If you want to pick up a new TV before your Super Bowl party, Consumer Reports can help. Testers size up hundreds of TVs every year to find ones to recommend.
"One of the tests we perform on our TVs is a motion blur test," said Claudio Ciacci, Consumer Reports. "This test is designed to expose how well a TV can reproduce fast movement, such as you might find in sports or action movies."
Some LCDs tend to have trouble with that.
There's also the black-level test.
"So on better performing sets like this one, you have a nice deep black level that give a nice dynamic contrast in bright scenes as well as in dark scenes," said Christophe Andrade, Consumer Reports. "Whereas worse-performing sets like this one you have a brighter black level that doesn't give you that deep contrast, so images will look flatter, especially in dark scenes."
Testers also evaluate how well each television displays color using a device that takes a color-temperature measurement from a solid gray screen to see how balanced the tones are.
"A high price tag doesn't guarantee you a great TV," said Jim Willcox, Consumer Reports. "We found plenty of TVs that were higher-priced but actually came in lower in the ratings than many less-expensive sets."
But testers did find several TVs to recommend, including a 55-inch plasma Panasonic Viera for $1,200. It has an excellent picture and nice extras like 3-D and Internet access.
If you want to spend less, Consumer Reports recommends a 60-inch LG model 60PA6500 for $900 retail. While it lacks some bells and whistles, such as online access and 3-D, it's got an excellent picture at a great price.