In the last issue of Consumer Reports magazine, the independent nonprofit organization has published its ratings of over 130 LCD and plasma TVs and advice on what features are worth the price.
"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, Electronics Editor of Consumer Reports.
In its testing, the organization found that most of the TVs rated had very good or excellent picture quality. Below is a list of Best Buys which the magazine ranks as mainstream values (all prices in U.S. dollars).
- Vizio VF550M, $1,400
- Toshiba Regza Cinema Series 52XV648U, $1,400
- Toshiba Regza 46XV645U, $1,000
- Insignia NS-L42Q-10A, $650
- LG 42LF11, $700
- Sanyo DP42849, $630
- Vizio VO320E (720p), $390
- Sanyo DP26649 (720p), $300
- LG 50PQ30, $800
- Insignia NS-P501Q-10A (720p), $650
- Panasonic Viera TC-42PX14 (720p), $550
- LG 42PQ30
- Resolution: 1080p vs. 720p. 1080p resolution, called full HD, is now very common, but some 50-inch and smaller TVs still have 720p resolution. Salespeople may suggest 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 TV 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. Consumer Reports recommends buying a 1080p set if the TV 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 TVs display fast-moving images. 120Hz technology doubles an LCD TV'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 TV with anti-blur technology can cost an extra $200 or more, and results varied in Consumer Reports lab tests. A 60Hz set should satisfy most casual viewers, but it's worth considering a 120Hz TV now that the feature is available on lower-priced sets.
- Screen Size. Consumers in the market for a TV may opt for a smaller screen size to keep costs down. Consumer Reports 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. Consumer Reports 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.
Discuss in Digital Home's HDTV discussion forum .