What HDTV Should You Buy and Don’t Sit Too Far Away

January 2, 2012
By

Several readers recently have asked me what HDTV they should buy. Two of my friends in particular were ready to make a purchase so, after a little research, I took them Paul’s TV in Reading, Massachusetts. I like shopping at Paul’s TV since they focus on TVs, offer free delivery and the salespeople are helpful. Also, it’s a little easier to compare TVs there as they don’t have blaring fluorescent lighting overhead like at Costco. To give you a little background, one friend has never purchased a TV before and the other was buying a flat screen for his new house.

My friends had simliar criteria for a new HDTV. They wanted a great looking picture and wide-viewing angles. Features like TV-based apps or 3D aren’t important to them. Neither one of them watches too much TV but wants a great experience when they do watch it. Bottom line, they were both looking for a TV with a great picture at a reasonable price.

Both of them sit about 8 feet from the set, so they were looking for a set in the 50″ range. The Economist recently wrote a piece explaining how we typically sit too far from HDTVs. As a rule of thumb, I’ve been dividing the distance you sit from the TV by two, but as the Economist suggests you should really sit no more than 1.8 times the distance from the TV’s screen size if you want to see the all of the detail 1080P offers. While that may be true, I still think you can appreciate the benefits of 1080P (versus 720P) even if you sit a little further than this. If you’re stuck between two screen sizes, always go to the next size up if the budget allows it. Ultimately, you won’t regret it.

We went into the store and were confronted with an array of screens. Looking at the LED sets on the floor, I was not impressed. To get a LED set that’s comparable in picture quality to plasma, you’re going to pay twice the price. Yes, LEDs do have their advantages including a more brilliant picture, slimmer sets, thinner bezels and lower power consumption. But the living room TV isn’t something that gets moved around on a daily basis. Also, some LEDs I looked at had issues when it came to viewing angles and uniformity of picture quality (due to them being edge-lit).

LCDs have mostly disappeared from the showroom floor. (LCDs use CCFL or fluorescent backlighting instead of LEDs). While Samsung used to have several outstanding LCD product lines, we’re only left with the 6 series when it comes to great picture quality or something that’s comparable to plasma. The only active model in that line is the 630 that has a matte screen. Personally, I’m very happy with my Samsung 850 Series LCD from a couple of years ago, but  I feel like it was the high water mark for LCDs. 

After looking at a number of sets from Sony, LG, Samsung, the best value in the store were the 50″ Panasonic plasmas. The dilema was choosing between the TC-P50GT30 and TC-P50ST30 versions of the set. Both sets offer 1080P, 24fps, 3D capability and a number of streaming apps including Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant. In the showroom, it was difficult to tell if there was any appreciable difference in 2D picture quality between the two sets (we only had access to a couple of sources delivered via component video). Yes, the GT30 does have some other features that distinguish it such as THX picture modes, an extra HDMI port, a more stylish chasis and rotating stand but that was not enough to justify the additional $300 cost to my friends. With coupons from the Sunday papers and special offers, we were able to get both sets for significantly under $1,000.

For the record, I really loved the Panasonic’s VT30 55″ plasma set and if a meteor fell on my TV tomorrow (or if my kids accidentally launched a Wiimote into the set, hint, hint), that’s what I would be looking at. 

Well, there you have it. Now you know what HDTV to get for your big Super Bowl party. I’ll share any additional thoughts after the sets arrive later in the week.
Panasonic TC-P42ST30 Plasma TV
Panasonic ST30 Plasma HDTV

Tags: HDTV, Home Theater, LCD, Panasonic, plasma

7 Responses to What HDTV Should You Buy and Don’t Sit Too Far Away

  1. Freezy on January 2, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Ummm… LCDs have NOT disappeared and been replaced by LED.  LED refers to the backlighting technology.  Newer LCD TVs use LED, replacing Fluorescent lighting.

    • The Hub on January 2, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      You are correct Freezy! I’ve adjusted the text to better reflect the difference.

  2. Freezy on January 2, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Ummm… LCDs have NOT disappeared and been replaced by LED.  LED refers to the backlighting technology.  Newer LCD TVs use LED, replacing Fluorescent lighting.

  3. The Hub on January 2, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    You are correct Freezy! I've adjusted the text to better reflect the difference.

  4. Anonymous on January 2, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Nice summary.  I’m still generally pleased with my [5 years old this month!!!] Panasonic TH-42PX600U 720P Plasma.  I would like a 1080P unit.  I wish I could go bigger, but the room just won’t support it without blocking a window…  well, maybe I could go 46″…  I need a nice power-surge to take it out!

    I paid $1500 for the TV, which was considered a really good deal at the time.  This, 18 months after telling myself I would never may more than $1000 for a TV!

    I do hope you offered to calibrate the sets for your friends.

  5. JohnOCFII on January 2, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Nice summary.  I'm still generally pleased with my [5 years old this month!!!] Panasonic TH-42PX600U 720P Plasma.  I would like a 1080P unit.  I wish I could go bigger, but the room just won't support it without blocking a window…  well, maybe I could go 46"…  I need a nice power-surge to take it out!

    I paid $1500 for the TV, which was considered a really good deal at the time.  This, 18 months after telling myself I would never may more than $1000 for a TV!

    I do hope you offered to calibrate the sets for your friends.

  6. […] check out Gabe Gagliano at the Tech of the Hub blog. Gabe is also my neighbor and friend. He personally helped me shop for an HDTV yesterday. So, I can tell you from first hand experience, he knows his stuff and can […]

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