Bang & Olufsen BeoVision 9 Review
50" 1080p Plasma HDTV, $19,900
La Belle et la Bête. Beauty and the Beast.
The Bang & Olufsen BV9 combines those two characters into one elegantly imposing beautiful beast. Perhaps they should title this beastly beauty, BB9.
With a price tag just south of $20,000, you would hope that this HDTV is like no other and in every aspect of design and performance, you would be correct. This 50" 1080p plasma BeoVision 9 is a rara avis, a unique animal.
Our Star Ratings
Both the video and audio performance of the BeoVision 9 set very high standards rarely matched by other HDTVs.
I would usually take off a half of point for the lack of a USB port, but the over abundance of connections and other features overshadow that omission. If there was any doubt, the Automatic Color Management feature alone is worth five points.
Ease of Use: 4.5
Since the installers and the TV itself take care of all of the setup headaches, this BV9 cannot be much easier to use. But Bang & Olufsen has their own way of designing components, therefore the first time B & O owner may face a bit of a learning curve with items like the remote control.
I can't stick my head in the sand, especially in this economic turmoil, and blithely give a high rating to a $20,000 HDTV. I know that you can find top notch 50" plasmas for a fraction of the cost. But you won't encounter such a singular combination of design, performance, and features as the BeoVision 9.
Star Ratings Description
Ratings are relative to when the review was written. The obvious example is Value, what you could purchase for $2000 two years ago or even two months ago would seem like a bad value for that price now. We have given only a precious few 5 Star ratings, which we reserve for truly outstanding accomplishment.
Out of the Box
The BV9 manual states, "We expect your Bang & Olufsen retailer to deliver, install and setup your product."
And indeed, instead of the normal routine of a review unit box being dropped at my door, two B & O installers arrived to unbox the TV and set it up in our testing facility.
To the relief of my aging back, I simply observed from a distance as the two strong armed young men coaxed this 271 pound, (with stand), curvilinear monolithic TV to its final resting place.
Unlike the sprightly 32" BeoVision 8, which B & O suggests that you can carry from room to room, the BeoVision 9 is not portable. I recommend that you have a clear idea where to locate it before the installers arrive.
Also, as you can see, this square bezeled HDTV leans back on its motorized base and makes a strong visual statement, even when it is switched off. Beyond considering the best viewing angles when placing it, think of it as a four foot tall sculpture.
And if the 3" bezel's brushed aluminum clashes with the rest of your art, you can opt for another of the five finishes.
The TV sits on its base about two inches off the ground. With a touch of a button on the remote, the whole frame will rotate about 30 degrees right or left. You cannot change the top to bottom lean.
But in the TV menu, you can determine at what angle the TV rests when turned off and then which direction it swivels when you switch it on. This is one of those "wow" features that will make your friends and in-laws appreciate your new purchase. It's also a practical design element for which this Danish company is known.
When you take a close look at the BeoVision 9's front, you will notice that the TV screen actually occupies only a bit more than half of the area inside the bezel.
Just below the display, the Acoustic Lens, (one of B & O's audio technologies), juts out as part of the integrated center loudspeaker, which is based on the BeoLab 7-4 speaker.
On the back and attached to the TV's base is a BeoSystem 3, the video processing brains, that also provides a whole host of inputs, (including four HDMIs), and outputs, including seven PowerLink sockets for connecting B & O speakers and subwoofers. Though it does not includes an Ethernet port for Internet access.
If you wish to expand to a full blown surround sound setup, your friendly B & O dealer will be happy to customize a system to your environment.
The BV9 does provide a Picture and Picture (Dual Screen) feature. Unlike most TVs which require that one of the sources be from the antenna input, the BV9 can display side by side content from two different HDMI inputs.
B & O offers two choices of remote controls, the flashier Beo5 and the more reserved Beo4. Both can control a range of functions and should be setup by your installer who will give you a short tutorial on its use. Neither is difficult to operate, but they are a bit idiosyncratic. Not all the buttons are where you might think they should be.
If after the installers leave, you have questions about the remote or any of the TV's features, B & O's customer service is quite good, as is their manual.
Our process of measuring the power consumption of our review units is straightforward. We plug the TV into a watt meter, called Watts up? Pro, and take a simple sampling of readings during the playback of a full screen video clip.
The first measurement is at the TV's default picture settings, which are often some form of Vivid. If you have been following the theme of this review, Bang & Olufsen does not follow the norm.
The BV9 only has one picture mode and it definitely is not the overly bright, pupil searing Vivid. The TV is calibrated at the factory in Denmark to display an eye pleasing image.
With the BV9, the big variable in power consumption is the amount of light in the room. On the upper right corner of the TV is a light sensor that adjusts the brightness of the screen according to the illumination in the room. A brighter image consumes more power.
For example, with the lights on in the room, the reading varied between 350 and 640 watts. When I turned off the lights, the range dropped to 160 to 300 watts, mostly in the 220 to 235 neighborhood. Bang & Olufsen states power consumption is "typically 355W."
We also turn off the TV and measure how much power it is using. The BV9 reading was about 1.4W. B & O states standby consumption at 29W.
The start up time from Standby was a relatively poky 13 seconds.
Here is a statement that I can't make about any other TV that I have reviewed. With the BeoVision 9, you can enjoy years of watching a perfectly calibrated TV without ever touching a picture control.
First, as I already mentioned, the TV out of the box has been fine tuned. And all the video processing muscle in the BeoSystem 3 constantly adjusts the picture according to the content it is playing.
Second, if you can afford this $20,000 plasma, you can pay a professional to make any special adjustments, which only can be done by accessing the Service Menu.
But the main reason that you could go years without calling a professional calibrator is the BV9's Auto Color Management, which has to be this TV's coolest feature.
After every 120 hours of TV use, a little sensor arm rotates out from the center of the bezel at the top. The screen displays a graduated gray scale test pattern. The sensor measures the color temperature of the white and black points and compares it to the factory calibration. If there is a difference, the TV is adjusted automagically.
During the process, the screen blinks to black a few times. After about 30 seconds, the adjustment is finished and you are good for another 120 hours. No muss, no fuss. No looking through blue filters at test patterns on a DVD. Every TV should supply this feature.
Of course, if you feel the need to spot check the settings before the big game, you can activate Color Management from the Picture Menu. Though I would wait until the gang's all here and then I would amaze them with the little swing out sensor.
And to repeat, the picture quality looked great out of the box. I know because the installers discovered that the remote control was not in the original packing, so they couldn't even turn on the TV before they left. When the remote arrived two days later, I viewed the TV untouched since it left the Danish factory. All this gee whiz technology really does deliver the jaw inspiring drops.
To see if my eye matched more objective standards, I did go through our traditional setup procedure. I played the Blu-ray version of the Digital Video Essentials DVD called HD Basics on a Pioneer BDP-94HD Blu-ray player connected to the BeoVision 9 with an HDMI cable.
The test patterns were right on, which is fortunate because the picture adjustment controls are limited to Brightness, Contrast, and Color (Saturation). If the source is an NTSC signal, then Tint (Hue) is also activated.
You really can't do any fine tuning. There's not even a Sharpness control. Then again, who needs them? Only the severely afflicted tweakaholic would feel deprived. The rest of us can quietly rejoice.
Beyond the TLC that B & O has taken to produce a well calibrated image, the BeoVision 9 is a plasma, which is still my favorite display medium because of the deep black levels that this technology can create. (I'm withholding my judgment of OLEDs until I see a production model larger than 30".)
Experiencing the luscious, creamy images emanating from the BeoVision 9, I felt my eye sockets were lined with rich velvet.
Colors are true, blacks are bottomless, gradations are smooth. And at 50", you can appreciate all the details like noticing the shadows of clouds floating over the landscaped English garden in Pride and Prejudice or the guitar string ends flapping to the beat in Once.
If I had one complaint, the Sharpness on my review unit may be turned up a notch or two too much. I saw occasional fringing. As I said, there is no Sharpness control. Customer Support told me that Sharpness can only be adjusted in the Service Menu.
With Bang & Olufsen TVs, it's not just your eyes that are pampered. Your ears benefit from the years of devotion that B & O designers have paid to audio quality.
Even with the solitary center loudspeaker, the sound produced from the BV9 is the best that I have heard from an integrated TV audio system.
This one speaker does an admirable job of recreating a full bodied sound. In Once, listening to Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová discover their way through "Falling Slowly" was exhilarating.
And the sheer brawn of the system was evident when I wasn't willing to raise the Volume above 75 for fear of raising the dead when Mick was strutting through "Sympathy for the Devil" on the Shine a Light Blu-ray.
If you are so lucky to already own a set of BeoLab speakers, they will plug right into the BV9's BeoSystem. And in the Audio Menu, you can adjust them to match various seating and viewing arrangements. At CES, we have reveled in the delight of listening to a full B & O surround system. Imagine your ear canals lined in silk.
I connected my laptop through the VGA Out to the BV9's VGA In. The highest resolution compatible with the VGA In is 1280 x 720. The computer output to the TV looked great, but I would suggest that if your video card has a DVI or HDMI output, use it. Then you can plug into the HDMI in and set your resolution to the TV's native 1920 x 1080.
Bang & Olufsen's BeoVision 9 wraps uncompromising picture and audio quality in a distinctive sculptural design. The bow on top of this plasma package is its ease of use.