Walking around the exhibit hall at SID 2009, I was struck by an observation; just about all the displays look marvelous. This may seem like a trivial statement, but it’s not. I think back to what the flat panels looked like 10 years ago — or even five years ago — and the improvement is significant. The difference is that back then, you could find some panels that looked dramatically better than others. Now, performance differences are hard to find.
Yes, OLEDs have amazing clarity and rich, deep blacks that are hard — but not impossible — to match in LCDs. And the Samsung 240 Hz LCD panel definitely has less blur than a 120 Hz panel (though the difference is hard to see unless you have the two side-by-side). And some of the specialty industrial panels don’t look as good, such as some of the transflective panels that have to trade away contrast in order gain sunlight readability.
But in general, panels intended for HDTV applications all look pretty great. Colors are great. Blacks are great. Viewing angles are good. Even motion blur is pretty good. As a result, the panel makers are looking for other aspects to create competitive advantages. LED backlights allow local dimming for better contrast and power savings. LED edge-lighting results in remarkably thin panels. And now panel makers are searching in earnest for 3D technology solutions that will bring the three-dimensional cinema experience into the living room.
So what does this mean for the consumer? It means that you can expect to see fewer and fewer image quality differences among the flat panel HDTV on the market. Instead, you’ll have to make your choice based on other features, such as connections, Internet support, and of course price. And brand will always be important as it is a measure of the company that stands behind the product.