When you test as many new TVs as we do, you always get a bit excited when something new and different comes in through the door. That was the case when we finally got our hands on two much-awaited new LCD TVs: a new Google TV from LG, and Vizio's extra-wide 21:9 set. And in general, we liked what we saw.
These new models are included in our latest TV Ratings. We previewed both of LG's G2-series Google TV and the Vizio CinemaWide TV earlier, and we've now completed full testing on both—picture quality, sound quality, ease of use, and so on. While neither TV was without its flaws, in general both performed well, with either very good or excellent high-definition picture quality and decent to very good 3D performance.
LG's G2-series LCD TVs are notable for being the first TVs we've tested with the revamped Google TV software (Google TV 2.0), which provides a more streamlined interface, more comprehensive search capability, and access to Google Play, the Android apps market. We tested a 55-inch set ($1,700) that uses the company's passive 3D technology. It's loaded with features, including an edge LED backlight, built-in Wi-Fi, and of course a full Web browser (Chrome) and access to online content, including streaming movies and TV shows from several services.
The 58-inch Vizio XVT3D580CM ($2,500) LCD TV is the first set we've tested with a 21:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2560x1080, instead of the 1920x1080 displays found on standard 1080p 16:9 models. The primary benefit of the wider screen is that you're free from the black bars that appear above and below the image with the many movies released in wider-than-16:9 formats, such as 2.35:1 and 2.40:1. Of course, there's a downside: With the 21:9 aspect ration, you'll see pillarboxed images (with bars on either side) when you're viewing regular 16:9 high-def shows like those on cable or satellite, unless you stretch (distort) or crop (cut off) the image.
Apart from its width, the TV has a lot of other features, including passive 3D technology, an edge LED backlight, built-in Wi-Fi, and access to online content, including streaming movies and TV shows.
These aren't the only new sets in our newest batch of TV Ratings; we've also tested larger plasma TVs from Panasonic (the 60-inch TC-P60GT50) and Samsung (the 64-inch PN64E550), plus a 55-inch LCD (Sony KDL-EX640). There are also seven new tested models in the 47- to 51-inch range—a mix of both plasma and LCD TVs—plus two LCD TVs in the 40- to 42-inch range, and a pair of 32-inch LCD TVs. The smallest newly tested model is a 26-inch Philips LCD TV that has built-in streaming capability.
If you've purchased either the LG G2-series set or Vizio's CinemaWide model, let us know what you think of them. If not and you're currently looking at a new TV, let us know which TV features you find most compelling.
—James K. Willcox