Believe it or not, TV prices continue to fall, and special promotions may result in even better deals. Consumers may find larger sets with screen sizes from 46 to 50 inches for as low as $600, according to Consumer Reports, which recently rated more than 130 LCD and plasma televisions.
“Whether you’re a first-time buyer or you want to upgrade your existing flat panel, TV prices have never been better and they continue to fall,” says Paul Reynolds, CR’s Electronics Editor. “It’s not always best to go for the least-expensive model. Consumer Reports has found that some features are worth the extra cost.”
Things to consider
• Resolution: 1080p vs. 720p. 1080p resolution, called full HD, is now very common, but some 50-inch and smaller televisions still have 720p resolution. Salespeople may suggests that 1080p sets have better picture quality overall, but it’s not always the case; however, a 1080p set does have the potential to display finer detail than a 720p television because the screen has more pixels — the elements making up an image. The price premium for 1080p has shrunk but still runs $100 to $200. CR recommends buying a 1080p set if the television is 50 inches or larger and price isn’t an issue.
• Less Blur: 120Hz & 240Hz. Ads make a big deal of 120Hz and 240Hz technologies, which promise to reduce blurring and the loss of detail that can occur when LCD televisions display fast-moving images. 120 Hz technology doubles an LCD television’s usual 60Hz frame rate, and 240Hz quadruples it. (Some models combine a 120Hz frame rate with a scanning, or flashing, backlight, to create a 240Hz effect.) Purchasing a television with anti-blur technology can cost an extra $200 or more and results varied in CR’s lab tests. A 60Hz set should satisfy most casual viewers, but it’s worth considering a 120Hz television now that the feature is available on lower-priced sets.
• Screen Size. Consumers in the market for a television may opt for a smaller screen size to keep costs down. CR suggests that consumers purchase the biggest screen their budget and space allow, rather than a smaller model with extra features that will be rarely used.
• High-priced HDMI cables. Retailers will try to talk consumers into spending $50 or more for an HDMI cable to use with a new HDTV. CR recommends buying decent-quality cables with sturdy connectors, but not expensive ones. A 6-foot HDMI cable should cost $10 or so. Even so-called high-speed cables designed for 1080p throughput shouldn’t cost more than $20 for a 3- to 6-foot cable. If low-priced HDMI cables aren’t available at the store, look online.
HDTV Best Buys
Most of the televisions featured in CR’s latest Ratings have excellent or very good picture quality, so there are many fine choices. Below is a list of CR Best Buys that are mainstream values. (Sets are listed from largest to smallest screen size).
52- and 55-inch
• Vizio VF550M,$1,400
• Toshiba Regza Cinema Series 52XV648U, $1,400
46- and 47-inch
• Toshiba Regza 46XV645U, $1,000
40- and 42-inch
• Insignia NS-L42Q-10A, $650
• LG 42LF11, $700
• Sanyo DP42849, $630
• Vizio VO320E (32-inch) (720p), $390
• Sanyo DP26649 (720p), $300
• LG 50PQ30, $800
• Insignia NS-P501Q-10A (720p), $650
42- and 46-inch
• Panasonic Viera TC-42PX14 (720p), $550
• LG 42PQ30 (720p), $650