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Today’s Show:

HDTV Buying Guide 2010

Our HDTV buying guide comes back by popular demand, just in time for Christmas. We’ll break them down by size again, which gets pretty close to breaking them down by price as well.  The 2010 edition shows that same falling price trend as years past, so you don’t have to feel guilty when you drop hints on what you “deserve” to see under the tree this year.

Up to 32″

Great for a secondary viewing room, bedroom or office, the TVs in this category are all about value.  If you live in a small apartment or dorm room, these might even work as your primary screen.

VIZIO M190MV 19-inch Full HD 720p LED LCD HDTV – Like last year, we wanted to have a TV for under $200 on the list.  Last year it was a Vizio as well.  But this year you get to upgrade to an LED model that provides a 20,000:1 Dynamic Contrast Ratio.

ViewSonic VT2300LED 23-Inch 1080p LED LCD HDTV with Built-in HDTV Tuner.  Sure, you might not need 1080p at 23 inches, but for only $249, why not?  It’s also a super slim edge lit LED backlight and includes SRS HD Audio to please your ears.

Panasonic TC-L32X2 32-Inch 720p LCD HDTV with iPod Dock – A bit more than the basic 32” HDTV, this Panasonic includes a Universal Dock for Apple iPod, which enables you to control and play music and video directly from your iPod or iPhone.  Great deal for only $368.

32″ to 40″

The deals in this size category are almost comical.  We expect retailers will have to pay you to take one off the shelves in a couple years. Last year we had a couple 37 inch models for about $600.  This year you can get a 37 inch TV for less than $400.

VIZIO 37″ Class 1080p 60Hz LCD HDTV – Dynamic 50,000:1 Contrast Ratio allows for deeper blacks and brighter whites.  It is also Version 3.0 ENERGY STAR compliant, so it’ll save you money every month, and it only sets you back $399 to start.

LG 37LE5300 37-Inch 1080p 120 Hz LED LCD HDTV – For just slightly more than you would have paid last year for a 37”, only $679, you now get an LED TV that is both super slim and reports an incredible 3,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.  Throw in support for DivX HD video files, and Dolby Digital decoding and we have a winner.

Samsung LN40B750 40-Inch 1080p 240 Hz LCD HDTV with Charcoal Grey Touch of Color – Samsung is the dominant player in LCD right now, and this TV won’t let you down.  It has technology like Auto Motion Plus 240Hz, 2ms response time, and a 150,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.  Medi@2.0 lets you enjoy Internet@TV for content via Yahoo! and more.  Street price: $929.

42″ to 50″

Pricing in this category didn’t change much, but like last year, the features keep getting better.  This is the first category where we can start recommending plasma technology, and we still highly recommend it.  But with LED backlighting, the differences between LCD and plasma are getting harder to distinguish.

There are actually 3 choices for 42” plasma TVs for under $500 ($499 to be exact).  The Samsung PN42C450, the Panasonic TC-P42C2, and the LG 42PJ350.  We’ve long been fans of Panasonic plasma, but they’re all 720p and seem roughly equivalent in specs.  You can pick the one that has your favorite bezel.  A 42 inch plasma for $500 isn’t bad; Braden spent about 7x more than that for his first 42” Panasonic.

Last year the Samsung LN46A650 made our list and set you back $1260.  This year it is replaced by the Samsung LN46C650 46-Inch 1080p 120 Hz LCD HDTV.  You keep all the great features that put the set on our list last year: fantastic picture, Red Touch of Color, 120Hz, DLNA and HDMI-CEC.  But this model also adds Internet widgets for access to BLOCKBUSTER, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Amazon Video On Demand and more.  And the price has come down to $1099.

At 50 inches, 1080p might be important to you, and the best deal on a 50” TV is still the Panasonic VIERA TC-P50G25 50-Inch 1080p Plasma.  Amazing picture quality and the “Infinite Black” panel blocks ambient light and produces deep blacks and bright, vivid images with minimal reflection.  It also has VIERA Cast for streaming online content plus video conferencing via Skype.  The price?  Only $1068.

Greater than 50″

This size category used to be dominated by rear projection sets, but starting last year – and continuing this year – we don’t have any on the list.  Once again we are only recommending flat panel displays.  At this size, 3D might be something for you to consider, but we aren’t just yet.

Toshiba 55UX600U 55-Inch 1080p 120 Hz LED HDTV with Net TV.  This TV is awesome; you’ll love it.  It is LED backlit and the DynaLight backlight control adjusts for deeper black levels providing a much higher dynamic contrast than standard LCD.  It has Net TV on-demand entertainment from sites like VUDU and Pandora, access to social networking sites and includes a Wi-Fi adapter.  Street price: $1299.

LG 55LH85 55-Inch 1080p 120 Hz Wireless HDMI LCD HDTV – Where the Toshiba gives you LED for better contrast, this LG set instead provides built in support for wireless HDMI, making it easy to hang on any wall anywhere.  All you need is power.  hide all your components in a closet for a very clean looking installation.  When you consider the convenience, $1791 is a pretty good deal.

Sharp AQUOS LC60E88UN 60-Inch 1080p X-Gen Panel TV.  Once the 800 pound gorilla in LCD TVs, Sharp has slipped in the standings, but their TVs are still really good.  This set has all the features you need to produce amazing video quality.  Sure it won’t do 3D, but it does everything else really, really well.  You get 60 inches of 1080p goodness at 240hz for $1695.  Certainly a TV worth considering.

HT Guy’s Ultimate Christmas Present:

Last year we showcased Mitsubishi’s 82 inch DLP as our ultimate present.  At 82 inches it came close to front projection theater size and at the time only cost $4500.  This year there’s an 85” Panasonic plasma you can pick up for around $22,000, but that’s a little much even for us.  Instead we went with the Pioneer PDP-6020FD 60-Inch Class KURO Plasma HDTV.  We all know KURO plasmas are amazing.  And since they aren’t being made anymore, so it’s almost like buying a classic vinyl.  It just feels special to have one.  Sure, $5699 might be a bit much just to feel special.  But you’ll tell your grandkids about owning one.  We promise.

Or you could save a little money and get the Panasonic TC-P65VT25 65-inch 3D Ready 1080p VIERA Plasma HDTV.  Sure it’s the same cost, $4500, as last year’s Mitsubishi for 17 less inches of screen, but it’s a plasma.  And not only that, it’s 3D ready, so you’re all set for the future.  When you consider that the Panasonic 65” plasmas cost around $18,000 when they first came out a few years ago, $4500 is a steal.

Here’s a little secret. Ara will be buying his family the Panasonic TC-P58VT25 58-inch 3D 1080p VIERA Plasma HDTV ($2700) to finally replace his 6 year old Samsung DLP. It was a tough decision between this and the Vizio we reviewed last summer. He could have saved $1000 with the Vizio but in the end, with 3D in the news everywhere we look, we felt it was important for one of us to have a 3D capable TV. The sacrifices we make for our listeners!  It also helps that CNET said this is the best TV they’ve ever seen! As far as 3D goes, the best 3D we have seen was on a Panasonic plasma at last year’s CES show. Throw in Viera Cast and its a win, albeit an expensive one.

By the way, if you’re interested, the Mitsubishi 82” DLP is down to $3,200 and the non-3D Panasonic 65-Inch Plasma is only $1988.

Download Episode #456

Posted by The HT Guys, December 9, 2010 10:43 PM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.