Are You Thinking of Buying a New HDTV?
Will you buy now, or wait till the latest TVs from CES 2013
become available... at a much higher price than 2012
CES 2013 is history, but with the show now over, the dilemma is often whether one should wait to buy a new HDTV till the new 2013 sets are out, or proceed with the purchase and enjoy a great bargain on one of the best HDTVs from 2012.
It is true that new models always seem to wash out even what has been hailed as the best TVs for 2012, but... To what extent should the propaganda surrounding new 2013 TVs be taken into account? If you buy a premium 2012 HDTV at the present reduced prices, will you be enjoying a great bargain or an obsolete HDTV?
We discuss this hotly debated issue, by first discussing some of the hot TV products that dominated this year CES. This is important as without first knowing what the industry will be coming up with during 2013, it will be impossible to make the right choice. You may share your opinion using the submission form at the end of this article.
LG curved 55-inch OLED TV (Model No. 55EM9600) Picture Courtesy: lg.com
CES 2013 is over but its implications will remain. This year Consumer Electronics Show was the largest ever in terms of both exhibits and also attendees.
We did see loads of new 'innovative' products. Innovation is always the name of the game at CES, and with CES 2013, this is more true than ever. As expected, within the new HDTV category, the main highlights were the latest 4K Ultra HD TVs and OLED TVs. It is true that both OLED and 4K TVs were first exhibited in previous years, but so far most of the exhibits were mainly prototypes that failed to make it later during the year on stores shelves. In particular, 2012 brought a new expectancy with respect to big screen OLED TVs after both Samsung and LG presented 55-inch sets that were supposed to be released late in 2012. Yet big screen OLED TVs did not make it to end consumers in 2012. Instead, 2013 seems to present more of the right timing in this respect.
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CES 2013 was not just about OLED TVs and 4K Ultra HD TVs. Instead, it was also about innovative 4K OLED TVs from both Samsung and LG that came with a curved display surface. It was also about advanced backlight systems on LCD LED HDTVs capable of much brighter images from Sharp even at giant screen sizes, and Sony's Triluminous backlight technology originally introduced in 2008 but that now makes use of 'quantum dots' to produce what is being said to be much improved color stability and color accuracy.
We have also seen new brands like the upcoming Chinese TV brand Hisense. It is a rather unknown TV brand but one that is surely working to come out really big in the TV arena with products like massive Ultra HD TVs with Google TV and built-in support for gesture and facial control; these are expected to hit the market later during this year. Hisense also exhibited a 60-inch glasses-free 3D prototype but that would not be marketed at this stage. The latter is no surprise as glasses-free 3D technology is still not ready. While glasses-free 3D is a reality, it is still years away. Big TV makers like Toshiba have been working on glasses-free 3D prototypes for a number of years now but the technology still has serious limitations from a viewer's perspective; these include restricted viewing angle and a limited number of practical viewing positions.
These are just but a few of the many innovations presented during this year consumer electronics show. Most of these products will ship between early spring and late summer. We go through the highlights of CES 2013 in a little bit more detail below to get a better understanding whether these new products are worth waiting for.
New HDTV Highlights for 2013
OLED TVs: The real breakthrough in TV technology
Both OLED TVs and 4K resolution TVs — now labeled as Ultra HD TVs — dominated the new HDTV category during CES 2013. While TV makers are making a lot of noise about 4K TVs, the real breakthrough in TV technology is not 4K resolution but OLED. 4K is more of an enhancement to 1080p HDTV technology. Instead, OLED is a TV display technology revolution capable of impressive display quality characteristics that surpass any other TV display technology in use today. This makes OLED the display technology of the future.
OLED, or Organic LED can be seen as a derivative of LCD technology. It uses the same red-green-blue three-color sub-pixel structure to produce color but unlike the liquid crystals in LCDs, OLED uses organic compounds to create images; these emit light when activated, implying there is no need for a backlight source. This means that OLED display panels can be exceptionally thin (just a few millimeters thick) even at massive sizes. OLED displays also deliver superior brighter images, lightning-fast pixel response, true blacks thanks to their almost infinite contrast, consume less power than even the most energy efficient LED TVs, are easier to produce at larger sizes, and have a wider angle of view than LCD TVs.
Sony and Panasonic 4K OLED TVs: Combining the latest Ultra HD resolution with the hottest new high definition display technology - OLED
Both Sony and Panasonic presented 56-inch 4K OLED TVs that exhibited very similar and impressive picture characteristics. Colors looked highly saturated; contrast seemed perfect displaying true deep blacks while still maintaining bright whites in the image.
Mind you, even OLED TVs from Samsung and LG looked impressive, but there is a major difference in the OLED production process adopted by Sony and Panasonic with respect to the other two. The new OLED production process developed in collaboration between Sony and Panasonic may eventually give these TV makers an edge in what appears to be the TV display technology of the future. Sony and Panasonic are producing their OLED display panels using the printing method where OLED materials are applied to the substrate through a printing technique to form an electroluminescent layer. This leads to an easier OLED panel production that can be adapted to a wide variety of display sizes with less production waste and shorter production lead times, thus making the printing method more economical.
But... Do not expect these 4K OLED
TVs to come cheap; market analysts are expecting these to sell for around $12,000! Thus, while the OLED TV era is here to stay, the OLED TV is definite not yet ready for the mass
But... Do not expect these 4K OLED TVs to come cheap; market analysts are expecting these to sell for around $12,000! Thus, while the OLED TV era is here to stay, the OLED TV is definite not yet ready for the mass market.
In addition, while combining 4K resolution with OLED TV display technology is the ultimate in high definition television, the present 56-inch maximum screen size for an OLED display, makes 4K resolution simply a waste and a feature that can only help inflate the price but not the viewer wow factor. As expressed in our article 4K Ultra HD TV Explained, a 56-inch TV may fill your living room but you need a much larger screen size than a 56-inch TV to start appreciating the benefits of 4K resolution. You may move closer to the screen, but who will sit at 2m away from a 56-inch TV to be able to perceive every detail supported by an Ultra HD TV?
Furthermore, one has to keep in mind that here we are dealing with first generation products, whether that being 4K Ultra HD TVs or OLED display panels. There are issues with both which still need to be resolved. With 4K, content availability in native 4K resolution is practically non-existent while OLED display technology has so far been characterized by a relatively shorter lifetime of the blue sub-pixel. Since CES 2012, the industry is saying this issue has been resolved and OLED display technology is ready for the consumer market. The truth is that only time will tell.
In other words... 4K resolution for a 56-inch TV gives you nothing more than an expensive toy, while OLED TV technology is not only expensive but its reliability has still to be proven over time.
Sharp's Massive LED TVs with Super Bright Backlight Technology
For 2013, Sharp will maintain its Quattron technology and continue with its trend of delivering massive LED TVs for the consumer market. Sharp also confirmed it will keep its 90-inch LC90LE745U from 2012, meaning that for 2013, the largest new HDTVs from Sharp will be 70-inch and 80-inch.
Sharp will also be introducing a more powerful Smart TV platform called SmartCentral; this will use dual-core processing and will include a built-in web browser and support for new interactive features.
However, the real innovation from Sharp for 2013 is the development of a new Super Bright technology for its flagship Series 8 HDTVs. This is said to deliver 50% brighter images on its 60-inch, 70-inch and 80-inch LED TVs, thus creating the brightest TV picture at these massive screen sizes, making these TVs more suitable for daytime viewing. Sharp Series 8 HDTVs are expected to be out sometime in April with an MSRP of $3000 for the 60-inch, $4000 for the 70-inch, and $6500 for the 80-inch HDTV.
Sharp did present other innovations like a flexible 10-inch OLED display for tablets and a 32-inch 4K monitor for professional users.
We find it rather disappointing that this proponent of massive LED TVs did not come with an equally massive 4K Ultra HD TV offer for 2013. Ultra HD is made for the truly big screen TV, yet the Ultra HD TVs on offer from Sharp for 2013 are two modest-size 60-inch sets!
Curved OLED TVs from Samsung and LG
One innovation that attracted a lot of interest during CES 2013 was the presence of curved 55-inch OLED TVs exhibits from Samsung and LG. Neither LG nor Samsung announced any plans to market these TVs, at least not in the near future; but there is a lot to like about these new HDTVs.
The concept behind the slight inward curvature is to ensure that every single point on the screen is equidistant from the viewer's eyes, thus removing the problem of screen-edge visual distortion and detail loss at the edges furthest away from the viewer.
While surely innovative and interesting, we think that going for a slight inward curvature to a 55-inch screen would not bring about much benefit to the end user in comparison to the added expense over and above the already expensive price tag of OLED TVs. This is especially so in the home entertainment environment where seating is generally designed to take all members of the family in a single row. This in our opinion also explains the lack of plans on part of both LG and Samsung to bring the curved TV to the market. In reality, such curved displays start making visual sense only as one moves towards giant-size TVs or when combining multiple big screen monitors into huge wall displays.
Massive 4K LED TVs
In October last year, LG released its 1st massive 4K Ultra HD TV, the 84-inch 84LM9600 for $20,000! This year, Samsung plans to release its first massive 4K TV, an 85-inch Ultra HD TV.
It is definitely a massive TV that comes at a size more suitable for 4K resolution. As expected, this TV would not come cheap, but while the LG 84-inch was super expensive, this new Samsung Ultra HD TV is STUPID expensive... with a price tag that is expected to start at $38,000!
We say stupid simply because while we do expect the latest technology to be expensive, one has to keep in mind that here we are dealing with first-generation 4K TVs. As expressed in our 4K TV guide, the only requirements for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) 'Ultra HD' label, are (1) a minimum of a display resolution supporting at least 3,840 horizontal pixels and 2,160 vertical pixels, and (2) included support for native 4K Ultra HD signal connectivity. This means that today's Ultra HD TVs does not guarantee they will play a native 4K resolution 3D signal, nor native 4K resolution content is readily available. This is basically the same as when the first 3D TVs were released a few years ago; we had the TV hardware but no true 3D TV content to enjoy!
We are sure the TV industry will rectify this situation in the coming years... but in the meantime, what you will be having with today's massive Ultra HD TVs is a super expensive TV toy!
Sony's new Triluminous TVs
In 2008, Sony came with its excellent Triluminous LED technology, a technology that as explained in our LCD TV technology guide, made use of separate red, green and blue LEDs to generate the backlight source for the display. This technology was soon dropped as it turned too expensive to development with respect to what the competition was doing.
However, five years down the line, Sony's Triluminous technology has re-surfaced once again. Now, it does not make use of red, green, and blue LEDs but instead Sony's new Triluminous LED TVs make use of 'pure blue light' emitting LEDs placed behind a filter formed from two types of 'Quantum Dots' that are tuned to reproduce pure green and pure red light once these are energized with pure blue light. The result is said to deliver more intense white light for a brighter image while ensuring accurate yet well-saturated colors that are more true to life than with standard backlighting.
Sony said the new Triluminous backlight technology is used on its W900 series LED TVs and the new X900 Ultra HD sets; the latter will be available in 55-inch, 65-inch, and 84-inch versions.
Sony is actively turning TV backlight technology into cutting-edge science, but the whole issue here is to what extent end customers will benefit from the use of more expensive technology in their everyday viewing experience? Will the end user be able to appreciate the benefits of this new technology, more specifically, will the everyday user be able to perceive the minimal improvement we expect in picture performance over 'cheaper' premium models using conventional LED backlight systems?
New 2013 features are to say the least impressive, and the TV makers' propaganda makes the new HDTVs presented during CES 2013 look even more appealing. It is more than understandable therefore that many would be ready to wait for this tempting new HDTV hardware while skipping on their chance to enjoy a great premium 2012 HDTV at a bargain price. However, the issue remains:
Is it really worth waiting for these glamorous new HDTVs from 2013 when there is no better time to buy now and enjoy a great TV bargain?
I have to admit that the propaganda machine surrounding the latest new HDTVs at CES 2013 seems to impart the message that these are the greatest HDTVs ever. But if we were to look back, none of the 2012 models did bring about any significant improvement in picture quality over 2011 HDTVs. This has been our experience year after year, and while it is still too early to tell, we have to admit we are not expecting any major improvement in picture quality with the new HDTVs over premium and flagship HDTVs from 2012. What may possibly be an exception here are the new OLED TVs; but then these are definitely going to be the most expensive HDTVs ever put on stores shelves!
We are not saying the industry is not registering advancements in picture performance and product features; if it were not so, the HDTV industry would die, as new technology is essential for the survival of the industry and the economy.
The problem is that the latest new technology affords a higher price that most often is not always within reach of the average household. The new OLED TVs presented during CES 2013 may possibly deliver the best TV picture but... What would you expect from a 55-inch OLED TV that sells for anything between $5,000 and $8,000, or a 4K Ultra HD 55-inch OLED TV that sells for $12,000? The irony is that at this screen size, 4K will simply not cut!
Instead, for under $2,000, it is possible at this time to enjoy some of the best HDTVs from 2012. What has been rated by Cnet as the best HDTV for 2012, the Panasonic 55-inch TC-P55VT50 1080p 3D Plasma HDTV, is selling on amazon at a reduced price of just under $2,000, and here were are talking about the best-performing flagship model ever released. Equally impressive within the same price bracket is the Sony BRAVIA KDL-55HX850 55-inch premium LED TV. Instead move on to the best-value HDTV for 2012, the Panasonic TC-P55ST50 55-inch 1080p 3D Plasma HDTV, and there you have a 55-inch TV with a picture quality that is very close to that of the Panasonic VT50 at under $1,300!
More information on the best HDTVs from 2012 is available in our Best HDTVs Roundup guide.
Still, we have to admit that... Even the lowest entry-level models from the new 2013 HDTV lineups are made to appear shinier and more desirable than top-performers from the previous year. The result is that premium HDTVs from 2012 that up to a few days ago were considered among the best and that were among the top in consumer buying lists, would all of a sudden start appearing obsolete in the eyes of many in the market for a new HDTV.
It is therefore no surprise that notwithstanding the present price cuts and great bargain offers associated with 2012 HDTV sets, many of these HDTVs would soon end up stranded on store shelves in the wait to be replaced by the latest and greatest 2013 HDTVs.
New Features and Product Improvements are essential but...
Coming up with new exciting features is important for the industry to get people buying new HDTVs. Up to not long ago, flat panel TV makers were experiencing a sales boom as consumers upgraded to digital TVs in anticipation of the government's mandated DTV transition, while enthusiastic shoppers were also upgrading to HDTVs as more and more HD programming became available.
However, the bad economy had its impact on TV sales during 2009 and even more so in the years that followed, and while many consumers continued spending money on new HDTVs, the majority either postponed their HDTV purchase, or simply went on for a less expensive HDTV. This also explains why the bad economy seems to have become 'good' economy for plasma TV sales.
It is thus only natural that TV makers find new enticing features to incorporate into their TVs to help sell their products ― after all, new products always attract more and when combined with new technology, new products sell better.
Nevertheless, new tempting technology alone is not enough to satisfy consumer needs. Unless new technology offers a perceived added value that brings about added conveniences and entertainment, it will never be a success. Just see what happened with 3D TVs during 2010; these failed to deliver in both; the result was that sales of 3D TVs during 2010 was almost a total flop! Eventually 3D became more of a secondary feature as prices of 3D TVs plummeted and the TV makers' emphasis shifted towards Internet-connected HDTVs, or Smart TVs. Internet-connected HDTVs deliver more entertainment while often enabling the user to stream audio and video content straight from networked PCs, thus adding value to the home entertainment experience.
So what is the whole argument here?
Before CES 2013, the best HDTVs from 2012 were all pretty good. And let's face it, the best plasmas and LCDs from top brands like Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG, etc., we featured on our site during 2012 are still solid capable performers worth every dollar even in the face of new HDTVs from 2013.
I am not saying the new HDTVs for 2013 are not going to deliver a better picture or that the new features are not appealing. Yet premium sets from 2012 are still among the best HDTVs you can buy irrespective of the new HDTVs we will see in 2013. In addition, the present reduced seasonal pricing for premium 2012 HDTVs make these even more worth considering. Surely, one cannot expect new HDTVs from 2013 to sell at the present reduced low prices for 2012 HDTVs before almost a year from now.
Those in favor of waiting for the new 2013 HDTVs would point to the new improved features. We have no doubt new features will bring enhanced conveniences, but what about the most important deliverable of any TV, picture quality ― will 2013 bring about a significant improvement in the TV picture of HDTVs, one that the everyday end-consumer will be able to thoroughly perceive?
While we do expect improvements in overall picture quality, we cannot but remark that today's HDTVs have already reached exceptional picture performance levels with such deep blacks that it is becoming extremely difficult for the unaided eye to pinpoint picture quality differences between top HDTVs from major brands. Even if you were to line up the different HDTVs in side-by-side comparisons, it would still be hard for many consumers to see any differences in overall picture quality. This explains the use of specialized test equipment and test patterns by professionals to determine differences in picture performances between different HDTV models.
In other words, we still believe that if you are in the market for a new HDTV, there is not much to gain by waiting for the new HDTVs from 2013 unless you are one of those who have more than enough money to spend on the latest technology. It is true that new HDTVs are made to appear more appealing, and if you have the budget to enjoy one of the latest 55-inch OLED TVs, you would also possibly get an exceptional picture.
However, with feature-rich top-performing 2012 premium and flagship HDTVs selling at 50% their list price, premium 2012 HDTVs are in our opinion a worthy TV option even in the light of the new 2013 competition.
Within the coming months, we will start seeing the first new HDTVs from 2013. These would come with a number of technologically advance features and yes... a higher price than you would pay now for a corresponding 2012 set. However, to what extent the new 2013 features will translate into a better picture and improved TV viewing experience is still unknown; for this, we have to wait till the first sets get reviewed. Having a new HDTV with an improved feature set is in itself no guarantee it will deliver a better picture.
If you are ready to wait a few months more till the first 2013 product reviews start to appear, and willing to accept the price uncertainty, then probably it is worth waiting for the new HDTVs.
For bargain hunters, the situation is somewhat different. Buying a premium 2012 HDTV at a deeply discounted price in 2013 before the new HDTV models start filling stores shelves is the best way to enjoy a great deal! And at a time when many consumers are very much recession weary, a good bargain is always welcome.
What do you think? Will you wait for the new HDTVs from 2013, or will you take advantage of the present lower prices on 2012 models? Is there a new HDTV from CES 2013 you are particularly interested in?
All you have to do to share your views is to use the b comments box below.
What Others Have Said
Click below to read what others have said on this hotly debated issue.
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