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CES 2015

5 TVs from CES 2015 that Consumer Reports wants to review

Will these TVs live up to the hype?

Published: January 12, 2015 02:00 PM

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As in past years, TVs—especially 4K UHD TVs—commanded a lion's share of the attention at CES 2015, thanks to promised improvements in TV performance beyond pure resolution. Among the highlights were new TVs boasting quantum dot technology, which can purportedly improve color beyond what we get today, as well as LCD-based UHD TVs with backlights that use phosphor coating on the LEDs, also in an effort to improve color. We also saw several sets with high dynamic range—the difference between the brightest and darkest images on a TV—that is being used to boost contrast.

New OLED TVs, however, were almost nonexistent, except from LG, which seems to be flying the OLED banner solo again this year. Prices were not announced, but we believe OLED will continue to be priced well above LED-backlit LCD-based UHD TVs, especially as the demand grows for larger-sized sets (bigger than 55 inches) with UHD-resolution screens.

Based on some of the demos we saw during the show, images did pop on many of the TVs, but the exhibits on the show floor aren't usually the best places to determine how well a TV will perform.

That's why we can't wait to get our hands on some of these new TVs and bring them into our test labs for a complete, thorough evaluation. Once we do, we'll be able to let you know if the new developments are simply hype, or if they can provide meaningful advances in TV performance.

While dozens of new TVs caught our attention, here are the five that top my list of TVs I can't wait to get into our labs.

Flat or curved screen? LG's new TV lets you decide.

LG 77EG9900 bendable OLED TV

LG says it will have seven new OLED TVs this year, ranging in size from 55 to 77 inches. I'm not sure we'll be able to get this 77-inch set—it's likely to be the company's priciest model—but it sure caught our attention with a flexible (some say bendable) screen that can go from curved to flat and back at the push of a button on the remote, depending on your preference. Beyond the curve, it sports all of LG's top-of-the-line features, including its revised webOS smart TV platform. Why debate whether a flat or curved screen is the best TV design when you can have both?

We'll also be looking to get our hands on some of LG's LCD-based UHD TVs as well. Some of the premium models will use quantum dots, while others will use new LEDs with phosphor coatings to improve color. Some also come with Harman Kardon speaker systems, so we're hoping they will produce better sound.

Can a 4K UHD TV really look like an 8K set?

Sharp Beyond 4K Ultra HD TV

Last year at CES Sharp unveiled a new pixel-splitting technology it called Quattron Plus (Q+), which it used to try and make 1080p TVs look more like UHD TVs. (We published our take on it earlier this year.) Now the company is back using the technology to try and make 4K TVs look like 8K sets. 

This year the pixel-splitting TVs get a new name: Aquos Beyond 4K Ultra HD TV. The first set, an 80-inch model, will be available late in 2015. Sharp says the Beyond 4K Ultra HD TV will create a larger number of sub-pixels—66 million, or 42 million more than in other UHD sets, the company says—to deliver significantly more resolution and picture detail than on standard UHD TV sets. In fact, Sharp says, it can use the process, which splits pixels in half vertically, to take a 3840x2160 UHD-resolution screen and use it to display content at an effective resolution of up to 7680x4320.

We're really interested to see if the technique can create a noticeable improvement in resolution compared with a standard UHD TV. We did see some improved detail in Quattron+ TVs last year, though we ultimately didn't think the TVs provided a bridge between 1080p and UHD resolutions. The Beyond TV also has Spectros Rich Color, which uses an LED backlight with phosphor coatings and improved color filters to provide a wider, richer color gamut. We'll see how the TV performs once we're able to get it into our labs.

Sony XBR-X900C: Do you want a TV that's thinner than a smart phone?

Sony XBR-X900C super-thin TVs

For pure wow factor, it was hard to beat Sony's new super-thin XBR-X900-series UHD TVs, which Sony displayed on a rotating turntable so you could easily see just how the thin the TV really was. At its thinnest part, it's just 4.9mm thick. The sets, which will be available in 55- and 65-inch screen sizes this spring (a 75-inch model carries the XBR-X910C designation), also feature Sony's almost-frameless "floating" design.

But the TV isn't just thin, it's also packed with features, including a new X1 4K processor that claims to improve contrast and color, as well as the quality of streaming videos, plus Sony's Triluminos color technology, which we believe uses phosphor-coated LEDs. It also has Sony's version of high dynamic range, called X-tended Dynamic Range.

This year Sony's UHD TVs move to the Android TV operating system, which will let the TVs play games, respond to voice searches, and use Google Cast to send content to the TV from mobile devices. 

Samsung's SUHD TVs have both quantum dots and high dynamic range.

Samsung SUHD 4K TV lineup

Samsung hit CES 2015 with a new line SUHD TVs loaded with new technologies, including quantum dots for improved color, high dynamic range for boosted contrast and brightness, and a smart TV platform powered by the Tizen operating system.

All the premium sets this year—the flagship JS9500, the mid-tier JS9000, and JS8500 entry line—will wear the SUHD badge, with nine screen sizes ranging from 48 to 88 inches. These new TVs will use quantum dot nano-crystals embedded in a film that's sandwiched between the LED backlight and the LCD screen.

Beyond the quantum dot film, the SUHD TVs will have twice as many color adjustment points as regular sets, plus high dynamic range capability. Samsung claims that the sets will be able to provide 64 times the "color expression" of a standard panel, so presumably the company is using a panel with higher bit depth than 8 bits. The set will automatically analyze the brightness of images to improve contrast and black levels, it says, so the TVs can be up to 2.5 times brighter than conventional TVs, the company claims.

Samsung also says it's collaborating with Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox to optimize content to SUHD standards, and during CES it announced it was a member of the new UHD TV Alliance, which hopes to set standards for 4K devices and content.

The new Tizen OS will power Samsung's smart TVs this year; since it's an open-source platform rather than a proprietary one, Samsung believes it will be easier for developers to create cross-platform content for multiple devices. The Smart Hub interface now uses a tile-based menu system.

Can TCL step up its game with its first quantum dot UHD TV?

TCL H9700-series quantum dot TV

TCL first came to our attention a few years ago when it licensed the RCA brand here in the U.S. The company, China's largest TV manufacturer, is now trying to build its own brand here in the U.S., and at CES 2015 it seemed to want to up its game with the 55-inch H9700 model, a UHD TV that includes quantum dot technology.

Marketed under the "TV+" slogan, the set is one of the company's Roku TV models, which use the Roku interface as the main menu to quickly access and move through the various content channels. The H9700 is billed as the first 4K Roku TV.

So far, TCL hasn't done especially well in our TV Ratings, but we're looking forward to seeing if 2015 is the year the company ups its game. The company's TVs are generally well priced for their size and features, so if picture quality improves, TCL's TVs could represent a good value.

So that's my Top 5 list of the TVs I can't wait for us to test. Unfortunately, it looks like we'll have a few months before the first of these models actually arrives. Until then, you can check out the 250 or so HD TVs in our TV Ratings, and keep checking back here for all our TV updates.

—James K. Willcox

Click on the image above to find all of Consumer Reports' coverage from CES 2015.

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