HDTV Manufacturer Fraud?

One thing I’ve learned in almost 30 years in the technology products business is that it’s inevitable that as competition gets more intense, the manufacturers play faster and looser with the whole idea of “specifications”. I saw it in the processor speeds of IBM PC AT compatibles, and in the dots-per-inch claims for personal computer printers, and in the resolution claims of picture tube (CRT) computer monitors. And it’s been a part of the HDTV market nearly from the start. (One plasma company claimed that 1,024 by 1,024 pixels was enough to be called “HDTV” even though it couldn’t show all the 1,280 by 720 pixels in the 720p image; amazingly, a federal judge agreed with the company.)

Now my friend, colleague, and mentor in display technology has taken on the manufacturers and their misleading or misconstrued features and specifications. In an article on the Maximum PC site, Ray Soneira of DisplayMate doesn’t pull any punches. I’ve weighed in on many of these same topics in the past: LED TVs are actually LCD TVs with LED backlights, contrast ratio specifications are useless at predicting what you’ll see, and LCD “viewing angle” specifications are measured in a way that renders the results pointless. Ray digs into these and more, including Sharp’s new 4-color LCD technology and 120 Hz refresh rates. And he finds good reason to criticize them all.

Now, Ray is not some crackpot or a technology lightweight who is just shooting off his mouth. He created the DisplayMate software that we used for every monitor and projector test for years at PC Magazine Labs. He taught me a lot about testing displays, which I then applied when I developed all those test protocols for PC Magazine Labs. And this recent article of his is based on hard results that he got from an extensive shoot-out project that he ran in his New Hampshire lab.

Ray Soneira tested a collection of LCD and plasma HDTVs for his latest project on image quality.

So before you buy another HDTV, be sure to check out what Ray has to say about the specifications and other manufacturers’ claims, just so you’ll know what you’re looking at when you see the emperor’s newest clothes.