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Study: LCD viewing angles are too narrow, many TV features are marketing fluff

Displaymate, the research company that provides the benchmarks for many publications' testing of monitor and HDTVs, has just performed a new side-by-side study (in collaboration with market research firm Insight Media) of LCD and plasmas from top manufacturers' 2008 lines, and its findings shouldn't be much of a surprise to the cynics among us.
Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor on

Displaymate, the research company that provides the benchmarks for many publications' testing of monitor and HDTVs, has just performed a new side-by-side study (in collaboration with market research firm Insight Media) of LCD and plasmas from top manufacturers' 2008 lines, and its findings shouldn't be much of a surprise to the cynics among us.

The most notable conclusion is that LCDs have a much, much narrower viewing angle than plasmas, something that's been known for some time but apparently still hasn't been solved by TV manufacturers. Specifically, Displaymate found that viewing its test LCDs at a 45-degree angle reduced the contrast ratio and black luminance by far greater than 50 percent. In comparison, the test plasma's values were reduced roughly 10 percent. It's another measure of plasma's technical superiority, which will be mostly ignored by the majority of consumers who will select LCDs instead.

Plasmas aren't totally off the hook, though, as TV manufacturers making either kind of set are guilty of offering new "features" that Displaymate says are a bunch of hooey. According to the study, the dynamic picture-processing technologies that LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp and Sony (the brands tested) hype "all reduce picture quality and accuracy and introduce ugly image artifacts." This included the dynamic LED backlighting from the Samsung LN-T5281F.

Those crazy dynamic contrast ratios that are advertised as 15,000:1 or 30,000:1 are also more than a bit charitable. Displaymate found that the Panasonic professional plasma (the TH-50PF10UK) was best at a dynamic contrast ratio with 3,842:1, with the Samsung measuring 50 percent lower and Sharp and Sony's sets running closer to 1,350:1.

The study is part of a series, with the next installment covering response time and motion blur. Don't expect 120Hz refresh rates to fare that well. In the meantime, you can read the current study here

[Via the New York Times Gadgetwise blog.]

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