Home News You Asked 8: plasma replacements, Cheap OLEDs, and Sharp TVs

You Asked 8: plasma replacements, Cheap OLEDs, and Sharp TVs

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In this installment of You Asked, resident AV expert Caleb Denison answers your questions about the best plasma TV replacement, cheap OLED versus high-end LCD, the best cheap TV for movies, and what he thinks of the new Sharp mini-LED TV.

Plasma replacements

Digital Trends

Kevin Maple writes:  I have a Pioneer 60-inch 1080p Kuro Plasma that, in many cases, outperforms, my two-year-old Sony 4K. I struggle with whether I should replace it. The viewing angle and black levels are better than my Sony, and it looks fabulous – and probably better with sports broadcasts that, for reasons you addressed, are still either 720p, 1080i, or 1080p. It has HDMI (but not the latest) and performs well with my AppleTV. What’s really to gain by dumping what is about a 14- to 15-year-old TV (dumb TV) for a newer $3,000-plus option? Budget’s not the roadblock; I just really don’t see newer TVs with broadcast TV and sports bringing any benefit. And in the case of viewing angle, LED seems to lose. I guess I would gain with Netflix 4K shows, but the old Pioneer does a great job with compressed video.

So, Kevin, I’m curious about what your Sony 4K TV is. But since you mentioned that the Kuro’s black levels and viewing angle are superior, I’m going to venture a guess that it’s an LCD-based TV. And, if that’s the case, yeah, I understand being reluctant to replace the Kuro with an LCD TV. That’s why I would suggest looking at OLED TVs, which have measurably superior black levels and off-angle viewing to your Kuro. And, I suspect, that if you were to buy a similarly sized TV to the Kuro, 65 inches would be the way to go, unless you want to downsize. Then you would notice that the OLED looks better in almost every way, save one: slow-panning shots on movies. That’s where OLED can have a sort of flashing effect because its pixels are so instantaneously fast that the movement of light from one pixel to the next can be a little jarring to some viewers.

Check out my video titled Plasma vs. OLED 2023 and see what you think. If you have more questions after watching that, please write again. But, also, I would suggest a 65-inch Sony A95K if you can get your hands on one.

A cheetah lounges in a tree shows in a Samsung F8500 Plasma.
Samsung F8500 Plasma Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

@tomeliason3480 also had a plasma replacement question: My Samsung 8500 plasma just died. Should I go with the LG C2, LG  C3, or TCL QM8?

Mine, too! In the Plasma vs. OLED 2023 video I mentioned above, I used an F8500 plasma, and that TV just died about a week and a half ago. I’m not going to get too deep into it, but there was a tiny flame, a poof of smoke, and the main board was fried — this after the TV just went black, even though you could still hear audio. Does any of that sound familiar? I’m super curious, so please write in to YouAsked@digitaltrends.com and let me know. And once we get chatting, maybe we can dial in which TV you should get because — as I mentioned in the sixth installment of  YouAsked — I need more info than you gave me.

Best TVs for motion

The sun illuminates a sunflower in a field shows on a Hisense U7K.
Hisense U7K Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

Continuing along that same theme, Daniele Amandolini writes:

I own a 2016 Vizio M50. Some of the backlight zones have failed, and there’s a darker area on the screen. Safe to say, I’m ready for an upgrade. Other than your site, I also check Rtings reviews, and most TVs these days seem to suffer from motion issues when displaying 24 fps [frames-per-second] content. I am a cinephile (and a filmmaker myself) and I want a TV that shines in showing 24 fps content. Everything else is secondary. 

I’m not asking for a specific model (I would like to stay in the $500/$600 range for a 50- or 55-inch panel), but rather something to guide me in finding TVs that do well in that specific area. What should I look for? How can I identify that specific strength/weakness in TVs? The showcase content at department stores is so misleading. 

Furthermore, Rtings seems to highlight how TVs with faster response time (which is most of them these days) especially struggle with 24 fps content. Ironically, it seems like watching movies/shows has become a niche use case for TVs and I’m lost.

So, Daniele, I feel your pain. The first thing I want to say is that just about any TV I recommend to you is going to outperform your Vizio M50. TVs have come a long way since 2016. And, I would say that if you didn’t notice especially poor 24 fps performance on your Vizio, then you aren’t going to feel like you’re taking a step back with one of the much better-performing TVs today. For a 55-inch at around $600, I would suggest the Hisense U7K.

The problem with displaying film content today is that the very fast response time of today’s LCD TVs and the instant response time of today’s OLED TVs make very slow pans in films display the slowness of the frame rate in a way that many of us aren’t used to. You might think that faster-acting pixels would be a desirable attribute. And for many things, they are. But what happens in a slow pan is that the image is moving slowly, and it’s happening at a slow frame rate. So every time a pixel activates from dark to bright, you see that activation, and it appears as a sort of flash, or flicker. You can address this some by using motion smoothing. But if you use too much, then you lose the cadence of the film and it doesn’t look like film — it looks like a soap opera. One of the reasons I like Sony TVs for motion processing is that you can implement just a touch of motion smoothing and get rid of any undesirable effects while the movie still looks like a movie.

I hope that helps!

Cheap OLED vs. high-end LCD

An aerial views of a coastline shown on a Samsung QN90C.
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

Houston Lamb asks: From a cost-versus-picture quality perspective, are there situations in which you would recommend a cheaper OLED TV like the LG B series over a high-end LCD TV?

No. Not anymore. A few years ago? Yes. Then, the perfect blacks of OLED could not be approached by LCD TVs, even the high-end models. And that perfect black yielded amazing contrast, so even though the OLED TV’s processing might not have been as good as a high-end Sony LCD TV, the delta in black-level performance between OLED and LCD was big enough that I would have opted for OLED. But today, many high-end LCD TVs are getting very close to OLED black levels, and so the better image processing in those high-end LCD TVs ends up being the tipping point. Right now, I might buy something like the Samsung QN90C over an entry-level OLED.

Sharp TVs make a surprise return

A promotional image for the Sharp Aquos XLED TV.
Sharp Aquos XLED TV Sharp

The most popular question this last week had to do with the new Sharp Aquos XLED mini-LED TV and if I’m going to review it and what I think about it. So, to these three who wrote in: @strpyw1 @arthurvandermark5397, and @theworkoutgeek, thanks for asking. I know you represent more people who are wondering the same thing.

So, this is a little embarrassing to admit — I lost track of what was going on with Sharp back in 2018 or 2019. So, I was unaware, until very recently that Sharp owned its brand name and IP again. So, at first, when folks were like, “There’s a new Sharp TV out. What do you think? Are you going to review it?” my internal dialogue was “yeah, no, probably not. I’m already reviewing Hisense TVs.”

For those of you who don’t know what the heck I’m talking about. Here’s the backstory: Sharp, like all Japan-based TV makers, was on the struggle bus back in 2014 and 2015. I suspect that the horrendous earthquake and Tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 had tremendous economic impacts that had ripple effects that were felt hard, much later after the event.

Meanwhile, South Korean companies like Samsung and LG and Chinese companies like Hisense and TCL were surging in popularity.

Toshiba and JVC ended up getting bought out just to license their names. Panasonic withdrew from the U.S. market. And Sharp sold licensing rights to Hisense for U.S. TV production in 2015. So, from 2015 to 2018 or so, if you bought a Sharp TV, you were buying a Hisense.

Now, although Sharp sold the licensing and manufacturing capacity it had in North America to Hisense, Sharp continued to be Sharp. Foxconn bought Sharp and was, until recently, the parent company, but Sharp, to some degree, was still the Sharp we knew from back when it made some of the best TVs you could buy.

Well, in 2019 — and this is where I lost track of the story — Sharp bought its name and all its rights back from Hisense. And it has been plotting a comeback ever since. I missed that. Full stop. It was buried in some industry gazette and I missed it! Then, the global pandemic, and busy, busy, busy, and here we are today. I didn’t know that the new TV you all have been asking about was actually made by Sharp.

I’m embarrassed. I feel like I should have known that. Please forgive me.

So, yes. I have to see this TV! I have no relationship with Sharp now, but I had better rekindle one. And yes, I guess there’s yet another TV coming in for review! I’m excited. It could be great. This could be huge — or it could be a letdown — but I’m going to stay optimistic.

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