Published On: June 23, 2009

Is Brighter Better? LED HDTVs Are Flying Off Of Store Shelves

Published On: June 23, 2009

Is Brighter Better? LED HDTVs Are Flying Off Of Store Shelves

"LED TVs" are all the rage. An LCD TV that uses an LED-based lighting system instead of a CCFL backlight, this new design can allow for high brightness, improved energy efficiency, and sleeker form factors. But how do they measure up in the performance realm?

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Anyone who reads home theater magazines or online publications knows the hot new thing is LED HDTV. Samsung and Toshiba are pushing them like mad and, despite the higher prices, people are lining up to buy them by the tens of thousands. This is a resounding success for a new video technology, especially considering how established plasma and LCD are in the consumer psyche today.

LED offers a number of key advantages over plasma and LCD.
• LED HDTVs use reportedly 40 percent less energy than do plasma HDTVs.
• LED HDTVs are physically light and therefore could be (though this is highly not recommended) hung on the wall like a picture. HomeTheaterReview.com recommends you use only the best mounting hardware for performance and safety.
• LED HDTVs are brighter than the beam coming out of the top of the Luxor.
• Reported contrast ratios on LED HDTVs are off the charts compared to those of any other video source today.

Retailers are ecstatic about LED as, in a recession-starved home theater market, LED is driving people in the doors to spend money on HDTVs that have some actual margin in them. Blame the fact that Costco and Wal-Mart will sell an HDTV to make $100, the key reason why Circuit City, Tweeter and The Good Guys went Chapter 7. For the time being, LED offers a chance to retailers who struggle to sell audio as a way to make a little money.

Consumers flip out for LED the second they see it. The main reason is because it is so bright. For those who haven't seen the technology in person: prepare yourself for a beamingly bright experience. The green angle only helps. The weight issue is nice, too, because a 60-inch plasma is, without question, a two-man job to hang.

Reviewers are torn about LED in these early days. Like consumers, we appreciate the brightness. However, to the trained eye, viewings of units like the popular Samsung 55-inch LED being sold at Best Buy suffer from many video maladies when looking past the WOW factor of the brightness. After an extended viewing session with the set, one respected reviewer noticed issues like macro blocking on fast-moving scenes. The level of grayscale is very limited, which negatively affects the black performance of early LEDs compared to LCD and plasma HDTVs in today's marketplace. The refresh rate (the 120 Hz and 240 Hz part the salesman is always talking about) often makes movies and sports look artificial and mechanical, despite the fact it's supposed to cure that malady. The lack of grayscale makes the image on Blu-ray movies often lack the level of low light detail that you will see on more developed LCD and especially on plasma HDTVs. If you are watching an LED to view the U.S. Open on a sunny day, it will look fantastic. On a Blu-ray copy of The Sopranos or a Jerry Bruckheimer film, you might struggle a little with the low-level lights.

Toshiba's first-generation LED offers a lot of promise to solve many of these video issues in the early goings of LED HDTVs, as we have had an early look at the Toshiba and the Samsung. Both sets are in for review at HomeTheaterReview.com this summer. Stay tuned for the full-feature, fully-calibrated reviews in the coming weeks.

LED HDTVs have all the potential in the world and are likely the future of a booming category of home theater products. They look great on daylight sources and are brighter than a supernova. This brightness lures the consumers in and makes them forget about a recession and this may be the strongest reason why LED could be the best format right now.

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