By Don Lindich
Week 20, 2015
Q. I’ve seen you write about “the best” Blu-ray players and home audio speakers recently. How about televisions? What would you recommend as the very best today for picture quality?
-Tom H., Pittsburgh, PA
A. Since Panasonic’s amazing plasmas have gone away, there isn’t anything on the market that really makes me want to stand up and cheer. Generally speaking, I like the upper end of the Panasonic and Sony 4K TV lines, and some of the better Vizios if you are not shopping in the lower price brackets.
This may sound like a bit of sour grapes from me since I was such a plasma fan, but I assure you it is not the case. If something better was out there I would want it in my own home, and the best TV in my house was made all the way back in 2005. It is a Sony Qualia 006, a 70-inch rear projection SXRD set that cost $13,000 when it was new. (SXRD is Sony’s name for Liquid Crystal on Silicon, or LCoS.) The Sony Qualia 006 has very large image-producing chips and an all-glass optical path (including the front screen) and it weighs about 300 pounds. With a good signal it is noticeably better than my Panasonic VT60 plasma, but with a mediocre or poor signal, the Panasonic is much more forgiving and more satisfying to watch.
If you are curious about this TV you can read more at http://tinyurl.com/sonyqualia where you can read a review from Sound and Vision magazine. How good was it? My favorite quote from the linked review was, “…deep-pocketed videophiles will scream in glee like teenage girls – on the inside, at least – when they see the Qualia 006 in person.” That was pretty much my reaction the first time I saw it, too. When my mother visited me after I bought one and she saw the picture for the first time, her mouth literally dropped open. She picked up her phone and started dialing people to tell them about my television and how amazing it looked!
The problem with the SXRD technology is the optical block (which generates the picture) seems 100% certain to fail over time when used in rear projection televisions. Front projection seems to be ok, perhaps because of better ventilation around the optical block. I know a lot of fellow Qualia owners have moved on, and I am fortunate to have a Qualia that still works. I use it mostly for Blu-ray movies now, trying to stretch as much life out of it as possible.
Sony SXRD technology and JVC’s version of LCoS, called D-ILA, is available in front projection and that is my current recommendation for the best picture quality you can buy at any price. See Sony at http://tinyurl.com/sonysxrd and http://dila.jvc.com for JVC.
I think with time, some of the 4K LCD and LED-LCD sets will be able to outdo the Qualia or Panasonic plasma’s picture quality. The problem is watching in the real world. Most of these TVs look amazing with a demo loop running through them, but when you watch 1080p broadcasts or Blu-ray movies like you would actually watch at home, the motion looks very slightly unnatural. It is distracting to me and enough of a dealbreaker that it holds me back from buying.