Remember a few years back when the trend in the TV market was to offer really big screens at more affordable prices? Sharp kind of kicked it off in an effort to help reinvigorate the company's TV sales, offering 70- to 90-inch screen sizes at much lower price points than we had previously seen. Many of our readers seemed pretty enthused by this particular trend, but it quickly lost steam. What happened?
Ultra HD happened. In terms of TV pricing, the race to the bottom has run its course; right now, manufacturers are now looking for reasons to charge more for their televisions, not less. Ironically, we're actually seeing a greater number of 70-inch-plus TVs hit the market, but the vast majority of them fall at the top end of the price spectrum. Ultra HD benefits from the larger screen size, so most of the major manufacturers have embraced at least a 75- to 80-inch screen, some even larger, in their 2015 UHD lines. To get a new 75-inch-plus UHD TV from the likes of Sony, Samsung, or LG will run you $6,000 or more (in some cases, a lot more). And forget about those 105- or 110-inch TVs that these companies like to show off at trade shows--unless you've got $100,000 burning a hole in your pocket.
Another trend that's affecting the ultra-big-screen category is the curve and other design flourishes, as I like to call them. In many cases, if you want the best of the best that a manufacturer has to offer in terms of picture quality (i.e., OLED technology or full-array LED backlighting with local dimming), you're also forced to buy a curved screen or some other unique design element. Samsung will sell you a flat version of its new SUHD TV, but only with edge LED lighting. If you want the top-shelf JS9500 with full-array LED backlighting, you'd better warm up to the curve. Likewise, if you want Sony's premium XBR-X940C UHD TV, I hope you like the look of those big, integrated speaker panels because you're stuck with them. The companies charge you a premium for these premium design elements, whether you really want them or not.
So where does that leave the average consumer who just wants a really large flat-screen TV? No Ultra HD. No curve. No speaker panels. Just a big screen. Now, I can hear some of you out there yelling at your computer: "Just get a front-projection system!" It's true, front projection is still the best value in the big-screen category, and there's no shortage of affordably priced high-brightness projectors and ambient-light-rejecting screens that allow you to enjoy front projection in a non-theater environment.
But alas, some people will never heed this advice and embrace front projection in their living room. They want a TV...and they want it big. For you, I've got good news and bad news. The good news is, manufacturers haven't completely abandoned the ultra-big-screen 1080p market. The bad news is, they probably will soon, so don't put off that purchase for too much longer. To assist you in your search, here's a breakdown of what each of the major manufacturers has to offer in the large-screen 1080p category--some TVs are new for 2015, while others are hold-overs from the 2014 line.
Let's start with market leader Samsung. Even though Samsung is pushing the combination of UHD and curved screens more aggressively than just about anyone and has put all the emphasis this year on its SUHD TV line, the company did quietly introduce the flat J6300 1080p series that includes a 75-inch screen size. The UN75J6300 (shown here), currently priced at $2,499, is an edge-lit LED model with Micro Dimming Pro, Motion Rate 120 for blur reduction, and the new Tizen-based smart TV platform.
Sony's new 75-inch UHD models (the X940C, X910C, and X850C) carry premium price tags, but the company has also announced one new 75-inch 1080p model: the $2,999 KDL-75W850C (shown at the top of story) is an edge-lit LED with frame dimming, a 240Hz refresh rate, and the Android smart TV platform. By the way, last year's 70-inch KDL-70W850B is now priced at around $1,800.
LG will offer plenty of 70-inch-plus UHD models, but the 1080p line now tops off at 65 inches. The only current 70-inch 1080p model is the 70LB7100, a 2014 edge-lit model without local dimming that sells for $2,300, but LG says it won't be available for much longer.
Sharp has backed away from the 80- to 90-inch 1080p TVs it used to offer, although some of those older models are still available. While the new UE30 and UH30 Ultra HD series have screen sizes up to 80 inches, the new LE653/654 1080p line tops off at 65 inches. Last year's 70-inch LC-70EQ10U, LC-70SQ15U, and LC-70UQ17U 1080p TVs are still available for under $2,000, while the 80-inch LC-80UQ17U is $3,999. These are edge-lit TVs with no local dimming.
Vizio's new 2015 E Series includes a 70-inch 1080p model that carries an MSRP of $1,399.99 (the E70-C3, shown here). It's also worth noting that the M Series, which used to be a 1080p line, has moved up to a UHD resolution but still lands in the "affordable" category by Ultra HD standards: the M Series will include screen sizes of 70 inches ($2,199.99), 75 inches ($2,999.99), and 80 inches ($3,999.99). All of Vizio's HDTVs use a full-array LED backlighting with local dimming and include the VIA Plus smart TV platform.
Panasonic's TV lineup currently maxes out at 65 inches, with the exception of one high-end 85-inch UHD TV (the TC-85AX850U) that was announced late last year but does not appear to be available anywhere.
Like Panasonic, JVC's TV line tops out at 65 inches, save for one 85-inch UHD TV: the $7,999 DM85UXR.
Hisense's TV offerings here in the U.S. currently max out at the 65-inch screen size.
TCL's TV offerings here in the U.S. currently max out at the 55-inch screen size.
As you can see, there aren't a ton of new offerings in this space. On the plus side, UHD TV prices will continue to fall, so it should be only a matter time before a strong entry-level UHD market emerges. The question is, are you willing to wait that long for your ultra-big-screen bliss?
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