Since sales have been picking up with football season starting and Christmas will be here before you know it, I decided to put a guide together with my thoughts on what the best overall value tv sets this year are.
I am going to leave out the ultra high end/commercial grade tvs and just go with what you would commonly find deals on at Best Buy, Amazon, Costco, Sears, etc. I am going to write this guide under the assumption you are looking for a “big” tv, between 40-60”
When you are weighing your budget and what features you want these are the main ones to consider:
Resolution: 1080p or 720p. The number of lines of detail in the image. 1080p is not really important in tv sizes 40” and under because the image is just not largest enough for anyone but those with the best vision to make out the tiny detail
Refresh rate: The number of times per second an image is displayed. Also can be explained as how many times per second the picture is cleaned up. Plasma is a standard 600hz. LED/LCD come in at 120hz and 240hz. The entry level is 60hz. I honestly think this makes a bigger difference to image quality than the resolution does. I have a hard time discerning anything about 120, but it really is a large difference between 60hz and 120hz. Any LCD/LED you see with a number like 480, 720, 960, etc is a marketing mumbo jumbo number and is based on some kind of internal processing.
Contrast: I never look at contrast as an advertised number. There is no standard for measuring it. Sony says their LEDs have infinite contrast, and that’s because they measure the light reading with the LEDs turned off. Of course that number won’t be an accurate measurement of the overall ratio of light to dark. Any of the midrange or higher LEDs and mostly all plasmas have very good contrast ratios.
3D: More sets are 3D this year than before. 3D is a standard feature on many more sets as manufacturers try coming up with reasons for you to upgrade. There are two main types, active and passive. Active uses fancy glasses with lcd screens that sync to your tv set and only let light into one eye at a time. Passive are similar to the RealD glasses you get at the movie theater. At first plasma with active glasses was the only way to see all the lines of resolution, but LG has made huge strides with their passive Cinema 3D LEDs this year.
Connectivity: Getting on the internet is another thing manufacturers are pushing. Also the ability to use the tv as a digital media player, playing music and movies from your pc or from a usb drive. What you can do on the internet is another good question to ask. Is there a web browser or just connected widgets and apps? Is wifi built in? Can a wifi adapter be purchased?
I am going to list off a number of different model lines that are very popular this year. Some stores will sell an almost identical set with a slightly different model number. This is usually just to help enforce/defeat a competitor’s price matching policy. Also around the holidays all of the stores will get a “special” version of a tv in. They come in colorful boxes (hint: colorful boxes are used on less nice tvs ) and usually have less hdmi ports, no internet connections, and less contrast.
These aren’t necessarily the best new tv’s available and I am not ranking them based on stated specs or calibration tools. Just my observations to give you an idea where to start when you head to the store
Samsung D6000 LED. There are four main tv’s in 6000 series. Some stores might use different model numbers but these are the four feature sets. All are 1080p, 120hz, and internet enabled. These are by far the best selling line of tv’s my store carries this year. They have many internet apps, motion settings, and can play the widest number of file types. The Yahoo Fantasy Football app was a pretty popular demonstration point last Sunday, with the app popping up to show off updated scores.
6000: 1080p/120hz/Internet enabled. 46” $1100; 55” $1500
6300: full blown web browser. 46” $1200; 55” $1650
6400: edgeless, higher contrast ratio, 3D. 46” $1400; 55” $1800
6900: edgeless, higher contrast ratio, 3D, full blown web browser. 46” $1600; 55” $2000.
LG LV5500: A direct competitor to the Samsung 6000 line, this guy includes the wifi adapter and a neat Wii style pointer remote for controlling internet apps. 46” $1200; 55” $1500
LG LW5300: A lower priced, high quality 3D LED. It lacks internet connectivity but comes bundled with a bluray player and four sets of glasses. 46” and 3D bluray player $1000; 55” and 3D bluray player $1500
Sony EX720: Sony is pricing this aggressively this year. I often see it priced BELOW the step down model when it’s on sale. 120hz and 3D. 46” $1400; 55” $1800.
Sharp 830 series: Uses their Quattron yellow pixel technology that was heavily advertised last year. Sharp is a good value tv, all features considered. 120hz, wifi built in, internet apps. 52” $1300, 60” $1800. The 70” you see advertised is not part of this series but shares identical specs for the most part. You can find it around $2700-$3000.
Vizio XVT: The largest combination of features for the lowest price. 240hz, 3D, lots of internet apps, neat qwerty remote. Hard to price them because they are typically only sold online by big boxes and in membership warehouses, so promotional pricing fluctuates with them a good bit.
Samsung D7000 and D8000: Probably the nicest LEDs available. 240hz, wifi built in, comes with a $100 qwerty remote, 3D. The 8000 has some more ultra premium image enhancement capabilities. Both look really awesome. 55” 7000 around $2200, 55” 8000 around $3500. If you want an extremely nice LED and don’t want to waste money just to say you own the statistically “best” one, go for a D7000.
Most of my customers buying plasma either want a 60+ inch model for a game room or are looking for a big tv on a tighter budget. Plasma gives you the biggest screen for the least amount of money, as well as accurate color, deep contrast, and fluid motion. They still have a bad reputation for burn in, although that is very uncommon on new sets. Performance in brightly lit rooms, however, is a definite mark against them. They can’t get as bright to overcome sunlight and their glass screens reflect more of the light.
I am going to leave off the high end plasmas because I feel like if you’re in the market for one you already know what you’re looking for.
Panasonic S30/ST30. The T models add 3D support. I recently saw the 50” S30 on sale for $700. Limited internet options (includes Netflix, Pandora, and a few others) but a nice picture and good price. Typically the S30 is around $900 for a 50”, $1400 for a 60”
Here is how I would generally rank tv types and models
1) great plasma:
- Panasonic VT30
- Samsung D7000
- Samsung D8000
- LG PZ950
2) great led:
- Samsung D7000
- Samsung D8000
- Sony HX929/NX720
- LG LW6500
- Sharp Elite
3) very good plasma
- Samsung D6500
- Panasonic GT30
- LG PZ750
4) very good led:
- Samsung D6400
- Samsung D6900
- Sony EX720
- Sharp LE830
- Vizio XVT
5) good led:
- Samsung D6000
- Samsung D6300
- LG LV5500
- LG LW5300
- Sony EX620
- Sharp 630
- other Vizio LED (models numbers tend to vary)
- Toshiba SL412
6) good plasma
- Panasonic S/ST30,
- Samsung 550
- LG 450
7) good lcd
- Samsung D600,
- Sony 520,
- Vizio ExxxVL,
- Panasonic Useries
8) ok lcd:
- Samsung D500
- Sony 420
- Panasonic C series
9) ok plasma:
- Samsung 450
- LG 350
- Zenith (owned/produced by LG)
10) basic led/lcd 720p by Samsung, Sony, LG, Vizio
11) all other lcd – Sanyo, RCA, Insignia, Magnavox, Dynex, Hisense, Sylvania, Westinghouse, Element, Emerson
I personally don’t think any HDTV looks “bad.” Some look much better than others, and display a much greater depth of contrast and smoothness in motion. The reason I ranked those brands last is not even so much for picture quality, it has more to do with reliability. I would put any of them in my bedroom or kitchen as a second tv but would worry about investing in one for daily viewing.
I am going to edit this for the Christmas shopping season with the best tvs available in the major black friday ads. Many of the stores are carrying the same items at the same prices. Some prices are door busters, some are valid all weekend. Ive listed them in descending order from best tv on down. Double check the ads for more info before you head out. The original list and info is hidden in the spoiler box. I will update as I have time w/ more tv's and other home theater gear. I will *** items that I think are particularly good values based on common selling prices. I'd guestimate that most of these are 10% off the "normal" sales price, and the best ones are more than that. HH Gregg's Samsung D6000 60" LED for $1499 is about $7-800 off the normal price.
This section is all tv thats are normal 2011 models
Samsung D7000 - 1080p 240hz 3D Smart TV LED
55": Sears, HH Gregg - $1799***
Sony HX729 - 1080p 240hz 3D Smart TV LED
55": HH Gregg - $1368***
46": HH Gregg - $998
Sony NX720 - 1080p 120hz 3D Smart LED w/ 2 pairs of glasses, Chronicles of Narnia, and 5.1 bluray HTIB
55": Sears, Best Buy - $1698
46": Best Buy - $1398
Samsung D6400 - 1080p 120hz 3D Smart LED
46": HH Gregg - $1149
40": HH Gregg - $999
Panasonic ST30 - 1080p 600hz 3D Smart Plasma
55": Sears - $1099***
Samsung D6000 - 1080p 120hz Smart LED
60": HH Gregg - $1499***
55": Sears, HH Gregg - $1099***
40": HH Gregg - $729
Panasonic S30 - 1080p 600hz Plasma tv w/ minimal internet services
50": Best Buy $599, Sears $699
LG LW5300: 1080p 120hz 3D LED tv w/ bluray player and four pairs of glasses
55": Sears, HH Gregg - $1199
47": Walmart, HH Gregg - $798
Sony NSXGT1 - 1080p 60hz LED w/ Google TV
46": HH Gregg - $799
40": HH Gregg - $599
Samsung D530 - 1080p 600hz Plasma
51": HH Gregg, Sears - $649
Zenith PV220 - 1080p 600hz Plasma
50": Sears - $499***
Panasonic X3 - 720p 600hz Plasma
46": Best Buy - $399***
42": HH Gregg - $499
Samsung D430 - 720p 600hz Plasma
51": Walmart, HH Gregg - $499
43": Walmart - $398***
This section is all tv's that are special holiday editions. Typically have less contrast and less input hookups. These are just the sizes I saw in the leaked ads, I know some of them exist in other sizes I'm just not sure who will have them and at what price.
Samsung D6003 - 1080p 120hz Smart LED
55": Best Buy - $999
46": Sears - $799
LG LV4400 - 1080p 120hz LED
55": Walmart $898***, Sears $999
47": Sears, Kmart - $679***
42": Best Buy - $499
Sharp LE632 1080p 120hz LED
70": Sears, HH Gregg - $1999
Sharp LE6300 1080p 120hz LED
60": Sears, HH Gregg - $999
Sharp E79 1080p 120hz LCD
60": Best Buy - $799***
Toshiba HT2U 1080p 120hz LCD
65": Walmart - $998
Samsung D5003 1080p 60hz LED
40": Sears, HH Gregg - $499
Samsung D503 1080p 60hz LCD
46": Sears, Walmart - $599
40": Sears, Best Buy, Walmart - $429
Samsung D4003 720p 60hz LED
32": Best Buy - $348
Samsung D403 720p 60hz LCD
32": Sears, HH Gregg, Best Buy, Target - $280
Hitatchi LE32H405 720 60hz LED
32": Kmart - $299