By Don Lindich
Week 39, 2016
Q. My 65-inch Panasonic plasma TV appears to be going. What TV of the same size would you recommend for the best picture quality? Flat or curved screen?
-M.L., Beaver Dam, WI
Q. I know a lot of plasma fans are still sad over plasma leaving the marketplace, but if picture quality is your first priority the situation is not hopeless. OLED is the legitimate successor to plasma and perhaps only choice for those looking for the best picture quality without compromise. If I had to buy a 65-inch TV tomorrow OLED is what I would buy, no question about it.
I have never been a fan of LCD or LCD-LED televisions, and despite the march of time and technology I think a lot of the new ones don’t look as good with Blu-ray or broadcast television as some LCD TVs I reviewed 8 years ago. Plasma pretty much improved in quality all the way until the end, when even very inexpensive and basic models provided a beautiful and accurate picture. In one room in my home I have a 50-inch 1080p Samsung plasma that was one of the last ones they made, from the middle of their product line. It isn’t the biggest or best TV that I own, but I still much prefer watching it to any LCD-based TV I have ever seen.
I know what most readers are thinking now. “How can you prefer the older 1080p plasma to one of those incredible 4K TVs? I have seen them in the stores, and they are incredible!” Sure, they look incredible in the store when they are playing slow-moving, carefully recorded and edited 4K demonstration material. Unfortunately, when you hook it up to a cable or satellite set-top box or Blu-ray player and watch real-world content, things are not so wonderful anymore. When I watch I see inaccurate colors, motion artifacts and unnatural movement on the screen, parts of the screen look fuzzy, and unnatural contrast. My plasma always looks wonderful, with accurate colors, perfect motion rendition and a lifelike look that LED-LCD cannot match.
OLED delivers the picture quality of plasma and then some, including deep, dark blacks and wide viewing angles. As for curved vs. flat screen, I’d get the flat model. The curved screens can be very appealing but I am not yet sure if it is a gimmick or if it is here to stay. The flat version is a sure bet, especially given the significant investment involved.
There are a few downsides compared to plasma and LED-LCD sets. The first, and most obvious one, is the expense. Plasma often cost less than competing LED-LCD sets, but OLED almost always costs more. Second, except for a few esoteric models with price tags starting around $20,000, OLED is not yet available in sizes above 65 inches. Finally, much like early plasma TVs, OLED TVs are susceptible to burn-in if you are not careful. Fortunately, when it does happen it does not have to be a crippling, long-term problem. Visit http://tinyurl.com/oledburnin to read an excellent article about it on reviewed.com.
OLED televisions from LG are garnering the top reviews right now and are what I would recommend to those who want the best. LG is very devoted to the technology and doing a wonderful job with it. You can read about them at www.lg.com/OLEDTV. If forced to go down the LED-LCD route for size or price reasons, check out LG, Samsung and Sony. I hope to test a few moderately-priced TVs in the near future and provide some recommendations suitable for any budget.