SCARSDALE, N.Y. — The future of plasma TV may be in doubt to some, but to dozens of TV enthusiasts, calibrators and press who attended the 9th Annual Flat Panel TV shootout, the current crop of plasma FullHD 1080p TVs from Panasonic and Samsung left even 4K Ultra HD behind in overall picture quality.
In fact, Samsung’s new flagship F8500-series plasma TV was voted the winner of A/V specialty retailer Value Electronics’ 2013 Annual Flat Panel TV Shootout, held here May 10-11.
Votes were taken from experts (professional calibrators and consultants) and customer enthusiasts, with manufacturers and press excluded from par- ticipation.
The contest pitted a 64-inch version of Samsung’s set (model PN64F8500) against Panasonic’s newest flagship plasma model, the 65-inch FullHD 1080p TCP65ZT60; Panasonic’s step-down 65-inch FullHD plasma model, the TC-P65VT60; and three LED LCD TVs, including Sony’s new 65-inch 4K Ultra HD XBR-65X900A, Samsung’s FullHD 55-inch UN55F8000 and Panasonic’s FullHD TC- L55WT60.
Plasma, LCD and 4K Ultra HD models from LG and Sharp were not in the contest, either because unmodified stock models were not yet available or, in one case, it was lost in shipping without enough time for proper calibration.
To level the playing field, the sets were all calibrated to peak performance by ISF-certified technicians Kevin Miller, founder of TweakTV; Dewayne “D-Nice” Davis of AVS Forum fame; and Scotland’s David Mackenzie from HDTVtest.
For the first year, the sets were calibrated for both night and day viewing to test out advances in plasma models optimized for viewing in rooms with ambient light.
Panasonic VT60 and ZT60 models were both included in the shootout because the ZT60 includes a new filter designed to boost performance under high ambient light. Other than the filter, the output of the two models tested to be virtually identical — light output was slightly better on the VT by 5fL, while color tracking was the same, Davis explained.
The audience was given the opportunity to view the sets in both daylight at the start of the evening, and darkness later on in the presentation.
Most of the sets were angled roughly toward the viewing area to minimize off-axis viewing limitations of the LED sets. Some of the LCD TVs, including Sony’s 4K model, required changing viewing positions to get around off-axis viewing-angle issues.
Although the sets were all 3D-capable, an over whelming majority of the audience the first night opted out of viewing a 3D comparison.
Representatives from Samsung and Panasonic were on hand to go over the key changes, features and benefits of their companies’ respective sets in the shootout, but no one was on hand from Sony for the first of the two nights.
Robert Zohn, Value Electronics’ proprietor and self- declared video “enthusiast/businessman,” said, “The results came out so close that it is difficult to award one winner. The ZT60 won the popular vote in important categories, black and overall [picture quality], but the F8500 had the highest scores overall and also won in important categories like contrast ratio and day modes. In the past nine years, it has always been very clear who won our Flat Panel Shootout event.”
According to the vote tabulations, Zohn said attendees “liked the higher light output of the F8500.”
“They saw the F8500 as even sharper, which I would assume is also because of the brighter image in low and high ambient-light conditions,” Zohn ex- plained in a statement announcing the winner. “Many participants told me the F8500 whites looked cleaner, brighter and, in their opinion, whiter.”
“So the public has spoken, and we therefore crown Samsung’s F8500 series PDP the new King of HDTV for 2013,” Zohn said.
Zohn added that the panel of experts, including the certified calibrators, selected the Panasonic VT60/ ZT60 as their personal choice.
“But even their choice was only a slight preference. As Dewayne put it to me … ‘To me, and just for example, if the VT60 is a 10, the F8500 is a nine, as I don’t care about panel brightness above 30fL,’ ” said Zohn.
In the end, he recommended consumers make their buying decisions based on their own viewing habits.
“The three top contenders are all so very close this year that I don’t see a clear winner, and these three panels deserve our top recommendation equally,” Zohn said. “In fact, all of the 2013 displays in our event this year are exceptional and have made significant advancements in picture quality, build quality and design. So, my sincerest congratulations to Sony, Panasonic and Samsung for stepping up the game on PDP and LED display technology advancements.”