Recent tests by Consumer Reports can help you find the perfect big-screen TV for your home.
Consumer Reports TV labs are lined with dozens of LCD and plasma sets. Some are 3D-capable and plenty are Internet-enabled. Each television faces more than 10 tests.
One test sizes up picture quality at an angle in order to find out how far to the side you can sit and still get a good view.
"In general, plasmas don't have a viewing angle issue, but it's a mixed bag when it comes to LCDs," said Consumer Reports Associate Editor Chris Andrade.
Testers also evaluate black levels in different lights. Even in bright light, LCDs hold their black levels. But on some plasmas, the image washes out.
Consumer Reports also evaluates sound quality.
As TVs got slimmer, sound quality suffered. But the latest tests show that audio is improving.
And what about 3-D? With more sets offering 3-D as a feature, Consumer Reports created new test patterns to assess the quality of the 3-D picture.
"Some of our top-rated sets are 3-D, while providing you with excellent 2-D picture quality. But you're going to pay more for a 3-D set," said Andrade. "However, those prices are dropping."
When purchasing a TV, Consumer Reports says people often buy a set that's too small for their room. For instance, if you sit 8 to 10 feet away from your TV, consider a 50- to 60-inch screen.
The 60-inch Panasonic Viera TC-P60S30 plasma rated excellent for picture quality and has good black levels and audio. It costs $1,400. And the remote is very easy to use.
If the 60-inch is a little too much TV for your budget, the same set comes in a 50-inch size and is quite a bit less money. The Panasonic Viera TC-P50S30 and is rated very good and costs $800 retail.