November 22, 2010 1:23 PM   Subscribe

LED LCD HDTV? I'm looking to finally replace my 1998-vintage CRT with a Samsung 40" LED LCD @120 Hz (model #UN40C6300SF). It's on sale at Best Buy and the reviews have been very positive with a few complaints of bad panels and visible corner "flashlighting" in a dark room. Anyone have experience with LED TVs? I like their sexy slimness, but are they built to last? Should I wait another year for a comparably-priced 3D version?
posted by timnyc to Technology (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I was where you are a few months ago. Was even considering a very comparable Samsung model, if not the same one. I ended up going with a 42" LG LED (shown here at Best Buy,) at $100 more than your Samsung. At the time I bought it, the price was a little lower and the picture (I thought) a little better.

No idea about the longevity of LEDs. And the only complaint I have about the LG is that sometime it visibly dims (mostly in low-light situations). But overall I'm happy -- nay, thrilled -- with the purchase. It's got a fantastic picture and brings me joy every time I sit down in front of it. Having Netflix and Vudu available on it has also improved my quality of life immeasurably.

As far as waiting until next year, sigh. There's always next year, and the newest, biggest, baddest, bestest ever is always yet to come. If you're ready to buy, I say go for it and enjoy the purchase.
posted by Work to Live at 1:31 PM on November 22, 2010

Best answer: Anyone have experience with LED TVs?

I've seen a few friends' LED LCD TVs. They are pretty. What you notice is that they have better contrast and brightness than CFL based LCD's.

I like their sexy slimness, but are they built to last?

Only time will really tell, but in theory they should last longer than CFL based LCDs. This is based on the fact that the individual LEDs take forever to burn out. CFLs will wear down in brightness over time, and eventually burn out. Typical burnout time for a CFL is considered to be 10,000 hours vs. 25,000 for LED. source

Should I wait another year for a comparably-priced 3D version?

Should you wait? I didn't. Most people aren't. 3D TVs might be a fad and not stick around, and we're probably a few years from 3D pentrating the market to where you have movies and TV shows that are in 3D, beyond a handful of movies and sports programming. Also, no one really knows if 3D TVs will fall in price to match in one year; if you did, you'd be rich with that knowledge.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:36 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just posted this in another thread a week or so ago:
I bought a new flat-panel TV just under a year ago, and here are my notes on what I did wrong:
  1. First, I would have bought a Panasonic plasma, which are still among the best-regarded TVs out there. Better color, better blacks, better refresh rate, generally less expensive. However, our living room is really bright and plasmas universally have glossy screens, so glare was huge concern. We bought an LCD. Honestly, the plasma probably would have been fine. Though, burn-in is a concern for gaming with plasmas (I don't know if this is current knowledge, though).
  2. Then, for LCDs, I had lots of recommendations to buy Samsungs, from people who handle deployment of such things to, for example, college classrooms. I bought a Sony, and while it's certainly fine, there are times when I've been disappointed in its picture quality. I should have shelled out the extra $100 for the Samsung.
  3. Again, if I had had more money to spend I would have gone with LED, for the reasons kindall explained (except my understanding is that the LED will eventually just go out, versus the slow fade of the standard LCD).
  4. I did, however, get a 120 hz model, which was a good decision, because it syncs up really nicely with the 24-fps rate of Blu-Ray discs with film sources and negates the need for 3:2 pulldown. You definitely get that "film feel." It could be confirmation bias, of course, but it works for me.
  5. Finally, I bought a 40". It felt huge at first, coming from a 27" CRT TV, but man, we should have gone bigger. So don't skimp on sizeā€”be sure that you only want a 46".
I wasted a ton of time on the CNET reviews site, and elsewhere, but I'm thoroughly convinced that by sticking with a well-regarded brand and shopping for 1. price point and 2. features, you can't really go wrong. If I had to do it again, I'd buy the best 46" Samsung or Panasonic I could afford with at least a 120 hz refresh rate and be done with it.
posted by The Michael The at 1:37 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Great advice here so far. One additional note I'd make is that some people (including me) still like the older CCFL LCD screens over the new LEDs because of the difference between back-lighting and edge lighting.

Back lit TVs have a lighting source behind the screen, but spread out throughout the picture. Edge lit units are, obviously, lit along the edges of the screen, not throughout. This results in a change in picture color and luminosity as you move from the edge of the screen to the middle. Virtually all reasonably priced large screen LED LCDs are still edge lit (and while there are smaller back-lit LED LCDs, I'm not sure they are making 40" back-lit panels yet.) The older, thicker LCD panels are, at this point, almost all back-lit.

A few months ago, I was also choosing between LCD and LED screens for my new TV. After some viewings in different light settings at different stores, both my wife and I decided that the older LCD panel had better reproduction - almost as good as a plasma (and without the plasma's color fading or burn in issues).

If the edge lighting doesn't bother you - go for it. My dad got a LED LCD Samsung, and he loves it. Just make sure you're aware of the issue so you can take it into account.
posted by thewittyname at 2:07 PM on November 22, 2010

Best answer: Short version: Go for it. 3D ain't worth it.

Longer version:
If you've found a good deal, buy it lest you fall into the endless cycle of always waiting for the new tech to trickle down to the cheaper price points. Give the 3D sets a shot. You might find the glasses to be a big, expensive nuisance, and the picture noticeably darker, and the glasses to look goofy, and everyone knows that it's always cool to look cool, even when you're watching Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 3D alone, half-naked, in your living room. Besides, the picture's darker, and you'll get a headache, and you might fry parts of your brain as it accommodates to the flickering of the glasses.

The 3D bit is a minor concern, though, compared to picture quality. LED LCDs are vibrant. They're pretty kickass. But they're prone to flashlighting and clouding issues, as you've found. It doesn't matter if they're edge-lit, or have multiple zones-- you run a good chance of finding flashlighting and clouding on any LCD set. Samsung sets (amongst others) will have an auto-dimming "feature" that will reduce the appearance of these artifacts, but this results in a really annoying and noticeable darkening/brightening based on what's being shown. You can turn this auto-dimming off, sometimes through the service menu, but you've still got the uneven backlighting/flashlighting/clouding to deal with. You can try calling tech support, and they'll send out a tech a couple of times, who'll either replace a part, or take the TV and replace a part, or say that such artifacts are normal. You may, eventually, be allowed to return your TV directly to the manufacturer and be given a full refund, partial refund, or a replacement TV of the same of lesser model. You will not be able to apply the refund amount to the purchase of a newer model TV. You are guaranteed to go completely bananas in this process.

There are things you can do to deal with the artifacts. One is to keep some lights on in the room, or have some "bias lighting." This is good for a number of reasons for any TV set: it'll improve the apparent picture quality. You'll be able to get up and walk to the bathroom or kitchen without smashing your foot on the coffee table, stepping on the tail of your diabetic cat who will eventually develop IBD and die despite administration of immunosuppressants and steroids, or accidentally trip on the foot of your loved one and fart in her face. You will be spared the embarrassment of her documentation of this on Facebook, and her subsequent change in relationship status and unfriending of you. You'll also find that the clouding/flashlighting will be less noticeable.

You can also turn down the brightness and contrast of the TV, at the expense of picture quality, sometimes. You can do voodoo stuff like tap on your TV, loosen screws, tighten screws, rub the screen, hang the screen, and not hang the screen, sometimes improving the artifacts. In fact, tech support and a technician may actually tell you to unscrew every screw in the back of the TV by a quarter turn, to release pressure on the screen itself-- "you hear that?" the technician on the phone will say after you loosen a screw and elicit a sharp crack from the TV set, as you grunt in agreement. This may lead to an improvement in the flashlighting/clouding within several weeks, depending on conditions the set was under during shipping.

Eventually, you can give up, return your TV, wait for a newer model to come out, go without TV and movies for a couple of months, only to find that the new, improved models still have flashlighting and clouding issues. Then you can feel like you've lucked out by finding a Panasonic Kuro plasma at the local Best Buy for dirt cheap, only it's 60", is heavier than a two-ton heavy thing, takes five friends to move because you've only got nerd friends, and requires a new TV stand because your current TV stand can't support its weight and your wall would need to be reinforced with metal girders if you wanted to hang it. Crocoshit.

You've also gotta deal with the headache of possible burn in or image retention. You'll be paranoid about playing video games, or watching 2.40:1 movies, or TV stations with logos. You might even go so far as to run break-in slides on your TV, leaving it on for many hours at a time, just to get through a couple hundred hours' worth of break-in time. This, too, is crocoshit.

But hell, the picture quality is amazing on the Kuro. The blacks are black. The colors are amazing. Sure, 60" is only about two feet shorter than the diagonal of your wall, and you've got to run the A/C on all the time because it puts out so much heat, and there's some buzzing coming from the TV, but it's a Kuro. And it's huge. And you're sure as shit not gonna move it again because 3/5 of your nerd friends have unfriended you on Facebook because you stopped playing L4D2 with them, supposedly, though you suspect it's really because you made them physically exert themselves during the TV move, and that only because you've been without a TV for so damn long you needed to have the TV. Right. Now.

Anyway, if I had to do it all over again, I'd just settle for the LED LCD I originally got, and turn the lights on and learn to live with and love my TV, with its clouding and flashlighting and all its flaws. Maybe I'd splurge to get a 3D set, but only if 3/5 my nerd friends unfriended me, so I only needed to buy another set of glasses. But maybe not, because you know what? Fuck 3D movies. Especially Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

And if your brother ends up getting the same make and model LED LCD TV in the summertime, who calls you as you're watching Heist and wishing Rebecca Pidgeon were your wife and cursing your home HVAC for not being able to cool only your TV room because your plasma is running five million degrees anyscale, only to tell you that he has absolutely no clouding/flashlighting issues: do not go apeshit. Take ten deep breaths and wish him a blessed day.
posted by herrdoktor at 4:18 PM on November 22, 2010 [5 favorites]

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