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With 3D exciting in principal but often letting us down in practice, you could argue that the biggest game-changer of 2010 was actually something much more straightforward: Freeview HD.
Working with cutting-edge tech every day as we do, it’s easy to forget that there are still millions of people in the UK who have no HD sources whatsoever - who’ve never even seen HD in action, in fact.
So the sudden introduction in March (by the Sony KDL-40EX503) of built-in tuners capable of receiving subscription-free HD channels through, in most cases, your existing aerial made such brilliant mass-market sense that within mere weeks we’d started to expect Freeview HD tuners as standard on all but the cheapest TVs.
To be honest, the extent to which Freeview HD took off caught us by surprise, despite it working well from the off and making so much sense. And we weren’t alone; Philips, sadly, took something of a bath in 2010 by failing to include Freeview HD in any of its TV range, meaning we always had something negative to say about what tended to otherwise be mighty fine TVs.
But the fact remains that aside from needing more HD content and needing more control/consistency where picture quality is concerned, Freeview HD is arguably the only completely successful technology launch of 2010 (as long as you’re in an area offering coverage – ed).
Certainly this can’t be said of the sudden rise to world domination of LED lighting in TVs. It surprises us to be saying that given this we’ve long supported LED over CCFL LCD, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that a disturbing number of LED-lit TVs in 2010 left us feeling cold.
The main reason for this is something that became almost an obsession by the end of the year: backlight inconsistency. Far too many LED-lit TVs, such as Toshiba’s recently reviewed 32SL738, suffered with obvious, distracting issues where some parts of the picture looked brighter than others during dark scenes. Yeuch.
It should be said that the backlight consistency issue we’re talking about is pretty much exclusive to edge LED technology. Screens using direct LED lighting (where the lights sit right behind the screen rather than around its edge) fare much better - especially as most direct LED sets have made big strides towards avoiding the haloing effect seen with the first direct LED TVs. Shame, then, that direct LED TVs are still being positioned as premium (aka expensive!) models.
It should also be said that not all edge LED TVs have suffered badly with backlight inconsistencies, and that edge LED lighting has proven able to deliver some good strengths too, including extra brightness and rich colours.
However, overall the surge in edge LED lighting in TVs has arguably led to a step back in the quality of the flat TV world as a whole, especially at the reasonably priced end of the market. Here’s hoping most brands really start addressing this issue if they persevere with edge LED lighting in 2011.