Looking for advice on flat screen TVs

I’m planning on buying a flat screen in the near future. I’m looking for any tips or advice.

Specific issues:

LCD or Plasma? What are the pros and cons of each?

Installation? Would I be crazy to try to get it up and running myself or is it something a reasonably competent person can do? For that matter, what happens if I move - do I need to have it re-installed? (I’m looking at something in the 50" range.)

Recommendations on specific models are also welcome.

Overall advice: buy a 1080p set. Some people will say buying 720p/1080i is a good way to save a little money, but the truth is that 1080p sets are the way to go, especially if you’re EVER looking to hook a PC up to the TV.

Plasmas have the best picture quality you can currently buy. They’re vibrant, beautiful, and don’t suffer from limited viewing angles. On the flipside, they do require a little bit of care to minimize image retention. They also draw more power than LCDs and are substantially heavier. Plasmas are also the absolute best DEALS on the market, since they’re cheaper than LCDs while still offering a better picture. Panasonic is the brand to look at. I can’t really recommend specific models, but even the cheapest 1080p sets in their range should be good.

LCDs are lighter, thinner, and a little more idiot-proof (since image retention isn’t possible). The image quality can be darn near as good as plasma (some would even argue it’s better on some sets), but you’ll pay a lot more for the good lookers. Many LCDs have “120hz” picture, which is a nice feature because it allows you to watch both 60fps TV content and 24fps movies at their native framerate. Such sets also usually have a fancy motion mode where it blurs between frames to make motion look smoother. Some people love the effect, some hate it. High-end LCDs also have more bells and whistles like the ability to stream internet content or networked photos and such automatically. In LCDs, I’d say that Sony and Samsung are really the two brands to consider.

If you’re a movie buff, I’d say that a Panasonic plasma is the obvious choice. You’re not going to find anything better for movies. For TV shows, it’s a wash. If you like videogames or want to hook a PC up to the screen, LCD might make more sense. Also, if you’re looking to wallmount, very large plasmas can get VERY heavy and require some serious hardware.

My advice is to get one that is to get one that is 3D enabled. We’re heading that direction, as BlueRay is trying to get a way to distribute these new 3D movies at home, without falling back on anaglyphs (red-cyan). And if it doesn’t work out, you’re not at much of a loss, as they are priced fairly competitively with the others.

I also suggest you get the ones with polarization, not shutter glasses. The former is more like the movies. The latter need batteries or being tethered to the TV.

I bought a 1080p set a year ago. I have yet to watch anything on it that is actually in 1080p. I kinda wish I’d spent the same amount of money on a larger 720p/1080i set.

LCDs are great if you have lots of stray light in the room. Plasmas will show every reflection around.

You’ll get your best deals on-line (Amazon has some amazing deals), but I’d certainly go to a store and look at one before buying it. Each brand has a slightly different “look” to it, and you’ll want to get one you like…TRM

A while back we had a discussion about buying electronics online. I maintained that it was stupid to spend hundreds more to buy at a local brick and mortar store when online stores offered such great deals (even when adding in the shipping) and the box would be delivered to your door. I also suggested checking out the set in person before placing your online order. Some thought that this was tantamount to stealing from the brick and mortar store. I still shake my head and chuckle at this.

Before I purchased my Sharp Aquos LCD set (which I’m very happy with) online, I went to the local Circuit City to look at the model I was interested in. I asked the salesman if he would match the price I could get it for online. He said no. I asked if he would throw in some cables. He said no. I told him I didn’t see how they could compete with online sellers with that attitude. He said Circuit City was doing fine.

This is IMHO a very important point. Our living room (where TV is, natch) is very bright with lots of windows with no curtains and following this advice went LCD (Samsung 1080p 46") about a year or more ago.

No problems watching even in middle of a sunny afternoon… Love my Samsung LCD - been a fantastic TV.

I’ve had a 46" Sony LCD set for about a year now, and the only thing I regret is not getting a bigger one. It’s certainly bigger and the picture quality is way better than the standard-def CRT set it replaced, but if I had to do it all over again, I’d buy a bigger one. So I recommend buying the biggest one you can afford and can fit in your room.

And you asked about installation.

If you’re just setting it on a table, you certainly don’t need any help installing it. I recommend connecting your devices (cable box, DVD player, game machine, etc.) with HDMI cables if possible. It offers better picture quality than component or composite video. And don’t buy the cables from the store (certainly not the overpriced Monster cables). I recommend getting all the cables from monoprice.com.

If you want to mount the set on the wall, with all the cables hidden away, you may need help. It’s not critical, but the experts can probably do it more cleanly and safely, unless you’re handy.

I read somewhere that everybody, no matter what size they bought, regrets not getting a bigger set.

My thoughts on this is it might be a factor if one of the choices was a genuine local business. But I can’t see how buying from Amazon is any different from buying from Best Buy, Sears, Target, or WalMart.

Really? If it cost $800.00 (including shipping) from an online retailer and it cost $1,000 at a local business, you’d pay $200 more than you had to just for the sake of supporting a local business?

I said it would be a factor not the factor. The comparitive prices would also be a factor - and with the figures you described would probably be the deciding one. But I do buy books at independent book stores, for example, even though I could get them cheaper online or at a corporate bookstore.

Even though it’s from an Australian newspaper, I think this column answers all your Pro/Con questions.

I recently bought an LED television; it’s 48" (a huge increase from the 28 incher it’s replacing), was on sale for $1,300.00 bucks at Best Buy, and is being delivered Tuesday.

Since I don’t have it home yet, I can’t speak about what it’s like in the home (although it’s gonna be a ridiculous upgrade from the clunker we have now), but it was just “brighter” than all of the other TV’s on display (along with being crystal clear, although it was playing one of those pre-done nature scenes to take full advantage of its color abilities). My girlfriend was so impressed with the resolution that she talked me down from the 53" LCD I was going to get.

LCDs, (and their LED “upgrades”) are more expensive than Plasma, but I was under the impression that this was because they gave a better picture. One thing I’ve noticed is that Plasma TVs have a mirrored screen, so you get reflections in the TV. That doesn’t happen with the LCDs.

LCDs have better brightness, but plasmas have better blacks, more accurate colors, and no motion blur. It depends on how you’re using it; if you’re watching TV during the day with a bunch of lights on, then the LCD may look better.

People still buy plasma TVs? I figured LCD was the standard nowadays. They’re lighter, more energy efficient, don’t suffer from burn-in, don’t have as limited a viewing angle as they used to, usually have a matte screen so they don’t suffer from reflection problems, etc. They also have considerably faster response times, which means motion blur isn’t as much of an issue anymore.

Regarding installation, unless you’re mounting it on the wall I don’t see why you’d need to get it installed. It’s still just a TV. Sure the hookups nowadays have changed a bit from RCA to HDMI but it’s not all that complicated – nothing a decent reading of the manual wouldn’t explain.

For recommendations I recommend checking out the reviews on Amazon. Not only do they have better prices, I find that their reviews are often the most valuable aspect of the site when making decisions. I bought my last LCD TV from them. Not only was it considerably cheaper (even when factoring in shipping), it was even delivered to my living room. Unlike normal packages that are shipped FedEx/UPS, I think Amazon uses a different carrier for larger TVs that schedules a delivery appointment with you and then delivers it to wherever you want it in your house. Even if I bought it in a store I would have still had to carry it up my apartment’s grueling stairs…

BrandonR is correct: Amazon delivered my 46" Aquos directly to my living room and they even hooked it up and turned it on to make sure it was okay.

The thing about Amazon to remember is that prices fluctuate like the weather in Chicago: I checked the price every day for about two weeks, and pounced when it was at the low point. I saved about $200 by just watching those fluctuations and waiting a bit…TRM

This is a good place to start: http://reviews.cnet.com/best-high-definition-tvs/
They have a pretty extensive review process and it’s what I based my decision on when I bought my new TV last month.

I went with the Samsung PN50B650 (Plasma) bought from Amazon in case your interested. Installed everything including a wall mount myself, which took about an hour.

I did a little research on the subject (I didn’t check plasma vs lcd though,) and here’s what I found:

Your eye can’t tell the difference between 720 or 1080 on screens less than 40". Therefore, if you are going larger, get 1080, if you are going smaller, 720 is fine.

The average life of a plasma or lcd is about 10 years, and those that make it to 10 years are considered lucky. Consider that when making a budget.

TV repair shops won’t fix LCD’s. You have to deal with the manufacturer.

This is my personal preference, but make sure you have an easy way to connect your computer to your tv. The best would be hdmi to hdmi. VGA and SVideo need converters to hook up to RCA jacks (the red-yellow-white plugs on TV’s.) If you do get a converter, VGA doesn’t carry sound. USB to TV gadgets only work one way. You can’t get the display on the tv using that. TV cards generally have an in and an out, but the one I had before only had an in, and used my video card for an out. Modern LCD’s generally have all jacks, but it’s good to check on the cheaper ones.

We bought our 42" plasma about 5 years ago and had no problems hooking it up by ourselves, although that sucker weighed over 100 lb and schlepping up the steps was not fun. BTW, ours is on a television stand - I don’t think I would want to risk installing it on a wall mount; I am fairly handy around the house, but wouldn’t want to trust my skills and see that television flying off the wall one day.

Yes, if you have light coming in from another window, this is not good - but otherwise, we love the set and - as one mentioned above - wish we had bought a larger version. However, back then we paid $1600 for it and then watched the prices drop, month after month, until we saw the same model for $799 before that model finally went off the market. That pissed me off, but hey - same price-drop thing happened with VCR’s and DVD players, so to be expected.

Now we are seeing 50" and larger for even less than what we paid - so next time some extra money flies our way, this television might find itself in another room to make space for the new, larger version.

Best Buy included the price of delivery and hook up in the price, and they offered a 30 day price guarantee. I got $100.00 knocked off my purchase when I saw that they had reduced the sale price a week after I bought the tv. When I factored in the cost of shipping, it was just easier for me to go to the local big box store.