Plasma sets used to be the only flat-screen TVs larger than 40 inches. Now, LCDs come in big sizes, too. With the price gap between plasma TVs and big-screen LCDs narrowing, more buyers are choosing the liquid-crystal-display sets - and finding that recent technological advances have improved picture quality.
Thin LCD sets are the lightest type of TV, and the best LCDs have excellent picture quality. But most LCD TVs still haven't caught up with plasmas in terms of viewing angle (the farther from head-on your viewing angle, the dimmer the picture may be), color accuracy and the ability to display the deepest blacks.
Still, in our tests, the best LCDs scored as well as the top plasma TVs:
¢ 40-inch and larger. Our top-rated big model, the 40-inch Sony Bravia KDL-V40XBR1 ($3,000) had a sharp, clear, colorful picture, even with the standard-definition signals used on regular TV. (Its brand mate, the 40-inch Bravia KDL-40S2000, came close in picture quality to the XBR1, and costs $700 less.) Scoring almost as well as the top-rated Sony, the 40-inch JVC LT-40X787 ($2,800) had fine picture quality and sound, and a wide viewing angle. For good value in a 42-inch set, consider the Westinghouse LVM-42W2 ($2,000 for the monitor).
¢ 37-inch models. Our top pick here was the Sharp Aquos LC-37D90U ($2,500). Among the best LCD TVs we've tested, it has a fairly narrow angle for optimal viewing, and black levels could be deeper. For a fine 37-inch set at a great price ($1,700), consider the LG 37LC2D.
¢ 32-inch models. We liked two Sonys - the top-rated Bravia KDL-V32XBR1 ($2,000) and the Bravia KDL-32S2000 ($1,500) - the JVC LT-32X787 ($1,500), the Toshiba 32HL66 ($1,200) and the Panasonic TC-32LX60 ($1,300). The JVC had the widest viewing angle, while the Toshiba had the best black levels and HD picture. Lower scoring overall, the Westinghouse LTV-32W4HDC and the Magnavox 32MF231D/ 37 are good buys at $1,000 each.
With more consumers buying flat-panel TVs, there's more data about reliability. During the first year or two of use, LCD TVs have been just as reliable overall as picture-tube TVs. Our latest product reliability survey shows no repair issues for models from JVC, Panasonic, Samsung, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony and Toshiba. LCDs from Dell, however, have had higher-than-average repairs.