Best HDTVs for Every Budget

It's predicted that by January 2011, more than 70 percent of homes will have at least one HDTV. From our test results in the GHRI labs, its plain to see why: Many sets have gorgeous picture quality, Internet capability, and inputs for connecting to a PC, a DVD player, a video game console, and more; plus, prices are coming down. And with all the buzz about 3-D TVs (the movies, glasses, and dedicated TV channels), we wanted to see how the new ones checked out. Here are all the top scorers.

Photo by: J Muckle/Studio D

GHRI engineers and consumer testers evaluated 24 flat-screen 1080p HDTVs (plain English: the best of what's out there) in a range of sizes. We screened them for picture and audio quality as well as the user-friendliness of remote controls, settings, and features.

32" TVs

Budget buy: At $470, the Vizio E320VL (vizio.com) is a great deal for a 1080p HD set. It senses light levels in the room to brighten or dim the screen, honing its already excellent picture. The audio is good, too, but it lacks the Internet capabilities of other models. Also in 37", 42", 47", and 55".

Splurge pick: Its smart-light sensor, LED backlighting, and streamlined profile make the Samsung UN32C5000 (Starting at $690 on Yahoo! Shopping) exceptional to watch and nice to look at. It effortlessly syncs to computers, cameras, and more so you can enjoy videos, pics, and music. Also in 40", 46", and 55".


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Philips 40PFL5505D

40" TVs

Budget buy: A good value, the Philips 40PFL5505D ( 866-464-1682) has a fast refresh rate that makes on-screen action look crisp, not blurry. Its USB port lets you view photos or play music from a flash drive. It doesn't have an Internet connection. Also in 46" and 55".

Splurge pick: For a fully loaded midsize HDTV, set your sights on the Sony 40NX700 (Starting at $800 on Yahoo! Shopping). Its screen self-dims and can be tilted for better viewing from below. Video Web apps are easy to access via Wi-Fi. Bonus: A switch eliminates phantom power draw when the TV's off. Also in 46".

Vizio M470NV

47" TVs

Budget buy: The remote on the Vizio M470NV (Starting at $998 on Yahoo! Shopping) has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard to ease access to the TV's Wi-Fi features. We had to tinker with the screen settings (reducing contrast, increasing brightness) so HD shows would look great. Also in 32", 37", 42", and 55".

Splurge pick: The top-of-the-line LG 47LE8500 (Starting at $1980 on Yahoo! Shopping) is one sleek machine. Its fast refresh rate keeps screen action from blurring, and a high dynamic-contrast ratio makes for very nuanced shading. It's broadband-capable, but needs an adapter for Wi-Fi. Also in 55".

LG 55LE5400

55" TV

The larger the screen, the more important its quality. The Wi-Fi-capable 55" LG 55LE5400 (Starting at $1460 on Yahoo! Shopping) doesn't disappoint, with an LED backlight for extra-dark blacks and a simple screen-calibration function that makes quick work of correcting the picture (a high dynamic-contrast ratio — which refers to the range from brightest whites to blackest blacks — doesn't hurt). Also in 32", 42", and 47".

Photo by: Corbis

The Scoop on 3-D Television

Movies and TV in 3-D have officially entered U.S. living rooms (clunky glasses and all). We reviewed five 3-D sets that also display SD (standard definition) and HD. While they're good, we think the 3-D TV technology will only get better. Can't wait? Consider:

1. The 50" plasma Samsung PN50C8000 (Starting at $1500 on Yahoo! Shopping) has stunning images in non-3-D, and very good ones in 3-D. It can also convert 2-D shows to 3-D, though images weren't as impressive as in 3-D-ready content.

2. The 47" LED-backlit LG 47LX9500 (Starting at $1780 on Yahoo! Shopping) had good picture quality, but where it really stands out: user-friendliness. Its remote control and screen menus are elegant and intuitive.

3. The 50" plasma Panasonic TC-P50VT25 (Starting at $1900 on Yahoo! Shopping) scored well for 3-D and non-3-D content. Its sound level, though quiet, ranked high for clarity. Testers found its glasses uncomfortable.

 

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