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Plasma, LCD TVs compared for picture quality

February 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Prices have gone down this year for Plasma and LCD TVs, and Consumer Specialist Ric Romero shows you which ones are worth buying before you make a hasty decision.This is one of the best times of the year to get a good deal on a new big screen TV, but before you shop for a super sized television for the Super Bowl, you may want to look at the testing Consumer Reports did on more than 90 TV sets.

You can be living large when you watch an Optoma front projector TV. The screen is a mega 110 inches. The picture is huge compared to a 52-inch set.

"You can only get a picture that big with a front projector and a separate screen, and the biggest news is that prices have fallen dramatically. In fact, the Optoma that we're watching here costs about $1,000," said Jim Willcox of Consumer Reports.

But you need to watch a projection TV in a dark room. Otherwise, the video washes out and it's hard to see. If a plasma or LCD TV is a better fit for your home, Consumer Reports just evaluated more than 90. Both can give you a great picture, but plasmas usually do a better job with dark scenes, while LCDs look better in a bright room.

"In bright light, LCDs actually absorb the light so you hold your contrast, whereas plasmas reflect all the ambient light so you lose the contrast and your black levels become brighter," explained Chris Andrade of Consumer Reports.

But LCD TVs generally don't look as good when viewed from the side. And Consumer Reports' tests show LCDs can have difficulty with fast moving images, and images can appear blurry.

"That can be a problem if you're watching programming with fast paced action like a football game. But some LCD TVs now have technology that speeds up the TV's frame rate, which can help reduce blurring," said Willcox.

One such model is the 52-inch Toshiba Regza. It has excellent picture quality, and at around $1,400, it costs $500 less than a similar set a year ago.

Plasma TVs have also come way down in price. Consumer Reports found a 50-inch plasma for under $700, and that's a best buy. It's from Insignia and costs $650.