01 LG 84LM9600 aBig televisions – those measuring 140 cm on up – have become the bright spot of a struggling industry. Nobody in the supply chain, from the manufacturer through to the retailer, makes much money on tellies but the margins are best at the big end.

Buyers like big televisions too. According to industry analyst GfK in the last quarter of 2012 15 per cent of buyers ended up with them.

This is one reason we’re seeing the emergence of monsters as big as four 106 cm screens stacked two-by-two. They’re almost as big as projection systems but a whole lot brighter and sharper. And they’re certainly more flexible and a whole lot less finicky to operate.

But they cost. A lot. One can’t help thinking that their prices reflect the manufacturer’s desperation to make televisions profitable again.

One retailer we visited was giving just $1 change out of 20 grand on Sharp’s 228 cm Aquos. Compare that to the 178 cm Aquos, by no means a small screen, that he’d priced at $3488.

If you can afford them the most breathtaking of these monsters are the ultra-high definition (UHD) models from Sony and LG. In any comparison they trounce the full high definition models around them. Both 213 cm, the LG is $15,999 and the Sony $24,999. For the life of us we can’t see the extra $9k in the Sony.

Now before embracing UHD pause and consider:

Firstly it looks best playing UHD software through a UHD source unit. UHD software hardly exists, UHD broadcasts don’t exist. At least not here and not yet.

But they’ll bump your current viewing up a notch or two. While impressive this still doesn’t work the screen to full capacity.

Secondly UHD is presented with giant screens because with anything less than 140 to 150 cm you won’t notice much difference anyway.

And thirdly, if you want a monster screen you’ll need a monster room. Installers suggest the ideal viewing distance for such screens is at least four metres. Most people sit around three metres from their screen.

Salespeople impress customers by getting them close up to UHD screens and pointing out that the definition is still brilliant, whereas this close to a conventional screen you can pick the blocks of pixels. True enough, but get back from the conventional telly to where you’d sit and this screen door effect disappears anyway.

LGLG 84LM9600 213 cm ultra-high definition
Spotted for $15,990
www.lg.com/au

It’s not just large, it has the works; passive 3D, two player gaming, Bigpond movies, a gesture control remote, you name it. And the picture resolution is nothing short of jaw dropping; it literally stops people in their tracks and comprehensively out-performs not just other televisions, but any projection system of around the same cost. It’s also a good looking unit with slim cabinet borders and a chromed stand. But at 70 kilograms wall mounting is probably best. 192 x 112 x 40 cm (WxHxD).
SharpSharp LC90LE740X 228 cm full high definition
Spotted for $19,999.
www.sharp.net.au

This is the biggest LCD screen on the market right now and it’s a ripper, and feature packed with 3D, Skype and lots else. It’s as big as many projection systems but far brighter and sharper. Which it should be for the price, especially when it’s up against the LG UHD. And yet side by side and showing the same non-UHD content there isn’t a lot between these two, especially at a comfortable viewing distance of four metres or so (get much closer and it’s like being in the front row at the movies). 206 x 121 x 12 cm (WxHxD), 64 kg.
SamsungSamsung ES9000 191 cm full high definition
Spotted for $8999
www.samsung.com.au

We saw this displayed at two stores. One had it playing a Samsung demonstration disc that did the picture quality no favours at all while the other (where it was priced at $9499) had it on an animated movie that looked great, but animations look good on any screen. This is the bargain of the monster screen offerings and it’s also by far the best looking, but against the other two the picture just doesn’t stack up. It is fully featured however, including 3D and Skype, and the inbuilt wireless makes the internet easy. 168 x 98 x 37 cm (WxHxD), 44 kg.
Verdict
For sheer, take-your-breath-away picture quality the LG is nothing short of sensational. For sheer size the Sharp stands all by itself, it’s the biggest there is. And the picture’s very good. As for the Samsung, well if you’re into saving money why not get a 178 cm Sharp? It may be a tad smaller but you’ll save more than $5000 and the picture is better. But note: No matter what you buy here, to do it full justice you’ll need a good external speaker system.

 

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