Best HDTVs

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The modern HDTV is a complicated piece of technology, what with the demands placed on these now-ubiquitous devices. Overall, manufacturers have been able to improve performance while simultaneously coming out with ever-slimmer designs and new convenience features. In order to help walk you through what's out there today, we've narrowed the vast selection of TVs down to a handful of models that stand out from the crowd for their superior performance, features, and design. If you're still unsure, head straight down to our buyer's guide below.

Best Picture Quality:

Nobody buys a new HDTV without having picture quality as one of their biggest considerations. While all HDTVs look good, there are select models which usually sit at the top of their respective manufacturers' lineups offering noticeably better picture quality than the rest. However, don't expect bargain prices because for this level of performance, you'll be paying a substantial premium.

The first thing to look for is a TV which delivers superb black levels. Our top picks for best picture quality display inky black levels, creating a more immersive experience thanks to the well-defined contrast between light and dark areas. These selections also provide excellent color accuracy, recreating an image to make it look lifelike along with adjustments to dial in the perfect images with true-to-life colors. Each of these picks can also easily process moving image and maintain clarity with fast-moving program or movie scenes free of shudder or skipping, making them well-suited for home theater use.

LG Electronics 55EF9500 55" 4K Ultra HD Flat Smart OLED TV (2015 Model)

The LG 55EF9500 is one of the best TVs currently available, with picture quality that rivals the top plasmas from several years ago. This 4K TV uses OLED technology, which allows it to be extremely thin. The 55EF9500 uses a flat panel, unlike it curved sibling the 55EG9600.
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    LG Electronics 55EF9500 55" 4K Ultra HD Flat Smart OLED TV (2015 Model)

    LG Electronics 55EG9600 55" 4K Ultra HD Curved Smart OLED TV (2015 Model)

    Although its curved screen is subjective in terms of appeal, the LG 55EG9600 is one of the absolute best TVs currently available. Using OLED technology, LG has been able to produce TVs that are extremely thin, while offering picture quality that can rival that of top plasmas. Read Full Review

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      LG Electronics 55EG9600 55" 4K Ultra HD Curved Smart OLED TV (2015 Model)

      LG Electronics 55EC9300 55" 1080p 3D Curved OLED TV

      There have been many exciting advancements in picture quality in the last year, with newer technologies increasingly making their way into mainstream applications. The LG 55EC9300 is a front runner thanks to its use of OLED technology which allows it to project picture quality rivaling that of plasma TVs. Read Full Review

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        LG Electronics 55EC9300 55" 1080p 3D Curved OLED TV

        Sony XBR55X900C 55" 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED TV (2015 Model)

        Sony’s XBR-55X900C is astonishingly thin, with portions of the TV being thinner than an iPhone. Although this TV isn’t as groundbreaking as its predecessor (the XBR-X900B), it offers excellent performance and picture quality, an improved user interface, and stunning design. Read Full Review

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          Sony XBR55X900C 55" 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED TV (2015 Model)

          Samsung UN55JS8500 55" 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED TV (2015 Model)

          The Samsung UN55JS8500 is currently Samsung’s top TV with a flat screen as opposed to a curved one. Although whether their SUHD makes a noticeable difference in picture quality is subjective, this TV nonetheless offers excellent overall performance, modern features, and stunning high end design. Read Full Review

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            Samsung UN55JS8500 55" 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED TV (2015 Model)

            Best HDTV under $1000:

            It’s no secret the price of HDTVs have come down in recent years, especially since much of the current technology has now come into its own. We’ve chosen the following best HDTVs under $1,000 because they delivers exceptional picture quality with minimum a minimum 1080p resolution and screen sizes of measuring at least 46 inches across for a generously sized viewing area. Our top picks provide black levels which enhance their ability to display sharp, true-to-life colors. Better still, all of our selections include modern essentials such as built-in Wi-Fi and Smart TV capabilities which streamline installation and reduce the need for separate remotes on the coffee table.

            VIZIO M55-C2 55" 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV - 2015

            The Vizio M series offers some of the least expensive 4K TVs you can buy, with the 55 inch M552i-B2 delivering a compelling blend of picture quality, features, and price. While this TV doesn’t have the flashy exterior styling of more expensive models, it’s currently one of the best ways to get a 4K TV while on a budget. Read Full Review

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              VIZIO M55-C2 55" 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV - 2015

              VIZIO P552ui-B2 55" 4K Ultra HD Smart LED HDTV

              Considering this TV offers a 4K resolution and solid feature set, this makes it an incredible bargain. Although the 55 inch version in this series particular doesn’t offer the best in overall picture, it’s nonetheless an excellent TV for a very low price. Read Full Review

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                VIZIO P552ui-B2 55" 4K Ultra HD Smart LED HDTV

                TCL 50" 1080p Roku Smart LED TV 50FS3800 - 2015

                While this 50 inch TV offers picture quality that is average at best, its outstanding user interface and content selection make it an excellent option for those who prioritize convenience over outright picture quality. The Roku TV is extremely user-friendly and provides access to a huge amount of media content. Read Full Review

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                  TCL 50" 1080p Roku Smart LED TV 50FS3800 - 2015

                  Sony KDL50W800B 50" 1080p 120Hz 3D Smart LED TV

                  Although the Sony KDL-50W800B does include 3D capability, its performance is poor enough that those seeking a 3D-capable TV on a budget should look elsewhere. However, for those who want good overall picture quality and a decent feature set at an affordable price, this TV may be a good option. Despite being somewhat basic, it offers a pleasant enough design and solid performance. Read Full Review

                  Sony KDL50W800B 50" 1080p 120Hz 3D Smart LED TV

                  Best 50-55 inch HDTV:

                  The majority of the best-performing HDTVs on the market today are offered only in sizes 50 inches and larger, meaning picture quality is extremely important. While minor picture quality issues can be overlooked with a smaller screen, larger screen sizes can unfortunately highlight backlight faults, color inaccuracies, and other performance issues. On the other hand, a larger screen amplifies the benefits of deep black levels and accurate color reproduction, providing you with a more immersive viewing experience.

                  We've gathered together the best performing units representing the greatest value on the market today. Our top picks for best 50-55 inch HDTV come equipped with convenient features such as wireless Smart TV and built-in WiFi, which reduces clutter and streamlines your home theater operation overall. Each of the following picks offer outstanding image quality with exceptional black levels, color accuracy, and commendable screen uniformity. Plentiful convenient features are also included such as built-in WiFi and Smart TV suites which justify the high prices.

                  LG Electronics 55EF9500 55" 4K Ultra HD Flat Smart OLED TV (2015 Model)

                  The LG 55EF9500, while expensive, is sure to please those mourning the loss of plasma TVs. This OLED TV offers picture quality that is capable of surpassing that of the best plasmas and LED LCD TVs, while also including future-proofing thanks to support for future HDR sources via HDMI. Read Full Review

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                    LG Electronics 55EF9500 55" 4K Ultra HD Flat Smart OLED TV (2015 Model)

                    LG Electronics 55EG9600 55" 4K Ultra HD Curved Smart OLED TV (2015 Model)

                    The LG 55EG9600 is essentially the curved version of the excellent LG 55EF9500. This OLED TV delivers some of the best picture quality currently available, although this TV also lacks the support for future HDR sources that is seen with the EF9500. If you’re looking for a TV with a stunning curved screen and top-notch picture quality, this is one of the best options out there.
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                      LG Electronics 55EG9600 55" 4K Ultra HD Curved Smart OLED TV (2015 Model)

                      Sony XBR55X900C 55" 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED TV (2015 Model)

                      The XBR-55X900C from Sony is one of their slimmest LED TVs yet, helping it to deliver stunning design. While performance is somewhat less outstanding than last year’s model (the X900B) this 4K TV nonetheless offers an excellent overall package. Read Full Review

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                        Sony XBR55X900C 55" 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED TV (2015 Model)

                        VIZIO M55-C2 55" 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV - 2015

                        Vizio’s M series of televisions continues to excel, offering tremendous value overall. The M55-C2 delivers 4K performance for a relatively affordable price, a full Smart TV interface, and excellent connectivity. Read Full Review

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                          VIZIO M55-C2 55" 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV - 2015

                          Samsung UN55JU7100 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED TV

                          The Samsung UN55JU7100 offers tremendous overall value, with excellent picture quality and good features for a reasonable price. Despite not including Samsung’s top SUHD technology, this 4K TV uses true local dimming and is designed to be easily upgraded.
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                            Samsung UN55JU7100 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED TV

                            Best 40-49 inch HDTV:

                            Plasma TVs, conventional LCD TVs, and LED-backlit LCD TVs are available in the 40-49 inch range, with the most popular sizes being 40, 42, and 46 inches. While our top picks vary in terms of technology, performance, and price, each of them ideal for a large bedroom or mid-sized living room.
                            The following TVs have all been selected primarily for their ability to deliver good picture quality. Even though a relatively smaller screen can do a better job of hiding inconsistencies in picture quality, their deep black levels and accurate color reproduction allow you to enjoy your favorite shows or video game without loss of image clarity. Although the TVs in this size range tend to be a bit light on features than their larger counterparts, we've ensured these models at least come with basic Smart TV capability. Finally, although our focus wasn’t on finding the cheapest TVs in this size range, all of our picks provide an immersive viewing experience with a surprising amount of features at this price range.

                            Samsung UN40JU7100 40-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV

                            The Samsung UN40JU7100 delivers excellent features and performance, as well as being designed for easy upgradability. This 4K TV offers tremendous value, blending picture quality, performance, features, and price. Read Full Review

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                              Samsung UN40JU7100 40-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV

                              VIZIO M43-C1 43" 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV

                              Vizio’s M43-C1 is one of the least expensive 4K TVs currently available. This TV might not have a huge screen or flashy design, but its picture quality and access to content are outstanding for the price. Read Full Review

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                                VIZIO M43-C1 43" 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV

                                VIZIO E48-C2 48" 1080p Smart LED HDTV

                                Vizio’s E series televisions offer excellent value for this who don’t need the fancy styling and lengthy list of features that come with more expensive models. The E48-C2 does not offer 4K, but its picture quality and overall performance are excellent for the money, thanks in part to the inclusion of local dimming.
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                                VIZIO E48-C2 48" 1080p Smart LED HDTV

                                48" Black LED 1080P Smart HDTV - KDL-48R510C

                                The KDL?48R510C might be basic relative to Sony’s higher end offerings, but this TV retains the performance and quality one would expect. This TV includes Smart TV capabilities and decent connectivity, offering overall a good value. Read Full Review

                                48" Black LED 1080P Smart HDTV - KDL-48R510C

                                TCL 40FS3800 40-Inch 1080p Roku Smart LED TV (2015 Model)

                                Although its picture quality alone is not going to land this Roku TV on any best lists, the TCL 40S3800 offers such outstanding access to content and ease of use that it is worthy of consideration. If you’re looking for a TV that has unparalleled access to streaming content and an affordable price tag, this is a good choice. Read Full Review

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                                  TCL 40FS3800 40-Inch 1080p Roku Smart LED TV (2015 Model)

                                  Best HDTV for Watching Sports:

                                  If you’re primarily buying an HDTV for watching your favorite teams on the big screen, screen size is the single most important factor. Each of our best picks feature a large screen which is better-suited for watching the game from any distance and for sharing the game with friends and family. All of our selections deliver accurate colors out of the box, minimizing set-up times, and letting you get to the game sooner. More importantly, these TVs perform well with displaying fast motions and feature a minimum 1080p resolution so you can always follow the action without missing a beat. As to be expected, most of the following TVs are quite pricey but we’ve included models which offer excellent value; for example, the Vizio M70-C3 is one of the most affordable 4K resolution TVs currently available.

                                  LG Electronics 65EF9500 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Flat Smart OLED TV (2015 Model)

                                  If you’re looking for picture quality that can’t be topped, the LG 65EF9500 should be a top choice. This OLED TV uses a flat panel, and offers outstanding picture quality, a stunning design, and excellent connectivity and features. Read Full Review

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                                    LG Electronics 65EF9500 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Flat Smart OLED TV (2015 Model)

                                    LG Electronics 65EG9600 65" 4K Ultra HD Curved Smart OLED TV (2015 Model)

                                    If you’d like to watch the game on a curved TV, the LG 65EG9600 is an excellent choice. This OLED TV offers some of the best picture quality seen since plasma TVs, making it an excellent choice for watching just about anything. Read Full Review

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                                      LG Electronics 65EG9600 65" 4K Ultra HD Curved Smart OLED TV (2015 Model)

                                      Sony XBR55X900C 55" 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED TV (2015 Model)

                                      The Sony XBR-65X900C is as likely to be a topic of conversation as the game itself, with parts of the cabinet measuring less than the thickness of an iPhone. As one of Sony’s best current TVs, this stunning model offers excellent performance and picture quality, making it a good option for watching sports. Read Full Review

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                                        Sony XBR55X900C 55" 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED TV (2015 Model)

                                        Samsung UN65JU7100 65" 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED TV

                                        The Samsung UN65JU7100 offers excellent overall value for money, with a 4K resolution, good features, and good connectivity. Outstanding video processing and a 120Hz refresh rate help make this TV a great choice for watching sports. Read Full Review

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                                          Samsung UN65JU7100 65" 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED TV

                                          VIZIO M70-C3 70" 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2015 Model)

                                          The Vizio M70-C3 offers a large screen and 4K resolution for a very affordable price. Despite the design of this TV not being quite as eye-catching as more expensive models, the M70-C3 offers excellent picture quality and overall performance. Read Full Review

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                                            VIZIO M70-C3 70" 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2015 Model)

                                            Best HDTV under $500:

                                            Looking for a no-frills HDTV that will perform great but won't break the bank? With this price cap, the larger you want to go, the more you'll usually have to give up in terms of features such as a built-in web browser or a better remote control. You'll also usually need to make some concessions when it comes to picture quality, with overall performance generally being less consistent; this can mean inferior color accuracy, blacks levels that aren't as deep, or other issues such as increased input lag. Generally, though, budget-friendly models often lack the high-end finishes and appearance more expensive HDTVs have.

                                            We've chosen to keep a focus on HDTV selections offering great picture quality with smaller screens delivering excellent overall performance thanks to their good black levels and accurate colors. All of our picks also include at least basic Smart TV capabilities to allow for streaming content and using web-based apps. Beyond focusing on picture quality, we also ensured all of our picks have at least decent connectivity options; while smaller screens are often somewhat lacking in terms of connectivity, we've chosen TVs with enough outlets to meet the needs of the average household.

                                            48" Black LED 1080P Smart HDTV - KDL-48R510C

                                            Despite using an older version of Sony’s Smart TV interface, the KDL?48R510C offers tremendous value for those seeking an affordable TV. While compared to Sony’s higher end offerings this TV may seem basic, picture quality is reliably good in both bright and dark conditions.
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                                            48" Black LED 1080P Smart HDTV - KDL-48R510C

                                            TCL 50" 1080p Roku Smart LED TV 50FS3800 - 2015

                                            With the largest screen size on this list, the TCL 50FS3800 is a compelling choice for those who want features and a large screen on a budget. Although the Roku TV does not offer outstanding picture quality, this TV is an excellent choice for anyone who values unrivaled access to content and ease of use over outright picture quality. Read Full Review

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                                              TCL 50" 1080p Roku Smart LED TV 50FS3800 - 2015

                                              VIZIO E48-C2 48" 1080p Smart LED HDTV

                                              Vizio’s E series TVs offer excellent performance for the money, with good overall picture quality. Although the design of this TV is quite basic, it performs very well, and should be a top consideration for anyone looking for a basic Smart TV and good picture quality at an affordable price. Read Full Review

                                              VIZIO E48-C2 48" 1080p Smart LED HDTV

                                              Sony KDL40W600B 40" 1080p 60Hz Smart LED TV

                                              Given Sony's reputation for excellence in picture quality, it may be surprising to find one of their HDTVs on a budget-friendly list. However, the Sony KDL-40W600B offers great picture quality and accurate colors, all while costing under $500. You do sacrifice some design flair and extensive Smart TV capabilities, but this is for those who want an affordable HDTV prioritizing picture quality over everything else. Read Full Review

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                                                Sony KDL40W600B 40" 1080p 60Hz Smart LED TV

                                                VIZIO M43-C1 43" 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV

                                                Although the Vizio M43-C1 doesn’t quite meet the criteria for this list since it costs slightly over $500, it offers such tremendous value for the money that it may be worth it, for some, to spend just a bit more. This TV offers 4K performance and excellent picture quality overall, as well as an improved Smart TV interface and very good connectivity.
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                                                  VIZIO M43-C1 43" 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV
                                                   

                                                  HDTV Buyer's Guide

                                                  The HDTV market is filled with enough advertising and marketing hubris to make anyone's head spin with confusion. Manufacturers routinely go out of their way to make their products seem more impressive, including puzzling claims such as “infinite contrast ratio”. Worse still, the TVs on display at local brick & mortar shops usually have the brightness cranked to the max and various settings put to “store mode” to attract potential buyers.

                                                  There are multiple HDTV technologies on the market today, but the consumer TV market has changed significantly in the past few years. LCD TVs have retained their popularity thanks to their low cost, thin cabinets, and high overall availability, but other TV technologies have started to gain some ground.

                                                  On the other hand, while plasma TVs once dominated picture quality comparisons, most manufacturers have ceased production of this display type. The newest display technology to hit the market is OLED, which has evolved from expensive, primitive, and comparatively tiny panels to full-fledged high-end units that can put the best LCD and plasma TVs to shame in the picture quality department.

                                                  Comparing TVs side-by-side at a store will do you no favors unless the sets are calibrated properly and are utilizing equal-quality HD feeds. Even then, TVs will look different in a brightly-lit environment like the sales floor compared to a dimmer, more controlled setting like your living room. Before you commit to buying a new TV, it helps to familiarize yourself with a few terms and specifications to ensure that you're getting exactly what you want.

                                                  Assessing Picture Quality

                                                  No matter what size TV you’re looking for, the one thing that needs to be prioritized is good picture quality. The simple truth is that high-definition content looks better than standard definition content 100 percent of the time. If you're upgrading from an older CRT TV, all modern HDTVs will look outstanding provided they are utilizing high-definition feeds.

                                                  There is an enormous amount of information available on how to judge good picture quality, but your personal preference will ultimately determine what looks good to you, and if the pricier model with more features is worth the extra cost in the end.

                                                  Here are a few things to look for:

                                                  Color Accuracy
                                                  When in doubt, pick a TV with good color accuracy. A TV with poor color accuracy will display washed-out or oversaturated colors, and skin tones which appear orange, green, purple, or any other color that is not associated with a healthy person.

                                                  A full calibration performed by a certified professional will bring out the best the TV has to offer. “ChadB” of hdtvbychadb.com and CNET's David Katzmaier both test TVs after they’ve been calibrated; and CNET includes the picture settings in their reviews.

                                                  Black Levels
                                                  Black levels are a key component to good picture quality. A good TV will be capable of purer blacks which stand in stark contrast to any color in the scene. In a scene with true “blacks”, dark gray tones are undesirable and can detract from the movie watching experience.

                                                  Screen Uniformity
                                                  Screen uniformity is extremely important as well. This boils down to how effectively the TV distributes its backlight. A good backlight setup will appear flawless and unnoticeable, while the appearance of spots or patches suggests poor screen uniformity. This phenomenon is referred to as 'flashlighting' if there are smaller spots with uneven backlight levels, and 'clouding' if an entire area is affected by poor screen uniformity. This phenomenon generally does not affect plasma or OLED TVs, which do not utilize a backlight like an LCD TV does.

                                                  Contrast Ratio
                                                  Manufacturers like to throw around large contrast ratio numbers to give the impression of superior picture quality. Outside of each respective manufacturer's products, this number is just about meaningless. A simple explanation of contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest image the TV can display and the darkest image the TV can display (black level). You'll sometimes see 'infinite contrast ratio' - this is pure marketing, and usually refers to certain technological tricks that higher-performing TVs use to enhance picture quality.

                                                  Standard Definition
                                                  Not all HDTVs perform well with standard definition content. Don't be surprised if you connect your old DVD player or game console to your brand new HDTV and the resulting picture isn't crystal-clear.

                                                  Without getting into too much detail, here’s a brief explanation: the native resolution of a new HDTV is far higher than what standard definition devices can output. This means that your TV will try to convert the standard definition signal (usually 480i or 480p) into high definition (720p, 1080p, or even 4K) to fill the screen, and the results are not always pretty. On the other hand, high definition content will look fantastic on a high definition TV.

                                                  Size
                                                  For the best HDTV experience, go for the biggest size your budget and setting will allow. Remember that this is an investment that you will live with for quite some time, and you don't want to be caught out thinking “Man, I wish I had a bigger screen”. Keep in mind that as implausible as it may sound, it is possible to go too big. If you live in a small apartment or plan to set the TV up where space is limited, that 80-inch TV may not be the best idea.

                                                  Resolution

                                                  Today's HDTVs come in several resolution options, including 720p, 1080p, and 4K. When broken down, these alphanumeric combinations simply state the resolution and the method in which the pixels are displayed. Here's a brief explanation of each, along with a quick run-down of the less-encountered resolutions among HDTVs today.

                                                  4K - With display panel technology constantly improving, manufacturers are now able to squeeze four times the amount of pixels into the same space as before. Consumer 4K televisions carry a 3840x2160 pixel resolution, and the increase in the level of detail is clearly visible on larger screens.

                                                  1080p - Often referred to as 'Full HD', and represents 1920x1080 pixels displayed on the screen in a 'progressive' format. Each line is resolved during the refresh cycle, leading to a clearer, sharper picture. 1080p is the most popular HDTV resolution available today, and most HD content is geared towards this resolution.

                                                  720p - Like 1080p, 720p is a 'progressive scan' format. The '720p' term actually refers to a range of HD resolutions, with a minimum of 1280x720 pixels from which the name is derived. Though this resolution is usually found amongst entry-level HDTVs today, the lower resolution compared to 1080p is not very noticeable until you get to larger screen sizes (55 inches and above).

                                                  1080i - Although modern HDTVs do not feature 1080i as a native resolution, this format is still encountered when dealing with HD broadcasts. Older CRT HDTVs also sport a 1080i native resolution, which can lead to some confusion. While the resolution is identical to 1080p (1980x1080 pixels), the “I” in the name stands for “interlaced” scan.

                                                  Without getting into too much technical detail, native 1080i-resolution displays refresh every alternating line (effectively producing 1920x540 pixels per refresh cycle) to show the entire image. Modern displays require image processing (de-interlacing) to display content encoded in this format.

                                                  Standard Definition - Older TV formats are almost always considered “standard definition”. You'll see the term “enhanced definition” thrown around here and there when referring to 480p, but the current trend is to refer to anything which features a lower resolution than “high definition” as “standard definition”. This includes various formats such as 480i and 240p, all of which must be upscaled by modern TVs to be displayed by the native 1080p or 720p resolution screens.

                                                  3D Viewing

                                                  Though it initially enjoyed a degree of popularity, consumer interest in 3D has waned to the point where manufacturers have started to eliminate this feature on all but their most feature-loaded sets. 3D TVs still require viewers to wear special glasses to achieve the 3D effect. There are two different types of 3D displays, active and passive.

                                                  Active 3D
                                                  Active 3D displays require specific active-shutter glasses - these distinctive glasses sync to the TV wirelessly. The glasses then block the left and right eye in succession at up to 120 times per second, corresponding to the left-eye and right-eye image on the display. When done properly, this creates an illusion of a 3D image. Active 3D generally offers higher picture quality, but is not without its drawbacks.

                                                  The glasses must keep in sync with the TV, or the picture can suffer from strange effects. The glasses are also very complex, with batteries that require recharging or replacement every now and then. Perhaps the biggest drawback is the price of extra pairs of glasses. At anywhere from $50 to $190 each, watching 3D with friends and family can get very expensive.

                                                  Passive 3D
                                                  Passive 3D is an alternative if you can't stand the disadvantages of active 3D. Instead of using expensive active shutter glasses to display 3D images, passive 3D TVs are equipped with a filter on the TV screen itself to achieve the effect. Glasses must still be worn, but passive 3D glasses are simple, inexpensive polarized lenses.

                                                  These passive 3D glasses can be found for as little as four dollars a set, and movie theater 3D glasses will work as well. Because there is no syncing required, a single set of 3D glasses will work with any brand TV. However, passive 3D offers inferior picture quality compared to active 3D. This is due to the inherent design of this technology, which alternates every line of pixels to display images for the left eye and the right eye.

                                                  Plasma vs. LCD

                                                  Format wars come and go; in the 1980s, there was the Betamax vs. VHS skirmish. In the last decade, Toshiba and Sony squared off in the HD DVD vs. Blu-ray Disc fight; we all know how that ended. In the past couple years, plasma display panels have slowly been shuffled off stage, due to various reasons ranging from manufacturing costs, environmental reasons, and lack of mainstream consumer interest. New plasma TVs can still be purchased today, but the field is no longer as diverse as it was 4-5 years ago.

                                                  Plasma
                                                  Technically called “plasma display panels”, the plasma TV is in its final years of availability in the consumer HDTV market. Plasma TVs operate by acting upon phosphors embedded into the panel, and the picture you see through the screen is the light given off by the reaction. This type of display is inherently faster than LCDs, and have similar response times as CRT displays. Plasma TVs also exhibit perfect screen uniformity, and offer superior off-angle viewing. Many videophiles consider plasma TVs by default due to their inherently superior black levels.

                                                  While plasma TVs still carry a lingering reputation for issues with burn-in, modern-day technologies have largely minimized problems that can cause permanent damage to the panel. Image retention is another problem altogether by displaying a static image on the screen (including black letterbox bars) for an extended period of time can leave a “ghost” of the image. This is temporary, but can still be an annoyance. A little care goes a long way, as plasma TVs offer life-spans that far exceed CRT TVs, and will provide outstanding picture quality every minute of the way.

                                                  Plasma TVs are better suited for environments where the ambient light can be controlled. Generally, plasma TVs work better in dark settings where the TV's full output can be observed. Plasma displays are known for their outstanding picture quality; in fact, one of the best HDTVs ever produced was a plasma display panel. The discontinued Pioneer Kuro continues to be a reference-grade HDTV for many professionals despite the newest models approaching 5 years of age. You can check out our recommendations for the best plasma TVs here.

                                                  LCD
                                                  The LCD TV has just about won the HDTV format war, and is by far the most popular type of television sold today. This TV displays its images by rendering them across a liquid crystal layer, which is then illuminated by the backlight. The LCD TV has come a long way since its introduction, with models utilizing LED backlights and 'local dimming' for improved black levels and contrast ratios. “Local dimming” describes how the backlight can dynamically shut itself off in sections as opposed to relying on dark colors on the LCD panel to block out the light. This leads to darker black levels, which manufacturers often cite as dynamic contrast ratio.

                                                  Lighting

                                                  Not all LCD panels are created equal, as there are still entry-level designs lingering which use traditional CCFL backlighting. While these models can still offer good picture quality, local-dimming LED LCD TVs will always offer superior black levels by design. Compared to plasma TVs, LCD TVs cannot offer the same wide viewing angles.

                                                  On the other hand, LCD TVs are capable of much higher light output which is better for brightly lit environments or where sun glare is a concern. Picture quality is largely a wash between the two as neither design holds a distinct advantage today. Still, there are always some models which outperform the rest. Be sure to check out our recommendations for the best LCD TVs.

                                                  LCD TV Variations
                                                  In a nutshell, this type of TV works by rendering images across an LCD panel which is then illuminated from behind (backlight). The result is a visible picture displayed on the screen. Earlier LCD TVs relied on CCFL bulbs to provide a backlight. While this 'traditional' setup can still be found today, manufacturers relegate this layout to the lower-end models.

                                                  LED backlighting has taken over as the default setup for higher-performance LCD TVs. This has many benefits, including improved picture quality and better energy efficiency. LED backlighting has seen the introduction of a new technology called 'local dimming', where the TV can dynamically dim or turn off the backlight within certain 'zones' that require darker images to be displayed. This feature is usually reserved for high-end sets.

                                                  Here are the different types of LED backlight arrangements:

                                                  Full-array LED
                                                  This backlight setup mimics standard CCFL models, with the LEDs placed directly behind the LCD panel. LCD TVs with full-array LED backlighting exhibit superior screen uniformity, but can also bring about a backlight flaw called “blooming”. This is when the backlight bleeds out past a bright object and illuminates a black or dark area. Whether this is tolerable or not is up to you as everyone has a personal preference.

                                                  Edge-lit LED
                                                  Sony was the first to introduce this technology, and has since become widespread amongst LED LCD TVs. Rather than placing the LEDs behind the panel, the diodes are moved to the edges of the TV underneath the bezel. A 'light guide' stretches behind the panel instead, and is used to distribute the light in order to display a viewable image. Virtually all of the thin design LCD TVs sold today use edge-lit LED backlighting. While the svelte designs are definitely impressive to look at, the same can't be said about screen uniformity for all models.

                                                  Direct-lit LED
                                                  Many of Samsung’s entry-level models are equipped with LED backlights, but with the lighting source placed directly behind the LCD panel as opposed to the edges. While this sounds similar to the “Full-array LED” setup, Samsung’s approach uses far fewer LEDs and lacks the trick dimming technology that can enhance the contrast ratio. This backlight style reduces the screen uniformity issues found on edge-lit sets, but the trade-off is a thicker set and a manufacturer-imposed lack of higher-end features.

                                                  Price/Value

                                                  As you will no doubt have noticed by now, modern HDTVs encompass a wide range of prices. It's easy to find a good HDTV for under $500, but you're more likely to encounter models on the showroom floor costing over $1000. If money is no object, there are higher-performance TVs available today which sport $5000+ sticker prices.

                                                  Current HDTVs are far from 'one size fits all', both literally and figuratively. Larger screen sizes are usually more expensive, whether you're looking at plasma TVs or LCD TVs. Also, you'll pay a premium for extra features such as 4K, 3D playback, faster refresh rates, local dimming, internet connectivity, Smart TV, and other additions like built-in Skype or an internet browser. Decide which features you absolutely need to have and try to leave out the frills - this will ensure that you get yourself the best deal possible.

                                                  One basic rule to adhere to is that if a certain HDTV is cheap, it's like that for a reason. Likewise, it works the other way around. Cheaper HDTVs usually carry compromises or inferior quality, while more expensive models come with more features and better performance.

                                                  Don't let this be the only guide, however - manufacturers like to charge a premium for their flagship models. As with anything else, it helps to separate what you actually need versus what you want. Try to pick the largest TV that you can afford, but also ensure it performs well and comes with the features you want.

                                                  Try Before you Buy

                                                  Don't assume that the way the TV looks in the store will translate to the one that you purchase. If you can, ask an employee or salesperson to connect high-definition material to the TV (usually a Blu-ray movie), then switch the set to its 'Cinema Mode' (or whatever is closest). This will help even the playing field.

                                                  Leave a Question or Comment
                                                  2 comments
                                                  • bengals bengals

                                                  i have an older sony hd tv approx. 7 years old it has a very dark picture in our living room on a sunny day is this normal or would a newer modle tv fix this problem

                                                  Posted on 1/31/2013 5:56 pm | Reply
                                                  • AvrilMcC AvrilMcC

                                                  Thanks for this detailed review.The best HDTV in my opinion is the Samsung UN40EH5000.Great reviews on Amazon.Read more: istumbledupon.com/samsung-un32eh5000-32-inch-1080p-60hz-led-hdtv-black/

                                                  Posted on 11/4/2012 8:24 am | Reply