Your decision is certain. This year you buy one of the best televisions on the market. Top image quality is of course at the top of your list. And you go for 55 or 65 inch, that much is certain. Which TV deserves that place in your living room?
What do we mean by 'high-end'?
A high-end television of 55 or 65 inch, with superior image quality, spacious HDR support and good ease of use. The price is less important, but of course we remain attentive to a good buy. In terms of design, you can expect really beautiful and beautifully finished models in this category, but that of course remains something very personal. We also expect an excellent smart TV experience, with apps that let us enjoy high-quality content. Voting assistants are on the rise, but we know that support for the Netherlands remains a pain for the time being.
4K or 8K
Those who really want to shop high-end can now opt for an 8K model. But the offer in that segment is still very small and considerably more expensive. Moreover, the usefulness of 8K in the living room is fairly limited. Yes, it can take away the last scraps of artificial impression of a digital image, but that requires 8K content. That offer is currently non-existent. You should also not expect 8K video in the near future. Even for 4K we are not quite there yet. Those who want to enjoy 4K in Belgium and in the Netherlands depend on streaming and Ultra HD Blu-ray. The channel offer in 4K is very small. Given the required bandwidth of 8K, that will certainly be quite some years in the future.
HDMI 2.1 or not?
There is a lot to be done around the introduction of HDMI 2.1 . But only LG offers fully equipped HDMI 2.1 connections on its devices this year. Is that a real handicap for other manufacturers? We elaborate on this in a background piece in FWD 74, but this is the short summary. HDMI 2.1 essentially offers four new things: a higher bandwidth and three new features (ALLM, VRR and eARC ). That higher bandwidth is required for 8K resolutions and for High Frame Rate (HFR) content. But for now HFR content is only available through gaming consoles and the chance that we will also see HFR content on television or via streaming within this and five years is not very high.
ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) are two features that are specifically intended for gaming. With ALLM, the television automatically switches to Game image mode when you start gaming on the connected game console. VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) ensures that you have a smooth gaming experience, without cracks in the image or stuttering images. This is important because, unlike a Blu-ray player or other image source, a game console does not provide a constant frame rate. Of course, the game console must also support both features!
eARC often seems the most useful. Extended ARC (Audio Return Channel) offers a higher bandwidth so that now Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio can flow to your audio solution along this route. But that utility is limited. The lossless audio codecs are only used on Blu-ray and if you do use an external audio solution, you better connect the player directly to it. Streaming apps will only use Dolby Digital Plus for a very long time and that is possible via the existing ARC connection. eARC is certainly not a must and certainly not if you do not use external audio.
In the specifications we read Dolby Atmos more often. But what does that mean in concrete terms? Dolby Atmos is a new object-oriented sound format that also sounds high-altitude sound. That promises, but in practice a lot of conditions have to be met before you really enjoy Dolby Atmos. To begin with, you must of course use Atmos content. This can come via streaming (Netflix) or discs. Next, you must be able to play television or pass that content on to an external audio setup. But even on televisions that support Atmos, the result is often limited. That is not surprising, the speaker arrangement of a TV, even a high-end model such as this one, is not really sufficient to create a real Atmos experience. If you really want the best audio solution then you have to choose a soundbar or AV receiver, which in turn should also be equipped for Atmos. Then you often have to activate a setting on the television in the sound menu so that Atmos is transmitted. So be well informed if you find this important.
High Dynamic Range
HDR is now a fixed part of the specifications of most televisions. In addition to HDR10 and HLG, which are universally supported, there are two standards for dynamic metadata: Dolby Vision and HDR10 + . It still remains to be seen whether one of the two will prevail, or whether both standards will gain a place in the market. In that respect, support for both standards is a nice plus. And this year, for the first time, manufacturers are supplying this.
Nothing has changed in terms of peak brightness and color range. OLED delivers the best contrast and decent brightness. LCD delivers the best brightness and good contrast. In terms of color range, they are almost equivalent, although for the brightest colors an LCD model does have a small advantage.
What is the best high-end TV of the moment?
In this file we discuss five high-end end televisions of the larger brands, looking in particular at the image performance. In some cases, models can be found higher up in the line-up, but they have the same panel with (mostly) the same image performance. Below you will find the conclusions from each of the reviews, with a link to the full review.
With the OLED65C9PLA, LG puts down a very nice and good reference against which other OLED models will compete this year. . To really complete the picture we would have liked to see HDR10 + in the list of HDR formats. That is immediately the most important comment we have. ThinQ AI still only partially works in Dutch, we hope to see this resolved this year. It is difficult to ignore the price, especially given the steep fall in prices of last year's models.
The stylish C9 series has more than just the looks. The image quality is excellent in both SDR and HDR. The particularly good calibration guarantees impressive images. The second-generation Alpha9 processor builds well on last year's performance, and delivers a number of small but handsome improvements: AI brightness enhances HDR display in a lot of ambient light, 'smooth gradations' efficiently removes most color bands, and dynamic tone mapping delivers clearer images . Basic performance is unchanged from last year, so LCD TVs continue to claim the brightness crown, but OLED remains the champion for contrast and black display. WebOS also got some small but well-chosen improvements, and it strengthens its place with the best smart TV systems.
Also read the full LG C9 series review .
Panasonic TX-55GZW954 (NL) / TX-55GZ950 (BE)
It is difficult to find a real downside on this Panasonic GZW954 / GZ950 series. Now that we think about it, we would also like eARC and VRR on the HDMI connections. But as we already told earlier those features are only important for gamers or for very specific audio setups. Yes, the sound can be slightly better, but at normal volumes it performs well.
Pluses, this TV has it in abundance. Panasonic sets a clear reference with the TX-55GZW954 / TX-55GZ950. This is perfect color reproduction, this is almost perfect black detail. The device scores excellent on image processing, even in our most difficult test scenes. The peak brightness of the OLED screen is one of the best in the range. The device offers all HDR formats and is also practically perfectly calibrated in HDR. A fantastic result for the film fan, but also a beautiful screen for every television viewer, and even for gamers thanks to the very low input lag. The nice Smart Home 4.0 smart TV interface, double TV tuner and double CA slot are great extras. The price tag also gets our approval, in short a top TV!
Also read the full Panasonic GZW954 series review .