Time, then, to start thinking of the January sales. And since a pre-Christmas poll on Sky News suggested that a swanky new 3D TV was the most desired Christmas present – ahead, remarkably, of even the iPad – we thought it would be a nice idea to present our favourite 10 TVs of the year – including a healthy number or 3D models. We might even have tried to stick totally with 3D TVs were it not for the fact that we couldn’t actually come up with enough that we really, really liked…
Please note that the TVs we’ve selected here have been chosen purely on the grounds of how much affection they generated in us as we looked back over the list of all the TVs we’ve seen this year. The choices haven’t been made with any great thoughts of price or size categories in mind – if you want a more ‘structured’ approach like that, check out the TV sections of the 2010 Trusted Reviews Awards.
Anyway, let’s get down to business. Here’s hoping this helps you with the big spendathon you’re all supposed to be up for as we enter 2011.
10. Sony KDL-40EX503
It’s unusual for a TV as relatively long in the tooth as the 40EX503 to make an annual ‘favourite TV’ list. But oddly, despite Sony serving up all manner of more glamorous models as the year’s gone on, this model still stands out to us for its combination of quality, features and price.
Doubtless there’s a touch of nostalgia associated with this, as the 40EX503 gave us both our first experience of Freeview HD and our first experience of the truly groundbreaking Bravia Internet Video online service. But you know, its simple CCFL LCD screen design also delivered arguably Sony’s most consistently good picture quality of the year.
From £3,550, from approved Loewe dealers
Loewe has long been on the cutting edge of TV design, but hasn’t always kept up with the Joneses on the performance and feature fronts. However, the brand finally managed to put all the pieces together with its spectacular new Individual 40 Compose.
Obviously it looked amazing, thanks to its edge LED-induced slimness and gorgeous build quality. What’s more, with multiple colour options, inlay designs and stand/mounting options you can even design one to suit your personal tastes.
But what really blew us away was the exceptional picture quality it achieved from that edge LED engine, and the frankly astonishing sound quality we got from the optional Sound Projector attachment we tested.
Given that the TV starts at £3,550, we’d recommend dosing yourself up on a potent combination of mulled wine and Baileys before heading down to your local Loewe dealer to buy one. But this set shows that the luxury TV market is still alive and well, and for some reason that makes us happy.
Price: £2599.89 (inc current VAT back saving) www.prcdirect.co.uk
It’s probably about time we included a 3D model given that these are what you apparently all want. And the 52HX903 is for us comfortably Sony’s best 3D set of the year. In fact, it’s the only Sony model you should genuinely consider buying if 3D is really important to you.
The reason for this is that its use of direct LED backlighting seems to help rein in the crosstalk noise that so bugged us on so many 3D TVs in 2010.
There’s still a bit more of the telltale double ghosting noise around with 3D footage than we’d ideally like, but it’s less overt than on Sony’s other types of LCD TV. Plus, of course, the 52in size chimes nicely with our growing belief that 3D becomes more effective the bigger the screen you watch it on.
The 52HX903‘s 2D picture quality is mesmerisingly good too. Plus, of course, the set delivers Sony’s Bravia Internet Video online platform.
Price: £938 www.dixons.co.uk
Samsung threw all its marketing might behind its dazzling-looking edge LED ranges this year. But while there were indeed things about these super-skinny design classics that we loved, we actually ended up feeling fonder of a far less glamorous Samsung TV: the PS50C6900.
The PS50C6900 is still very good looking, as it happens, but Samsung’s marketeers just didn’t seem interested in its core plasma technology, and so the set just crept into stores almost unheralded.
In reality, though, it’s a terrific bargain. For as well as giving you 50in of good 2D picture quality for under a grand, it also, remarkably, delivers full HD 3D. Even more crucially, it delivers this 3D while suffering much less with the hated crosstalk noise than all of Samsung’s supposedly more exciting LED ‘superstars’.
Price: £849, www.rgbdirect.co.uk
While we still haven’t quite got over the fact that Pioneer doesn’t make it’s truly amazing plasma TVs any more, Panasonic got mighty close to the old Pioneer quality with some models in its 2010 range. And crucially it also made this new quality surprisingly affordable.
The single greatest bargain in Panasonic’s range was, for us, the P46G20. With a generous 46in screen, Freesat and Freeview HD tuners, and Panasonic’s decent VieraCast online service, it certainly offers plenty of on-paper appeal for its money.
The exceptional picture quality delivered by Panasonic’s latest NeoPDP technology is what really steals the show though, especially with high definition sources.
One thing though, Panasonic: please make your TVs a bit prettier next year…
Price: £1949, www.rgbdirect.co.uk
Philips ‘forgot’ to include Freeview HD tuners in any of its 2010 TVs, and rather botched its early 3D approach by selling its 3D kit as an add-on, before seeing the light and throwing the necessary transmitter and glasses in for free with its 3D TVs.
Yet the brand still delivered a truly awesome TV with the 46PFL9705H. This direct LED TV looked gorgeous, had phenomenal multimedia talents (including full Internet access) and best of all produced truly terrific picture and sound quality.
At their best, in fact, the 46PFL9705H’s 2D pictures are arguably the best we’ve seen on any TV this year. Its 3D pictures are also the best yet seen from an LCD TV – though they still suffer with a little more crosstalk than plasma models.
The only things stopping this set from settling higher up this list are the missing Freeview HD tuner, and the effort required in terms of regularly adjusting the set’s various processing tools in order to keep pictures at their best.
Price: £529, www.amazon.co.uk
Although this Samsung model doesn’t have 3D and uses ‘old’ CCFL lighting rather than the trendier edge LED lighting, it does tick most of our other boxes in spectacular fashion.
For a start, it looks utterly gorgeous with its ‘crystal’ finish, red-tinged bezel and classy desktop mount. It’s also very well connected, delivering a startling array of multimedia tools including Samsung’s excellent Internet@TV online service.
Then there’s the small matter of the way it produces some of the best picture quality yet seen from a CCFL TV, particularly when it comes to contrast.
Best of all, though, is the LE40C650’s price. For £529 is preposterously little money for a TV that offers so much.
3. LG 47LE8900
Price: £1,175.01, www.digitaldirect.co.uk
Despite LG being extremely prolific with its 3D TVs this year, ironically the only model from the Korean brand that’s made our top 10 is a strictly 2D affair.
The first key to the 47LE8900’s success is its use of direct LED backlighting, which helps it produce one of the best contrast and colour responses we’ve seen from a flat TV to date.
In fact the set comes endorsed by demanding independent assessment group THX, complete with an excellent THX-calibrated preset.
The set is beautifully designed too, with a rear so slim you’d usually only expect to find it on an edge LED TV and a lovely ‘one-layer’ fascia. Plus it’s got some very handy multimedia playback talents – especially now that LG has finally got some decent content on its NetCast online service.
What’s particularly heartwarming about the 47LE8900, though, is that it delivers its brilliant 2D pictures and lengthy features list for what is, in the circumstances, remarkably little outlay.
Rather than use up two separate slots in our top 10 TV list, it makes sense to put the 65in and 50in versions of Panasonic’s ground-breaking 3D plasma TVs together, with us simply saying that if you can afford the bigger one, go for it, as its greater size really does greatly enhance the 3D experience.
Both TVs, though, remain comfortably our favourite way of watching 3D, simply because they suppress the crosstalk ghosting phenomenon associated with the new 3D tech better than any other screens. This makes 3D viewing infinitely less tiring than it is on all the 3D LCD TVs out there, which is kind of handy if you fancy watching a full-length 3D movie or having a long 3D gaming stretch.
Awesome black levels, exceptional colours, and good sharpness seal the deal with the set, with our only significant bugbear being that 3D pictures look a touch less bright than we’d like them too. But we’d take this shortcoming over crosstalk any day.
Price: £3,999, www.avland.co.uk
For all the high quality TVs we’ve seen this year, it’s striking just how immediately this Philips TV sprung to mind as our overall favourite of 2010.
When we saw Philips’ first 21:9-ratio (as opposed to the usual 16:9 ratio) TV in 2009 we were dumbfounded by the visceral, immersive impact created by the set’s extra width compared with 16:9 models. But this impact has been massively increased on the 58PFL9955H, thanks partly to its slightly larger size but mostly to its shift to direct LED lighting.
This helps it bring more colour vibrancy and vastly superior black level response to the table, resulting in a viewing experience so appealing with games, Blu-rays, TV shows and especially 3D sources that you just want to hug it. Or you would if you could actually stretch your arms that wide…
Obviously there are issues with stretching non-21:9 source material to fit such a wide screen, and there’s the usual need with Philips TVs to regularly visit the 58PFL9955H’s processing options to keep pictures looking their best with different sources. But once you’ve been seduced by its ultra-wide pictures, your reaction to such niggles will likely be the same as ours: ‘so bloody what?’
How we test televisions
We test every TV we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.