Two weeks ago, I wrote a DD that suggested tensions were increasing between rivals Samsung and LG and that some heads were starting to roll, partly as a consequence of this rivalry. Well I got some of it right, but there were enough comments to the article that it makes sense to write this update.
For example, we reported that Samsung President Kun-Hee Lee was very upset about the very favorable review that Consumer Reports published on rival LG Electronics TVs - especially their film-patterned retarder 3DTV which competes with Samsung’s shutter glasses 3DTV. We reported that this anger led to the resignation of Mr. Boo-Keun Yoon (sometimes spelled YunBu Geun), President of Samsung’s Visual Display Business Division. Not true. Mr. Yoon remains in place as President Lee decided to give him another chance.
We were also advised that Won Kie Chang, president of Samsung’s LCD Business Division has, "resigned due to the poor state of the LCD business, and this had little to do with 3D," according to this source. However, 3D sales are a key element of the LCD business, so it must have had some influence.
We also had a chance to talk to Consumer Reports about their test results from a 3DTV product testing program where sets from Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Sony, Sharp, Toshiba, and Vizio were compared in June. When the analysis was conducted, there were 13 3D HDTVs included in the ratings; CR’s most recent 3D ratings, published just a week ago, now contain 28 models.
Consumer Reports does not always publish their results for public use and companies are not allowed to republish their ratings. As a result, some misinformation was disseminated, which we want to try to correct.
For example, one inaccuracy included the characterization of the results of the testing of the LG Electronics 47LW5600 3D HDTV. LG and others claimed it was a "Best Recommended Model", when in fact, it was a "Recommended Model" along with other 3DTVs.
Consumer Reports also refuted the fact that they had ever called the TV a "Perfect No. 1", as this type of claim is never made on any product. And, on the claim that the LG model "received the higher score (76 points) of the surveyed 3D HDTVs," that was true only for LCD models. Several PDP 3DTVs scored higher. In fact, in the most recent TV ratings, two other 3D sets, including an LCD model, now have higher overall scores.
We also questioned the high ratings for 2D and 3D image quality. Consumer Reports’ Claudio Ciacci took a second look at the LG passive TV to assess the 2D image quality. We were concerned that the black stripe used to improve crosstalk in 3D mode would impact 2D image quality, but Ciacci says that is not so and the 2D image quality is excellent. While Ciacci acknowledged the black stripe, "is thicker than the other non-3D IPS LCDs (from LG) we have in the lab, the impact of this is not visible from any normal viewing position, and negligible even close up. This LG [TV] had overall excellent 1080p resolution (full horizontal and vertical resolution to the limits), accurate color, and neutral image processing for best fidelity".
For 3D image quality, we noted that there is a loss of resolution to the eye with a passive solution, plus restrictions in the vertical viewing angle. As a result, Consumer Reports pointed us to its "First Look" blog on the LG47LW5600 (http://news.consumerreports.org/electronics/2011/05/first-look-lgs-first-passive-3d-tv.html), which identifies many of the attributes of the TV in its 3D model, both positive and negative. Consumer Reports says that ghosting, image brightness, viewing angle (both horizontal and vertical), and resolution evaluations are all included in its overall 3D effect score. It would seem however, that 3D resolution and vertical viewing angle limitations did not dominate the ratings.
Meanwhile, LG has kept up the passive assault. In my last DD, I mentioned the study by market research firm Morpace, whose results suggested that 80% of consumers prefer the 3DTV experience wearing passive glasses over active-shutter glasses.
Its latest study is from Germany’s VDE organization, one of the largest technical and scientific associations in Europe. VDE has certified the LG Cinema 3D TVs to be full HD in 3D-mode. Unfortunately, this opens up another can of worms as to how they made this measurement and conclusion. No details have been released yet.
In reality, maybe we should have two measures of 3D image quality. One calculates the pixels that are delivered to the eye every second, with a second one that tries to characterize the perceived 3D image quality. This latter is a measure of how the brain merges two images to create an understanding of the 3D image. In this way, if signal processing and other techniques are used in a passive 3DTV to create an image that is higher than 540p per eye, there would be some acknowledgement of this.
All this is great in theory but is a disaster in practice. Just how do you measure "perceived" 3D image quality? You can’t, because that quality is in the eye/brain of the beholder. Nice idea, but a dead end.
In the meantime, we are likely to see more rock throwing and greater consumer confusion.