Best TVs – Feb 2013 (Part 5)

3/7/2013 9:31:20 AM

D3: LG $550

D4: Samsung $430 CR Best Buy

D6 Vizio $550

D7 LG $450 CR Best Buy

D8 LG $550

D9 Panasonic $400 CR Best Buy

D. 40- to 43-inch. All  have 1080p resolution except D3, D4, D7, D9 and D21, which are 720p

D. 40- to 43-inch. All  have 1080p resolution except D3, D4, D7, D9 and D21, which are 720p

These are all solid performers with pleasing picture quality and sound that’s at least decent, and better than that for D6 and D7. D3 gives you plenty of bang for the buck – a 42-inch 720p plasma screen, 3D capability, streaming video, Wi-Fi, and a full browser. D6, a 42-inch 1080p LCD set with LED backlighting, comes close. It has streaming video, Wi-Fi, and a wide viewing angle for an LCD set but no 3D or browser. If you don’t want any of those features, you can spend even less. D4 (43 inches) and D7 and D9 (both 42 inches) are fairly basic 720p plasma sets at low prices; D8 is a 42-inch LCD with fluorescent backlighting.



Full- featured 40 to 43-inch TVs

D1: LG $800

D2: Samsung $1,000

D5: Samsung $650

D10: Sony $800

D. 40- to 43-inch, continued

D. 40- to 43-inch, continued

All of the TVs in this group are fine performers with 1080p resolution. D1, a 42-inch LCD set with LED backlighting, is the best choice if you want to watch 3D as well as HD, with very good performance for both. It also has all of the Internet-related bells and whistles you could want. You’ll get excellent HD picture quality from D2 and D5, 40-inch LCDs with LED backlighting. The more expensive of those two Samsung sets, D2, has more features than its cheaper sibling, including 3D and Internet-related features, and it did a bit better with sound and motion blur. D5 can save you hundreds if you don’t need those extras. D10, a 40-inch LCD that uses LEDs, has excellent HD quality. The Sony has streaming video services, Wi-Fi, and a full Web browser.

E. 37-to 39-inch. All have 1080p resolutions

E. 37-to 39-inch. All have 1080p resolutions

F. 32-inch. F1, F2, F5, and F21 have 1080p resolution; the rest are 720p

F. 32-inch. F1, F2, F5, and F21 have 1080p resolution; the rest are 720p

F1 Samsung

F1 Samsung

Comparing brands: Viewing angle

If you may watch your big-screen set from an off-angle, either horizontally or vertically-say, at the end of a long sectional, kicked back in a recliner, or standing at the kitchen counter-consider the TV’s viewing angle to ensure that you see the best picture quality from all positions. Plasma TVs have unlimited viewing angles, so they’re the best choice for wide-angle viewing. If you prefer an LCD TV, note that models with a narrow viewing angle only deliver their best images within a fairy small zone. The picture will deteriorate as you move off to the side or up and down. We’ve found that some brands of LCD TVs-including LG, Panasonic, and Vizio-generally have wider viewing angles than others.

F. 32-inch continued

F. 32-inch continued

G. 26-inch and smaller G4 has 1080p resolution; the rest are 720p

G. 26-inch and smaller G4 has 1080p resolution; the rest are 720p

Best smaller TVs

F1: Samsung $700

F2: Samsung $450

G1: Samsung $280

G2: LG $260

G3: Philips $280

G4: Toshiba $250

F1, a pricier 32-inch LCD set, has LED backlighting and 1080p resolution. It’s the only TV in this group with 3D, and it has streaming video, Wi-Fi and a browser. F2, also a 32-inch 1080p set with LED backlighting, has fewer features but delivers excellent HD picture quality at a lower price. Among the 26-inch models, G1 has excellent HD; the others were very good. G2 is the only model in this group with a wide viewing angle for an LCD set, and G3 is the only model other than F1 with access to online content. The 24-inch G4 is the only other set here with 1080p resolution, a plus if you also use it as a computer monitor. We don’t’ recommend any of the tested 37-to 39-inch sets, but check out E1, E2, E3, and E4 if you want that size.

Guide to the Ratings

Overall score is based mostly on picture quality but also considers sound quality, ease of use and viewing angle. 3D effect is factored in as well. Displayed scores are rounded; models are listed in order of precise overall score. Picture quality score is based on clarity, detail, and color accuracy of high-definition 1080i signals routed via HDMI. 3D performance score reflects the TV’s ability to reproduce realistic 3D images. Viewing angle is our evaluation of picture quality from various horizontal and vertical points off-center. Motion blur indicates how well the TV displays fast motion without blurring. Sound quality combines objective measurements and subjective listening by trained panelists. Under type, we used the label LED 2 for LCD TVs with LED backlighting. Under Features, we indicate which models offer streaming video from internet services, Wi-Fi, and a Web browser. Other sizes indicate additional sizes in same series as the tested model. Price is approximate retail.

Comparing brands: streaming video services

All the tested TVs that stream video from online services offer Netflix, but the availability of other services vary by brand and might influence your choice. Here are the major video services available on most models from the major TV brands. (In some cases, lower-priced models within a brand might have fewer services than higher-priced siblings.)

Easy hookups with HDMI

You don’t have to live with a tangle of wires behind your TV set, even if you want to connect several gadgets. All it takes is a few cheap HDMI cables, $7 or so online for a 6-foot length, a it more at retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart Buy the shortest cable that will reach from the devices to the TV, with at least a foot or so of extra play.

Most larger TVs have three or four HDMI inputs, so you can plug in serveral devices, each with only one cable.

Most larger TVs have three or four HDMI inputs, so you can plug in serveral devices, each with only one cable.

Most new TVs 50 inches and larger have three or four HDMI inputs. Choose a set with enough for the number of devices you want to connect so that you don’t have to unplug one to use another. You don’t need as many inputs on the TV if you’ll be using an A/V receiver to swich between devices.

Basic setup.

If all you want to connect is the box from your TV service provider, plug the cable coming in from the service into the back of the box. Then connect the box to the TV with one HDMIi cable that will carry both the video and audio.

Adding a Blu-ray player.

You do essentially the same thing. If the inputs are numbered, note the number so that you can switch to that source to play a disc. Some TVs let you assign a name, such as “Blu-ray.”

Adding a streaming media box. If your TV doesn’t  have Internet capability, you can add it via a streaming-media player, such as an Apple TV or a Roku box. Follow the same steps, connecting the box to another HDMI input on your TV. (Google TV connects between your cable box and TV.)

Adding a sound bar.

The most common setup is to run audio from your cable box, Blu-ray player, or TV to the sound bar via digital (optical or coaxial) or analog (stereo) cables. You can use an HDMI cable with some sound bars that have multiple inputs and the ability to switch between components. In this scenario the audio of the program you’re watching on the TV will be steered to the sound bar. Some TVs support ARC (audio return channel) via the HDMI cable, enabling the TV to send the TV’s audio back to the sound bar on that cable instead of via the digital audio output. Even simpler: a wireless Bluetooth connection between the sound bar the TV. Look for TVs with that feature this year.


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