10 Best TVs of 2015 - Forbes
After a rather uninspiring 2014 the TV world has now hit its stride again, with all of the big brands managing to include sets of real quality in their current ranges.The fact that native 4K UHD resolutions became available for much more affordable prices than we'd seen in 2014 helped, as did the launch of more gorgeous OLED TVs from LG and Panasonic.The sudden arrival of High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology (explained here) seemed to play a part in the sense of 2015 delivering a real leap forward in TV quality too, as it forced manufacturers to look for ways to get more brightness and wider colour ranges from their flat TV technologies.While picture quality has generally greatly improved, though, there are still a few let downs out there. So to make sure you don't end up with one of those, here's my list of what I consider - from another year of testing as many TVs as I can get my hands on - to be the best TVs currently out there in the marketplace.Note that while I've put a 'best price at the time of writing' for each TV, there's a good chance that these prices may have dropped by the time you're reading this, so it's worth spending a few minutes looking around online for the latest prices rather than just relying on my provided links.LG 65EF9500 (LG 65EF950V in the UK)Best price at the time of writing: $4,997.99 at amazon.comFinally, just when I'd almost decided it was never going to happen, LG has managed to make OLED screen technology a genuine mainstream(ish) technology.This 65-inch model delivers spectacularly on the contrast and colour benefits OLED is renowned for while costing under $4,999. It's also the first flat rather than curved 4K OLED TV, and for me that, too, is a very good thing.Rounding out its appeal are an astonishingly slim design, its ability to play high dynamic range content, and its use of the latest version of LG's brilliant webOS smart TV interface.If you run the 65EF950V too hard its usually imperious contrast can reduce, and you may also sometimes notice a slight dimming effect down the picture's sides. But these issues really are puny blips in a performance that cements OLED's status as the apparent future of TV technology.Full review here.Samsung UN40JU7100 (Samsung UE40JU7000 in the UK)Best price at the time of writing: $797.99 at amazon.comBad news first: with its 40-inch screen the Samsung UN40JU7100 doesn't benefit from its native 4K/UHD resolution as much as a bigger screen would - unless you're sat pretty close to it.That's not to say there's no benefit from a normal viewing distance, though: pictures enjoy more depth and subtler colour nuancing. Plus this mid-range Samsung UHD model gets lots of other things right; for instance it looks cute, its contrast is outstanding for its price, and it's got one of the most comprehensive smart TV systems in the business, accessed this year by Samsung's new Tizen operating system.Basically if you thought you had neither the space nor the finances for a UHD TV, the UN40JU7100 is the set that should make you think again.Full review here.Panasonic TC-55CX850U (Panasonic TX-55CX802 in the UK)Best price at the time of writing: an incredible $1,499.99 from Panasonic directIf you consider yourself a really serious AV fan - the sort of person who always preferred plasma to LCD, and who favours accuracy and subtlety over aggression and extremes - the Panasonic 55CX850 is almost uniquely qualified to meet your needs (short of buying an OLED TV).The key to its success is its 4K Pro technology, which combines a new wide colour, high brightness panel design with some outstanding video processing to deliver pictures which, Panasonic claims, look exactly as their creators' intended them to look. The result is a relaxing, cinematic image packed to bursting with gorgeous details and colour nuances.The only catch is that you have to reduce the backlight to combat some clouding issues, meaning that it may not be the best screen for bright rooms. But serious movie fans would only want to watch a film in a dark room anyway, right?Full review here.Vizio M50-C1 (not available in the UK)Best price at the time of writing: $698 at amazon.comNo other brand, it seems, is quite as good at delivering big screens and good picture quality at an aggressive price as Vizio.I was torn here between including the brand's incredibly cheap $358 E40-C2 40-inch HD model or the M50-C1 4K model - but in the end my love for 4K tipped me towards the M50.This TV uses, remarkably for its price, not only a direct LED lighting system but also a local dimming engine, where zones of the lights behind the screen can have their output controlled individually to boost contrast. As hoped this helps the M50-C1 produce black levels that shame those of some far more expensive TVs, along with reasonably accurate, punchy colours and good levels of sharpness that do the native 4K pixel count proud.You can get better picture quality if you pay more, but there's nothing around for the M50-C1's money that's anywhere near as good.Full review (from CNET) here.Sony XBR-65X850C (Sony KD-65X8505C in the UK)Best price at the time of writing: $1798 at amazon.comThanks to some stunning colour reproduction courtesy of Sony's Triluminos technology, a strong direct backlighting system and some brilliant video processing from Sony's new X1 chipset - especially when it comes to upscaling HD sources to the screen's native 4K resolution - the 65X850C's picture quality is frequently jaw-dropping.It's capable of playing high dynamic range content too, which it does more successfully than Sony's edge-lit LCD models.The set's new Android TV smart platform is a disappointment (for reasons discussed here), but at least it offers plenty of content, rounding out a terrific TV package that's a steal at current prices.Full review: Coming soon!Samsung UN65JS9500 (Samsung UE65JS9500 in the UK)Best price at the time of writing: $3,997.99 at amazon.comThis was the first new UHD TV to emerge in 2015, and it set an incredibly high performance bar for the chasing pack. In fact, in some areas it remains unbeaten.Its star attraction is its incredible brightness, which can peak at 1000 lumens - far higher than anything that's been released for consumer use before. This joins forces with a new colour system driven by Quantum dot-like Nano Crystal technology and a locally dimmed direct backlight system to produce pictures of unprecedented dynamism and intensity - all with a focus on the new high dynamic range images that started to appear in 2015 and will become widespread by 2016.It also scores major points with me for being upgradable to future connections and smart/processing systems simply by swapping out its external connections/processing box.In recent months OLED screens have started to offer an interesting black level focussed alternative to the Samsung's brightness based charms, and the UN65JS9500's curved screen may not suit everyone (see my separate feature for the pros and cons of curved TVs).The fact remains, though, that no other TV this year makes quite such a visceral impact or feels quite so futuristic as the UN65JS9500.Full review here.Sony KDL-55W800C (Sony KDL-55W805C in the UK)Best price at the time of writing: $698 at amazon.comIt's a sign of just how quickly 4K/UHD technology is taking over the TV world that the Sony 55W800C is one of only two HD models included in this list of the 10 best TVs around right now. It's also a testament to just how good the 55W800C is.Its picture quality really is excellent - probably as good as HD from an LCD TV will get now, given that 4K screens are starting to crush HD out of the market. It combines one of the finest edge LED lighting systems I've seen with gorgeously rich colours, great detailing for a non-4K TV, and some of the best motion handling around - thanks in no small part to the presence of Sony's X-Reality Pro processing.Smart features are handled by the latest Android TV platform, which while encumbering the TV with its rather clunky interface does at least ensure you're not short of online content.Full review: N/ALG 55EG9100 (LG 55EG910V in the UK)Best price at the time of writing: $1,797.99 at amazon.comGiven the 55EG9100's price you're probably thinking it must be a 4K/UHD TV. But it isn't. What it is, though, is another one of LG's brilliant OLED TVs, where every single one of its 1920x1080 pixel is able to produce its own independent light and colour to deliver levels of contrast and a sense of colour richness no other current TV technology can get match.So spectacular is the 55-inch 55EG9100's contrast performance, in fact, thanks in particular to its almost perfect reproduction of black colours, that its pictures actually look comfortably superior to those of some 4K TVs.The set also boasts an incredibly slim design and LG's latest webOS 2.0 smart interface which is, as ever, a joy to use.The bottom line is that the 55EG910V is by far the cheapest way to get your hands on LG's 2015 OLED technology - and that in itself could make the TV irresistible to anyone not desperate to introduce 4K to their lives.Full review (from Reference Home Theater) here.Samsung UN65JS9000 (Samsung UE65JS9000 in the UK)Best price at the time of writing: $2,997.99 at amazon.comIf you like the sound of the Samsung UN65JS9500 but can't stretch to its near-$4,000 asking price, the UN65JS9000 is an outstanding step-down alternative.It still offers Samsung's so-called 'SUHD' level of specification, meaning it combines a super-bright panel design with Nano Crystal colour reproduction and the ability to play back high dynamic range content. It still carries Samsung's decent new Tizen operating system too, and plenty of online content options. And it enjoys one of Samsung's latest 'VA' type LCD panel designs, which for my money deliver the best contrast performance of any current LCD panel technology.The reason the UN65JS9000 is significantly cheaper than the UN65JS9500 is that it uses an edge LED lighting system rather than a direct one. This is a significant issue, since it means you have to reduce the JS9000's backlight quite heavily to stop the picture from suffering with clouding problems during dark scenes. This in turn means this TV doesn't deliver as much impact with HDR content as the JS9500s.Once you've calibrated it sensibly, though, it still represents pretty much the state of the art where edge-lit LCD TVs are concerned.Full review here.Sony XBR-75X940C (Sony KD-75X9405C in the UK)Best price at the time of writing: $5,998 at amazon.comIf I had to pick my all-round favourite TV of the year, it would probably be this one. Everything about it is uncompromising, from its colossal 75-inch 4K/UHD screen to its direct LED backlighting system, high dynamic range playback, new ultra-powerful X1 video processing engine, spectacular Triluminos colour system, and enormous forward firing speaker system that sounds so good it humbles many dedicated hi-fis.Clearly no 75-inch TV will make for a comfortable fit in any living room - especially when the frame around that huge screen has to extend a good few inches further to accommodate the 75X940C's speakers. But the size and quality of its pictures is more than enough reward for the effort involved in finding the space and money to get one in your home.Full review here.