Get the Picture
Ultrahigh-definition 4K TVs are the hot topic in television technology these days. But content for these new-wave display panels—which are capable of delivering four times the picture resolution of Blu-ray Discs—remains scarce. Sony is leading the way in providing consumers with ultrahigh-definition content for the TVs, most recently with its September launch of a media player and service that allows consumers to download select shows and films in 4K resolution. New 4K TVs from Sony and other leading manufacturers can display such ultrahigh-definition content in all its stunning glory, but they are certainly not the only options in the top-tier television market. New advances in 1080p plasma and organic-light-emitting-diode (OLED) technologies help round out the range of selections for holiday shoppers in search of a bigger and better picture. —Bailey S. Barnard
Following up on last fall’s launch of its debut 4K TV—the $25,000 84-inch XBR-84X900—Sony began shipping 4K TV models with 55- and 65-inch screens in May. The XBR-65X900A and XBR-55X900A, priced at $5,500 and $4,000, respectively, deliver the same high-quality 4K picture as their 84-inch forebear. Also like the debut model, the new TVs offer the ability to upgrade lower-quality content. The 55- and 65-inch versions also have the capacity to control the TVs with smartphones or tablets.
Like Sony, LG Electronics entered the 4K TV market with an 84-inch model last fall and has since followed it up with 55- and 65-inch models (from $3,500 to $6,500). But where LG is really driving innovation is with its curved-screen OLED TV, the 55EA9800, which came out in July. Priced at $10,000, the 55-inch model has a screen that is only 4 millimeters thick and delivers perhaps the most vivid colors on the market today. The stellar picture quality comes courtesy of the TV’s OLED screen, which is inherently brighter than other screens and does not require a separate lighting engine.
In April, Samsung began shipping the world’s largest commercially available 4K TV, the $40,000 85-inch UN85S9. The Korean electronics giant followed that up in August with the debut of the $9,000 KN55S9C, a 55-inch OLED TV with a curved screen. Like LG’s OLED screen, Samsung’s model is pencil thin and extraordinarily bright, with brilliant colors and deep blacks. Samsung distinguishes its OLED model with a feature called MultiView, which allows two viewers wearing Samsung’s active eyewear to watch different content from the same TV at the same time.
The Japanese manufacturer Panasonic joined the 4K TV parade this September with its $5,500 65-inch TC-L65WT600. But the most noteworthy new Panasonic is the flagship 1080p plasma model, the ZT60, which is available in 60- and 65-inch screen sizes ($3,000 and $3,800, respectively). The tech-review website CNet gave the ZT60 its highest rating ever, and the model indeed offers colors so bright, blacks so deep, and a picture so crisp that buyers might forget all about the buzz surrounding 4K TVs.