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Big-screen HDTV picks: LCD or plasma?

November 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Big flat-screen televisions, both LCD and plasma, are usually hot sellers around the holidays. Considering the economy, this year may be different. But the good news is prices are expected to be 20 to 30 percent lower than a year ago and ABC7 has identified the best choices. It looked like the price of big screen TVs was beginning to level off, but the timing now is very good if you're in the market for a new digital television. This holiday season prices will definitely be down, while the performance is on the rise.

Stores are filled with big-screen, high-definition televisions. Because of the glut, you can expect to see lower prices as we head into the holidays.

But what's your best bet? A plasma? An LCD? Consumer Reports, which tests some 150 TVs a year, says each has its advantages. Plasmas give you a bigger screen for the money. And they typically deliver deeper blacks and better contrast.

The 60-inch Pioneer PDP-6020 FD has the deepest blacks testers have ever seen on a plasma TV.

"When you're watching darker movies, such as this, not only does it show all the detail in the dark areas, but instead of looking a bit grayish this one keeps them nice and deep black," said Chris Andrade, Consumer Reports.

But that Pioneer is expensive: $5,000.

The $3,200 Samsung PN58 A550 is almost as big and also delivers an excellent picture.

Smaller plasmas can save you even more. The highly rated 50-inch Panasonic TH-50PZ 800U goes for $2,400.

As for LCDs, Consumer Reports says they generally deliver brighter images, making them a better choice for a brightly lit room. But most LCDs have a limited viewing angle.

"So what that means is, as you move off to the side, they tend to deteriorate in picture quality," said Charlie Davidman.

And fast-moving images tend to look blurry. In the Consumer Reports test, you can see the blur.

To help minimize that problem, some LCDs have a special feature called 120-Hertz technology.

The 52-inch Samsung LN 52A750 has it and is one of Consumer Reports' top-rated LCDs. It costs $2,800.

Consumer Reports says if you're willing to scale back on the size of the big-screen TV you're considering, you can save hundreds of dollars -- even more than a thousand.

The top-rated 52-inch LCD costs $2,800, but a 47-inch Vizio that earned high ratings in Consumer Reports tests costs less than half that. It's the Vizio model VO471F for $1,300.


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