calibration is also good so that with this device you can get an hdr picture for a very reasonable price.
Price: $ 1399
This Samsung television has a dual televisions tuner for all types of digital televisions, and one CI + lock. So you can watch and simultaneously record another channel to a USB disk, provided that both channels are unencrypted.
Of course, this Samsung also uses the handy and clear Smart Hub. You get the slim Smart Controller, a modern remote control with a limited number of keys. He works perfectly with the Smart Hub. In addition, it can serve as a universal remote control for your connected source devices.
The screen uses an edge LED backlight with local dimming in six columns and a VA-panel. The local dimming has a limited effect because Samsung strives as much as possible to make no segment boundaries or other negative effects visible. Yet this combination scores a very good contrast. The movie image mode is well calibrated. Only in the brightest shades of gray we see a slight blue overtone and a somewhat erratic result. Excellent color reproduction combined with a deep contrast provides very good images. The image processing scores fine, and you get very good motion sharpness. Samsung also scores very well for HDR. It has a maximum brightness that almost puts it in the premium segment and a narrow enough color range.
Philips 55PUS8303 / 12
Price: $ 1299
The Philips design catches the eye through the use of a light metal frame, and a footplate partly made of transparent plastic. The Ambilight mood lighting is a unique Philips feature. In addition to the general Android Home screen, Philips offers an additional menu that is a great alternative for quickly choosing a different input, selecting live TV functions or starting the media player. The remote control is equipped with a Bluetooth keyboard at the back, but you can also say your searches.
The Philips P5 image processor delivers top performance for image processing and the screen has a lot of motion sharpness, you hardly lose detail and the motion interpolation creates beautiful smooth images. The IPS panel produces a moderate contrast that you slightly improve with the Dynamic Contrast setting. The screen has a good viewing angle, good brightness, and solid colors, making it excellent family television. The calibration is decent, but the color rendering is a bit too dark, and the grayscale has a slightly red tint.
The NanoColor technology provides a wider color range than the competitors, and Philips combines that with high brightness that only just below our limit of 500 nits. The HDR Premium setting adjusts the tone mapping, choosing between a slightly brighter image or better white detail. The weakest point is the audio performance, where good bass support is almost completely lacking.
Price: $ 1499
This Sony has a simple-looking but well-finished design with a frame in dark color aluminum. Also on this model, you will find a double TV tuner for all digital televisions variants and one CI + slot for recording to the USB drive and at the same time watch a different channel. Android TV works smoothly, but in terms of ease of use, it has to cover the Samsung Smart Hub. The included remote control is a classic zapper with a decent layout, although the playback controls below are very small.
This model is equipped with the Sony X1 processor. This ensures excellent upscaling, noise reduction and a very detailed and sharp image. The processor can also neatly eliminate annoying color bands in fine gradations. The movement sharpness is excellent.
The televisions are equipped with an IPS panel with a fairly weak contrast. Thanks to a smart global-dimming technique, the contrast increases considerably, although it remains visible in extreme cases. You should look at some ambient light, especially because the screen suffers from IPS-glow, wherein dark images a light glow is visible on the screen.
The calibration is excellent and results in lifelike and natural images.
The hdr display is good thanks to a good peak brightness of just above 500 nits and narrow enough color range. Only the limited contrast of the IPS screen makes it difficult for him.
Although it is interesting television, we do not include the TCL 55DC760 in the final standings preferential brands because it is officially not available in the Netherlands. He does go home with an ‘honorable mention’, because he delivers great performances within the intended budget, both for image, sound and smart televisions.
If we look for a winner in the category up to 1,000 Euros, we end up at the Samsung or Sony. We tested the 43inch variant, but the 55inch version offers more value for money. Ultimately, in the category up to 1,000 Euros, the Samsung UE55NU7100 is the winner. He combines good image quality with a top smart televisions environment, while HDR performance in this category is less important. Sony is a worthy alternative if you do not consider some weaknesses with respect to Samsung important.
In the higher category, the Samsung UE55NU8000 is the clear winner. All devices in this category are matched for non-hdr content, but Samsung has a clear lead for HDR and it also delivers the best audio and the most convenient smart TV system. The Philips 55PUS8303 is cheaper but performs a little less well. The Sony KD-55XF8505 is just a bit too expensive for its performance.
All our prices (recommended prices) were correct in mid-July. Prices of televisions change rapidly; so keep in mind that you can find considerable price differences online or with discount promotions.