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Are Ultra HD TVs worth the money? Consumer Reports says not yet

March 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Ultra High Definition TVs promise the best picture ever on huge screens, but they come with a huge price too, starting at $20,000. Consumer Reports took a closer look at the first wave of Ultra HD TVs.

The 84-inch Ultra HD TV from LG is the biggest flat-screen TV that Consumer Reports ever had in its test labs. But a huge screen isn't all that Ultra HD sets have to offer.

"Ultra HD TVs are a new breed of high-resolution TV that promise even more detail and sharper images than conventional 1080p sets," said Jim Wilcox with Consumer Reports.

Testers looked at the LG as well as the first Ultra HD sets from Sony and Samsung. When the sets are showing Ultra HD content, the picture is indeed breathtaking, with crisp images and more detail than testers have ever seen. However, there isn't much Ultra HD content. But the sets can take regular HD content that's been up-converted, and, not surprising, that looks great.

Testers also used test patterns to assess the new Ultra HD sets and found some drawbacks. All three had problems common to most LCDs, such as motion blur and black levels that aren't quite black. But the biggest problem is not technical.

"The TVs that we've seen so far cost around $20,000 to $25,000, and that's going to be prohibitively expensive for most people," said Wilcox.

So while Ultra HD looks great, and the huge screens are impressive, Consumer Reports says this technology is far from ready for prime time.

So you don't have $20,000 to spend on a new a TV; Consumer Reports recommends the Viera TC-P65VT50, a 65-inch plasma TV from Panasonic. It delivers excellent image detail and color as well as deep black levels. At $3300, it's not exactly cheap unless, of course, you're comparing it to the cost of an Ultra HD TV.


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