Big televisions measuring 140 centimetres and more have become the bright spot of a struggling industry. Nobody in the supply chain makes much money on tellies but the margins are best at the big end.
Buyers like big televisions too. According to industry research company GfK, in the last quarter of 2012 it’s what 15 per cent of buyers chose. This is one reason we’re seeing the emergence of monsters as big as four 106-centimetre screens stacked two-by-two. They’re almost as big as projection systems but a brighter and sharper. And they’re certainly more flexible and less finicky to operate.
But they cost a lot. One can’t help thinking that their prices reflect the manufacturers’ desperation to make televisions profitable again.
One retailer we visited was giving just $1 change out of $20,000 on Sharp’s 229-centimetre Aquos. Compare that with the 178-centimetre Aquos, by no means a small screen, that he’d priced at $3488.
The most breathtaking of these monsters are the ultra-high-definition (UHD) models from Sony and LG. In any comparison they trounce the full high-definition models around them. Both 213 centimetres, the LG is $15,999 and the Sony $24,999. We can’t see the extra $9000 in the Sony.
Before embracing UHD, pause and consider: First, it looks best playing UHD software through a UHD source unit. UHD software hardly exists, UHD broadcasts don’t exist; at least not here yet. But they’ll bump your current viewing up a notch or two. While impressive, this still doesn’t work the screen to full capacity.
Second, UHD is presented with giant screens because with anything less than 140 to 150 centimetres, you won’t notice much difference anyway.
Third, if you want a monster screen, you’ll need a monster room. Installers suggest the ideal viewing distance for such screens is at least four metres. Most people sit about three metres from their screen. Salespeople impress customers by pointing out that UHD screen definition is brilliant even close-up, whereas at that distance from a conventional screen, you can pick the pixels. True enough, but get back from the conventional TV to where you’d sit and this screen-door effect disappears anyway.
LG 84LM9600213-centimetre ultra-high-definitionSpotted for $15,990It’s not just large, it has the works — passive 3D, two-player gaming, BigPond Movies, a gesture-control remote, you name it. The picture resolution is nothing short of jaw-dropping; it comprehensively outperforms other televisions and projection systems of similar cost. It’s also good-looking, with slim cabinet borders and a chromed stand. At 70 kilograms, wall mounting is probably best. 192 x 112 x 4 centimetres (WxHxD).
Sharp LC90LE740X229-centimetre full high-definitionSpotted for $19,999This is the biggest LCD screen on the market and it’s a ripper, and feature packed with 3D, Skype and lots else. It’s as big as many projection systems but far brighter and sharper — which it should be, for the price, especially up against the LG UHD. Yet side by side and showing the same non-UHD content, there isn’t a lot between these two, especially at a comfortable viewing distance. 205 x 121 x 12 centimetres (WxHxD), 64 kilograms.
Samsung ES9000191-centimetre full high-definitionSpotted for $8999We saw this at two stores: one had it playing a Samsung demonstration disc that did the picture quality no favours, while the other (priced at $9499) had it on an animated movie that looked great — but animations look good on any screen. This is the bargain of the monster screens and it’s also the best-looking, but the picture doesn’t stack up. It is fully featured, however, including 3D, Skype, and inbuilt wireless. 168 x 98 x 3.6 centimetres (WxHxD), 44 kilograms.
VerdictFor sheer picture quality, the LG is sensational. For size, the Sharp stands alone. And the picture’s very good. The Samsung? If you’re into saving money, why not get a 178-centimetre Sharp? It may be smaller, but you’ll save more than $5000 and the picture is better. But no matter what you buy, to do it justice you’ll need a good external speaker system.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.