Help me buy a new TV

Well, the big, 500 lb Sony Trinitron (weight guessed at… I’ve lifted it, and it hurt) has passed away. sort of.

So it’s time for me to buy a new TV for the family room. I have really never delved into the new technology of hi def TV, plasma vs LED or LCD or whatever. If you know the trinitron I have, it’s a curved screen behemoth, with a great picture. But it’s not hi-def.

So, help me out here. What’s the best thing to focus on… plasma, or LED or whatever?

I know that 1080p is the size I should get if I want the absolute best picture possible (well, I think so), but I have seen screens with different numbers in front of it.

Truthfully the only thing I do know is the following:

  1. The TV can be 45 inches or bigger, and
  2. I don’t need 3D technology ( I don’t think)

Quite frankly, I don’t even know if I want hi-def, as I’ve seen it and I’m not particularly fond of it. I do not need to see the hair plugs on announcers, however I am going to assume that I’m going to have to accept that HD is in my immediate future.

So that’s it. Of course, on sale is the best way to be for a TV, and Id rather not spend more than $1K on it.

Other than that, I really don’t have any requirements.

Any suggestions would be appreciated, and opinions on whatever you might like.

What sort of room are you putting it in?
How dark does that room get?
How bright does that room get?
Will your light sources directly reflect back from your typical seating area?
How wide of a viewing angle will you need?
What do you typically watch?

There’s no “best” between plasmas and LCDs - it all depends on what is best for your particular viewing environment. LCDs are brighter - but that doesn’t matter in a dark room. Plasmas have amazing blacks - but that doesn’t matter in a bright room. Plasmas are *generally *regarded as having a better picture - but quickly loses its advantage in a room where light sources are going to be mirrored right back at you. LCDs do extremely well in well-lit areas - but are absolute crap once you start viewing from a drastic side angle (so if you have a lot of people spread across the room, the people on the sides aren’t going to see much that isn’t a distorted mess).

As for size - no one’s ever complained about going too large.

3D - eh, it’s going to come with a better quality screen whether you want it or not. You generally don’t pay for the 3D, you pay for the upgrade that happens to have 3D (it’s the bubblegum in the pack of baseball cards). If you really want 3D, then you’re going to want to spend bigger bucks on the screens that do it extremely well, and that’s much further up the depth chart.

How much bigger than 45" do you want? I found that’s one of the big drivers in price.

I bought a bunch of new TVs recently. I went with LED for efficiency and lack of heat. My 60" is Wi-Fi enabled, because I could.

I shopped around a while, and ended up getting them at Costco. The next week, I was at hhgregg buying a few thousand dollars worth of kitchen appliances, and asked if he could make me a deal on some TVs. (Costco has an awesome return policy, so I figured I could swap them out). He couldn’t beat the prices I got at Costco.

The other way to go at it…and this is how I bought my last TV a decade or so ago… research the models and features you want. Keep a list, including prices. Look at circulars and go to the stores, looking for open box specials. If you find a match, take it!


Munch’s advice is spot on. I just went through this process earlier this year. I got an '11 Panasonic plasma in Feb. It is remarkable. I watch sports and Bluray and never open my blinds. It’s only 42" because I have a smallish room (and smaller budget.) I would definitely recommend panny plasmas.

Just so we are clear, these two statements contradict each. 1080p means that it IS hi-def. Your old non-HD TV was 480i. Any TV that is 720p, 1080i, or 1080p is HD.

I doubt that you will be able to find a non-HD TV that’s larger than 45 inches, except perhaps some exotic specialty item that costs a fortune.

I don’t know if you were implying that the weight of a TV is a factor for you. If it is, a plasma TV will weight significantly more than an LCD TV of the same screen size. It will also use more power. But if you like the picture, it may be worth it to you.

thanks for the info so far. As you can tell, I really have no idea, so this information has been invaluable.

I’ll answer the questions as best as I can.

Weight is not really a factor at all, since any choice I make will be significantly lighter than the one sitting there now.

I did not know plasma was heavier and had a better picture. I also didn’t know that an LCD screen would give you a worse picture from different angles (ie decreasing its viewing area.)

Munch, I realize the bigger I go, the more expensive it will be. This will be in my family room, so it’s going to have to be fairly large. I have a 35" in there right now, and that seems fine, but this TV will be at least 45". The light in the room is fantastic, and will be coming from the rear, the side, and from above. The ceiling is slanted, and about 25+ ft high at its peak, and two sunlights are letting light in approx. on either side of the TV. The room is never dark until night. The light never comes from the back of the viewer, unless it’s pitch black and we put on a lamp.

The TV is mostly used to watch Sprout type programming during the week, and movies and sports during the evening hours. I hate Sprout, but my daughter loves it, so if that makes a difference, ok… tell me. :frowning: (that should tell anyone how much I love my daughter… if there was any doubt. :))

The TV is also the center of any TV viewing for any guests. Basically, it fits the need of the family room.
The 1080p I referred to was to point out that I knew this related to the best picture quality/ However, I knew that it’s not the only number, and the lower the number goes, the less clear a picture. I know that’s all relative to a HDTV., so the difference in quality may be negligible to a viewer like me.

I hope these answers help.

Perhaps the best way to go would be to give me your opinion on the best size and brand that you currently use, keeping in mind my light source (above and behind the TV.

So, if a plasma panasonic is your favorite, great… if Visio or any brand offered by Costco or Wallmart sucks, let me know that too.

I’ve never been to a Costco. Do they carry the same brand TV’s as most big box stores?


What do you mean by “the light is fantastic” in your room?

I’m thinking that an LCD may be your best fit. Plasmas’ screens are glass - if this is a main room where children are, I might hesitate to get a plasma.

I bought a 60" Panasonic plasma last year (also from Costco*), and absolutely love it. But I decided on plasma pretty early on, and could not tell you much about LCDs. I know that Panasonic LCDs got pretty bad reviews this year, so Samsung is the brand of choice there at the moment. I’m sure there are other brands that are also very good.

Another thing to keep in mind - you’re currently buying at one of the worst times to buy a new HDTV. The Super Bowl is over, the new models are out, there’s no big TV event coming up. Also, many of the big manufacturers are enforcing “minimum price points” so that retailers can’t drop prices and add a bunch of incentives to buy accessories.

One thing I strongly recommend is keeping an eye on the AVS Forums, especially their “Found Deals” forums. There is one forLCD deals, and one for plasma deals.

*As for Costco, they stopped stocking most of their plasmas (they only carry one model now). I think this is because of breakage and their return policy. People were transporting their new TVs home in the back of their SUVs, but they were laying them flat, and the screens were cracking (you have to keep a plasma upright during transport). Their prices are really tough to beat, but you’ll have to get a membership (and an American Express card).

My parents had a 36" Sony Trinitron CRT TV that they replaced a couple of years ago with an LCD set. It weighed something like 300 lb. I recommended that they buy the replacement from Best Buy or another retailer that would agree to remove the old set as part of the deal. In other words, I thought it less important to get the best possible price than to make sure that the old one was removed.

If you want to go LCD rather than plasma and you like sports, I’d look for one with a high refresh rate, preferably 240 Hz or better. The fast motion will probably look acceptable at 120 Hz, but at 60 Hz you’ll get annoyed by the picture not changing quickly enough; the picture will “judder” or jerk as it fails to keep up with the action. Plasma refresh rates are usually around 600 Hz, so you shouldn’t have a problem if you decide to go with plasma.

One more thing: you can’t fully trust the look of the TVs in the store. On display, they usually crank up the brightness to make the picture really pop out, but you won’t be doing that at home.

Yeah - don’t do ANY comparison shopping at Best Buy, or most any store. Go to online websites like and for trustworthy reviews and comparisons.

I just want to clarify that the plasma vs LCD issue is in part a religious issue like Mac vs PC or VHS vs Beta. There are zealots on both sides of the issue that will tell you the decision is a no brainer. Don’t draw any conclusions without investigating yourself.

Another issue you are going to run into once you buy your new TV is connecting stuff to it. If all you’ve got is a single antenna or cable-TV cable to plug in, you can stop reading, you’ll have no problem. But if you’ve got a DVR, DVD player, VCR, cable box, PS3, or a whole bunch of other items, then you have to figure out how to connect them.

The standard for new devices is HDMI. But your older devices probably are connected with composite cables (the triple red-yellow-white cable). Up until a couple of years ago, even the newest TVs would come with at least three composite jacks to plug your older devices into. I was recently shopping for TVs and found, much to my horror, that every TV that I found comes with just one combined composite/component jack (and forget about S-video).

This can be a problem if you have several older devices that you aren’t ready to junk. You are going to need something like this. And if these devices do have HDMI outputs, you are going to need HDMI cables which do not come with the TV. Do NOT buy cables (of any kind) at the TV store. They are cheaper at the hardware store. And you can buy a whole box of cables online for what a single cable costsat most stores. (Really, the electrons do not know any difference between the two cables. There is no justification, even if you are the top-of-the-line audio-video connoisseur to spend that kind of money on a cable.)

GreaT advice. Keep it coming.

One thing that made me make my decision narrowed a bit is the plasma having glass screens. I don’t think a glass screen is a good idea on the tv my daughter will be beating on daily. Especially if they are thin and can be knocked over easily. If an LCD has a tougher screen, and a plastic screen over glass that’s a good selling point to me.

I’ve just cut my potentials in half. Woo hoo!

I also don’t know there is a Costco near me, so it’s a hefty drive, forget it.

I DO need someone to remove the old 300 LB obese beast of a tv. That could narrow it even further.

This weekend will be the visible check. We can’t get to the stores before then.

Remember that Costco’s gimmick is that it is a membership-only warehouse. Although there are deceitful ways to get in to look around, officially you have to pay a year’s dues to do so. But they have a money-back guarantee on your membership fees if you are dissatisfied.

Want help removing your old TV? Click here.
If you are not in their service area, a quick google search will find someone similar. And if the TV works, try putting it on Craig’s List and someone will probably drop by and take it for free. Even if it doesn’t work, the services section of Craig’s List can help.

We got a 47 inch LG last December - I went for an LED-lit LCD, 120 hz. A higher refresh rate added a lot to the cost, and we don’t watch that much stuff / play top-notch video games, so it wasn’t worth it to us. Yes, the biggest TV you can afford is always a good idea. Ours replaced a 19 inch, 21 year old Sony (which is now in our bedroom) and while the size was a shock, now I wouldn’t mind having it even larger. Again, though, going up a notch in size added more to the cost than our budget would allow.

Our TV came with a wireless dongle, but we found that to be extremely wonky - as in, we were lucky to get 10 minutes into a movie before it would freeze. I wound up getting this gadget. If you happen to have a router right there in the room, most TVs will connect via ethernet; since our router is elsewhere, the Actiontec box has coax from wall to box, and ethernet from box to TV.

Other TV suppliers (regular cable, Dish) use a different technology and I think you can buy an appropriate cable modem almost anywhere. Best Buy didn’t carry the MoCa thing in store, so I had to order it online.

If you like to watch streaming video, some of the TVs have things like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Youtube apps built in - or you can get a Blu-ray player which has them. Our TV happens to have all of the above, which is why the router thing is so helpful. Since we have Verizon, which uses the MoCa technology, the selection isn’t as good unfortunately.

We replaced our old Sony Trinitron with a Sony Bravia three years ago. A Z Series model. No regrets, and we love it. Ours is 40", but you can certainly find 45" or more.

EDIT: Cost more than $1K though.