Kogan 65″ LED TV (Full HD) Review

The founder of Kogan, Ruslan Kogan (who of course named his company after himself) is an Ayn Rand loving, publicity seeking show off and is generally a distasteful person that is the antithesis of what I consider someone I’d get along with. He perturbs me to the extent that for years I refused to buy anything with his name emblazoned upon it. But here I am, in June 2015 and a 65″ 1080p LCD TV is sitting in my living room with the word “Kogan” written on the front in small letters and it only cost me $999.

What happened for me betray my staunch consumer values and give Ruslan Kogan my hard earned money? There’s plenty of good TVs around, Sony, Panasonic, LG, Samsung – yet I gave $999 to Kogan!

There’s a few criteria I set out for when buying a new TV. In order of importance:

1. Size – I wanted a 65″ or bigger TV. Because I like big TVs. If 70″ and 80″ TVs weren’t so damn expensive, I’d have got me one of those. I lust after an 84″ TV, but don’t want to choose between owning a car or a TV.

2. 1080p HD, not 4K – there’s so little 4K content out there, now isn’t the time to go for a 4K TV. Why would I want to spend more money to upscale literally every single thing I watch?

3. Price – everyone has a budget and mine is sub-$2,000, but the cheaper the better.

4. Picture quality – I’m not a hardcore pixel peeper, but I can tell a bad image from a good image. As long as the image doesn’t shit me, I’m ok with it, depending on the other criteria being met.

When I was in the market to buy (late May) the 2015 range of TVs from the brand name manufacturers started to appear in stock. Great! I thought I could snag the latest model TV, with sweet picture quality, maybe even a smart TV system that has Netflix and iView built in. Unfortunately all the new models are 4K and I don’t want 4K. The handful of big screen 1080p models still sold are mainly holdovers from 2014, almost nobody except LG released new 1080p TVs for 2015.

To add further insult to injury, the same 2014 TVs jumped in price because the value of the Australian dollar against the US dollar plummeted. The 2014 TVs were purchased by distributors back when the AUD was at parity with the USD, so pricing was excellent and we were in a golden age of cheap electronics. But the 2015 range of TVs have been purchased at the normal 70c-80c-ish rate, making what was essentially the same TV more expensive. I acted too late to buy the old stock of 2014 TVs at the 2014 prices. Damn.

With all that in mind, I narrowed the field down to a couple of units:

Samsung & TCL don’t even sell 65″ 1080p TVs now, they’re all 4K panels if you go bigger than 60″ and I didn’t even bother looking at what Kogan has, because well, I dislike Kogan.

I checked out the four shortlisted TVs down at the shops, and overall the Panasonic looked the nicest. There’s not much between them, but the Panasonic had the nicest upscaling when plugging in a DVD player over HDMI (I bought one from Kmart, then returned it the next day after I tested out a bunch of TVs, sshh). The Hisense was a little off picture quality wise, but not that much that you’d spend an extra $500 for the LG or $900 for the Panasonic. All the televisions looked fine to my relatively untrained eye. I’d have loved a 65″ Panasonic plasma to compliment my 50″ Panasonic plasma, but alas, plasma TVs are no longer sold. Pour a 40 on the curb a good technology gone too soon.

Staring down the barrel at paying top dollar for last year’s telly, someone on Twitter alerted me to Kogan selling a 65″ TV for $999. $1700 cheaper than the Panasonic. Almost 50% less than the Hisense. I don’t like Kogan, but my personal disdain for Ruslan Kogan isn’t as strong as my natural instinct to pay less for something. $999 for a 65″ TV and a 14 day money back guarantee, I just couldn’t resist. To be honest, if it wasn’t for the money back guarantee (aka, if it sucks, just ship it back to Kogan and I get my money back) I wouldn’t have taken the punt on this TV. I figured I had nothing to lose. If’s a bad TV, I send it back and go buy the Hisense. But if it’s ok, I saved myself $800 that can go towards a plethora of things when you move into a new house.

The TV arrived after about a week and I opened the box and turned it on and, well, it works. It looks ok and my eyes aren’t bleeding. It’s a big LCD panel with HDMI ports and very little smart features. The first thing I watched on it was Fox Footy, in 1080p HD. Picture quality is fine sitting on the couch. Up close like a computer monitor and it’s pretty pixelated, with mottling around text and some smeared colours, not smooth like the plasma. But sitting about three meters away, it’s very watchable and those “details” fade away. Nothing about the image quality annoyed me to the point where I had to turn off the TV in disgust (the Kangaroos football skills however, ugh, please).

Even though the image is ok out of the box, I thought I’d try the THX Tune Up app. It’s a great way to easily calibrate your TV to look good, without expensive equipment. The app guides you through setting brightness, contrast and colour settings on your TV to match images that ensure you’re getting pretty close to what the producers of the TV shows and movies you watch intended. Just plug your phone into your TV via HDMI (it’s on Android and iOS) and follow the wizard. Most of it is simply adjusting the settings on your TV – like colour and saturation and the like.

Unfortunately, the Kogan 65″ does not let you adjust these settings. There are various presets, but the individual settings can’t be selected in the menu. I don’t know if this is intentional, or a bug – as you can actually see that there’s arrows to the left and right of the options, but it’s greyed out and unelectable. Luckily, the default settings out of the box pretty much match what the THX Tune Up app recommends. Could do with a bit more tweaking, but it’s very minor.

Viewing angles on the TV are pretty crap. Unless you’re sitting within a narrow range of the middle of the TV, image quality suffers significantly – becoming incredibly washed out when viewed on the sides. When viewed head on, image quality is surprisingly decent. Colours look fine, it’s not too sharp, there’s no weird spots or banding, no blurring in high speed scenes like the footy. I’m content with the image quality of this TV. Very satisfactory.

Even playing games on the PS3 look great. Maybe a few nerds could pick some sort of latency issues that stop them getting kills in Call of Duty or whatever, but playing some GTA5 was fine on it.

This TV has a few basic “smart” features – a built in PVR that records video to a drive over USB and a media playback feature that’ll play files off a USB drive. These features are very easy to ignore. I actually had to look at the manual to remember what it can actually do and to try the features out. I haven’t got a TV antenna yet, so havent’ been able to test the PVR or tuner stuff, but the media playback is pretty rudimentary. File list appears, files play. It handled a 1080p MKV easily.

The general interface of the TV is pretty minimal too. All I do on this TV is change HDMI inputs and that’s quick, as you’d hope. Turning the TV on is a bit weird though – it takes about 10-15seconds to display anything on the screen, so you think you haven’t turned the TV on, until a Kogan splash screen appears. It’d be nice if there was some visual feedback that demonstrates that the TV has acknoledged your button press. But that’s not a big deal either. The remote is basic and err, works. No fancy wands like LG, or touch sensitive areas like Samsung. The nerd in me would love an ethernet port on this TV, or even an RS-232 serial port so that I could have basic control (on/off, change input, adjust volume, change channel) over it via a universal remote app on a tablet.

The Kogan 65″ is $999. Nine hundred and ninety nine dollars. For that sort of money, this TV is a bargain. The only TV that gets even close in price is the Hisense 65″ for $1888. The image quality on that TV is definetly not worth $889 extra. You can get a maybe 20% nicer picture on the Panasonic, but it costs 173% more than the Kogan. It’s just not worth it. Pay extra for better quality, but you gotta be reasonable. 173% more cash for 20%, maybe 30% better image quality? Nah, that’s just stupid. I can happily sit in front of this 65″ TV, not be concerned with the picture quality and enjoy my stories and games of footy. That’s all I want. I miss the image quality of a plasma, but this thing was $999. I still loathe Ruslan Kogan, but this TV is alright.

At the time of writing this article, the TV was $999. Now it’s out of stock and not for sale – so.. damn.