The 4K TV Shootout with an Agatha Christie Ending
Who has the best 4K TV, is 4K “seriously” better than Full HD and who delivers the best value for money large TV over 60-inches? These were the burning questions we wanted to get answers to as the debate over 4K vs Full HD raged.
Also niggling us was Sharp’s constant claims that their new Quattron Pro was as good as 4K and cheaper than most large screen 4K TV’s.
To conduct this test, three 65-inch TV’s from LG, Samsung and Sony were purchased from a retail store and a Sharp 70-inch was supplied by the vendor for the simple reason that their product is only now hitting retail stores.
The Sharp TV came straight out of stock in a warehouse with the box containing the TV not being opened since being packed by the manufacturer.
What unfolded after several hours of testing was an ending as good as the last chapter of an Agatha Christie novel.
To conduct this shootout we hired leading photographer Ian Barnes, we then gave him the all new Panasonic G4 Lumix 4K digital SLR camera that’s been getting rave reviews.
The week prior to the shootout we got Barnes to shoot a portfolio of 4K images around Sydney.
We also lined up several 4K movies including clips from the latest James Bond movie as well a natural history clip.
The four TV’s we tested were the following:
– Sony: 4K Ultra HD 65-inch KD-65X9000B: JB HI FI Price $5696
– Sharp: 70-inch Full HD Quattron Pro LC-70LE960X, JB Hi FI. $4299
– Samsung: 4K Ultra HD 65-inch UA65HU8500W, JB HI FI Price $4296
– LG: 4K Ultra HD65 inch 65UB980T, JB HI FI Price $4496
This is also the order the images are presented in as you’ll see below – we show the original image, the same image on four TVs in the same order (Sony on the left, Sharp second, Samsung third and LG on the right), and then the individual close-ups of each image.
Pricing was based on JB Hi Fi go to market retail pricing at the time of testing – only the Sony TV has since fallen in price to just under $5000, still higher than all the other TVs in this test.
The reason that we included the Sharp TV in this review of 4K TV’s was that after an initial look at the Sharp TV we were left with a lot of nagging questions.
Sharp executives claimed that the Quattron Pro technology found in their 4K TV’s was “as good as 4K”.
We were highly sceptical as we had already seen the performance of the LG Ultra HD TV and we seriously doubted whether it could come close to delivering similar quality to what we had seen across several 4K models over 60 inches.
In setting up this comparison shootout we established some basic parameters.
All of the TV’s were set to default settings.
All automatic display booster engines were turned off.
All of the TV’s were fed content from the same source via HDMI 2.0 cables connected to a top end HDMI splitter.
In addition to 4K photos and videos, we also used a single prop, which consisted of a bright coloured bowl that was packed with several different varieties of bright coloured fruit.
This was done so that we could compare the natural colour of the source image with what was appearing on the TV screens.
Another advantage was that the images and videos with the exception of the movie clips were shot by a professional photographer, he also knew which image on each of the TV screens was the closest to what he had shot using a 4K camera.
We also shot the TV’s using Panasonic’s G4 Lumix 4K camera, which delivered an interesting result.
Images of the 4K TV’s appeared normal when shot using this camera however on the Sharp TV a moire pattern appeared on the still images due to the refresh rate of the 4K TV’s Vs the Full HD TV when close-up images were taken.
With the naked eye this was not visible nor did it impair the way that we viewed the quality that was appearing on the actual TV screens, with the moire effect eliminated from the photographs being taken by standing a little further back from the Sharp TV screen.
1. Our first test consisted of a shot of a man in a cafe.
The original image was shot by Barnes in a Sydney cafe using the 4K Panasonic camera, it was of a man sitting next to a wall.
The first thing that we noticed was that none of the 4K TV’s along with the Sharp Full HD TV was able to match the correct colour of the original image.
Only the Sharp Full HD TV with Quattron Pro and the LG 4K TV were able to deliver an image to screen that was close to the original in terms of contrast and definition.
The defining test was the stitching and buttons around the collar of the person photographed on the Sony and Samsung TVs. On these two screens, the blue sweater went to black with all detail disappearing.
On both the Sharp and LG TVs, this definition and the detail was clear to see.
2. Our second test second test involved a dusk shot of a building, shot from the water, with a jetty to the right of the shot. With all TVs, the colour saturation and contrast failed to match the original image.
On the Sony 4K TV, the jetty to the right of the image went to black with little, if any, detail being revealed. The overall display appeared to have a red, black tinge. This created an environment that was clouded. Detail failed to show through.
In contrast, the Sharp image to screen was extremely sharp, with extensive detail of the ramp and the buildings clearly visible. The dark haze appearing on the Sony TV was not apparent on the Sharp TV.
The Samsung TV had clearer definition than the Sony but not as good as the Sharp or LG TVs.
The sharpest of the 4K TVs was the LG TV. The jetty was clearly visible, detail in the buildings was clearly visible, however the image was not as clear as the Sharp TV which appeared to be brighter, which is most probably due to the use of the Quattron Pro technology (see separate story on Quattron Pro).
3. Our third test involved a series of shots were taken at Balmoral Beach in Sydney.
It included a shot from a beach showing a jetty, background hills with trees, buildings and a right hand overhanging tree.
With the Sony TV, the tree and the background bushes went extremely dark with detail visibly lacking.
On the Sharp TV both the background, the tree and the forward images were extremely sharp. What was clear was the buildings set among the trees, these were clearly defined.
While the Samsung 4K TV was superior to the Sony, background detail disappeared to black with the right hand tree appearing more black than green.
With the LG TV, the detail was sharp but not as sharp as the Sharp TV. This was visibly noticeable with the tree that appeared green and similar to the original image.
The TV that replicated the colour of the beach most accurately was the Sharp TV. With both the Sony and Samsung TVs the beach appeared distinctly redder.
4. Our fourth big test was set up in the studio with a fruit bowl.
We mounted a colourful Chinese bowl, filled it with fruit and shot both still and 4K video of the static display.
This allowed us to check the source image Vs the display appearing on screen.
When comparing the Sony 4K TV image of the fruit, it was visibly noticeable that the Sony display was overcooking the image with reds flaring and heating up. This is not the first time that we’ve seen this problem with a Sony TV.
It appears that they are artificially using their display engines to enhance bright colours on their screen.
The bowl, strawberries, red apple and the oranges were all saturated. Even the black cloth melded into the side of the bowl, eliminating detail.
The Sharp TV was a significant improvement over the Sony TV. However, the use of the extra yellow colour in the Quattron Pro spectrum did produce some interesting results.
Firstly, the yellow of the lemons and the bananas appeared to flare brighter than the original images. However, the colours were far more accurate and the image significantly sharper than the Sony image.
However, the definition of the fruit was not as clear as the LG TV.
In this test, the Samsung TV replicated the fruit colours closer than most other TVs tested. However, some of the detail in the bowl was overcooked with reds appearing brighter than in the original shot.
The outright winner in this test was the LG TV, followed by the Sharp TV.
The next tests involved both 4K and Full HD movies running across all four TVs. Before we conducted this test, we reset the TVs from Standard to Cinema mode so that each TV could run in the recommended mode for a Blu-ray movie and upscaled movies.
The first thing we noticed was that all of the TVs delivered a similar image and surprisingly, the Sharp Full HD Quattron Pro, which was not 4K, delivered a definition and image to screen that was close to, and in some cases better when it came to definition than the 4K TVs.
This surprised us. Sharp, in supplying the TV for this, had told us that it was their belief that their new Sharp Quattron Pro TV actually stacked up against a 4K TV and that their upscaling engine was capable of delivering 4K quality.
This was noticeable when we reversed the process and we ran a Full HD movie, which we’ll discuss shortly.
5. Our fifth test involved the James Bond Skyfall movie trailer in 4K resolution, where all of the televisions delivered an extremely sharp image.
Various action shots were realistic and the colour consistent with the exception of the Sony TV that delivered a hot red image to the screen.
One scene shows Bond at a firing range, with ear protectors on, gun raised to shoot with Bond’s piercing blue eyes and face taking up most of the screen.
Sony’s image was too red again, even though the TV was set to its Cinema mode setting. Sharp’s image was brightest and most natural looking, with Bond’s blue eyes stunningly deep blue and no green tinge as seen on the 4K TVs.
Bond’s skin colour looked most natural on the Sharp, with the LG 4K TV again the best of the 4K sets, with the Samsung a little darker than the LG.
6. Another 4K test video involved bees interacting with nature in a natural history clip.
When comparing the images, the Sony produced a slightly redder and slightly darker image, less noticeable than in other shots but still there.
Detail was apparent in the hair on the bees and the bees’ wings in the Sony image, but this detail was sharper and clearer on the other TVs.
The 4K TVs all produced an image with a slightly green tinge, while the Sharp TV had a more natural looking blue tinge, seemingly taking advantage of the green and yellow luminance peaks of Quattron Pro technology, against the primarily green luminance peak of 4K RBG screen technology.
The Sharp TV’s delivery of detail in the bee hair and wings was clearly apparent, as well as a tiny bit of extra detail in the black face of the closest bee, showing just how good Sharp’s display engine is at delivering 4K content.
The Samsung TV delivered a very slightly darker image than the LG but otherwise looked very similar, with the LG TV the winner between the 4K TVs, and the Sharp TV delivering a more natural looking and slightly brighter image with no detail missing.
7. When we tested a Full HD movie to see how well each TV upscaled content to 4K resolution, the image of Ben Stiller in one scene was consistently sharp across all of the four TVs.
With the Sony TV, the image of a black man appeared redder vs a more natural brown colour with the Sharp, Samsung and LG TVs.
One noticeable difference with the Sharp TV was a tinge of blue that wasn’t apparent on the three 4K TVs, and while this actually made the picture look more natural, it didn’t match the greener tinge apparent on the 4K TVs or when viewing the trailer on a PC monitor.
David Richards Opinion
This was an extremely complex shootout that started off as a shootout between three main 4K TV brands, but when we added another equation with the introduction of the Sharp Quattron Pro Full HD TV delivered an ending that we did not expect.
The best value for money TV was the Sharp Quattron Pro TV and the best 4K TV was the LG TV which outperformed both the Sony and the Samsung 4K TV’s across all of our tests.
What this shootout revealed was that 4K TV’s struggle to match an original 4K shot image or video. The colour, contrast and definition of every image we shot using the Panasonic 4K Camera could not be reproduced accurately on any one of the TV’s. The closest was the Sharp 70″ TV and the LG 65″ 4K TV.
What Sony claim is that their 4K TV has over 8 million individual pixels (3,840 x 2,160) compared to about 2 million (1,920 x 1,080) on a current model HD TV.
They go on to claim that their advanced picture processing ensures that each of those pixels displays images with superb brightness and authentic detail and that what they have in their 65-inch KD-65X9000B delivers the highest resolution picture Sony has ever produced on a TV.
This statement is sheer garbage, the KD-65X9000B TV was the worst performing TV of all of the TV’s we tested. Still images appeared black and lacked detail, reds were over saturated both with a still image and a movie.
What was interesting is that this TV was purchased from a retailer and not supplied by Sony. In the past we have discovered that some vendors deliberately set up a TV for review purposes, we have no evidence that Sony has done this but what we do have is hours of extensive testing in a controlled environment that reveal that this TV is not worth the $5696 asking price which is what the price was at JB Hi Fi on the day that we conducted our review. We suspect that retailers will quickly drop the price of this TV.
The LG 65″ 65UB980T is the best 4K TV we have seen this year. The engine used in this TV was the closest to being able to deliver images and content that matched a source 4K image. While it was unable to deliver accurately original images it was able to constantly deliver sharp images and balanced colour Vs the Sony and Samsung 4K contenders.
The Samsung UA65HU8500W had its moments but what let it down was its failure to deliver sharp detail. Trees that were green with clear leaf detail on the LG and Sharp TV’s appeared black with key detail lacking. When it came to 4K and Full HD movies the Samsung TV delivered excellent results but these movies were not better than the LG TV. When it came to comparing our static fruit bowl the Samsung TV was as good as the LG 4K TV.
The Samsung upscaling engine also worked as designed with Full HD movies appearing brighter and having more depth than a normal Full HD movie.
The Company who has to be praised is Sharp. In the past I have been highly critical of their 2013 TV’s but after this shootout we have to have serious respect for what Sharp engineers have delivered with their new 2014 Quattron Pro engine.
Alex Zaharov-Reutt’s Opinion
Sharp’s claim that its Quattron Pro technology can match 4K content output but can match and better the output, clarity and detail of 4K TVs has been definitively confirmed in our testing.
Sharp’s ability to utilise two luminance peaks in the green and yellow colours, in conjunction with red and blue, produces a noticeable improvement over the regular red, green and blue pixel configuration of competing LCD screens, be they Full HD or 4K.
The ability to attain such control over the way its pixels display colour has delivered Sharp a unique advantage in being able to enhance apparent resolution so much that Sharp’s Full HD Quattron Pro panels are genuine competitors to 4K screens at considerably lower prices.
This is what has enabled Sharp to produce a 4K-ready, Full HD Quattron Pro panel at the bigger 70-inch size than more expensive 65-inch 4K competitors.
If you want the most bang for your buck, Sharp’s 70-inch Quattron Pro delivers and is future-proofed for the coming wave of 4K movies and players due over the next couple of years and beyond.
If you can’t be swayed and have your heart set on an 4K television, LG’s 4K TV was the best of the 4K bunch, with the Samsung coming close behind and the Sony seriously straggling in last place with consistently the worst picture while on sale at the highest price.