Best HDTV in 2013?: The Complete Guide.
Improvement in HDTV technology has been pretty impressive over the last few years.
The war between top LED and plasma screens is delivering crisper images with less blur. 3D is now very affordable (but only worthwhile if you can find good 3D movies to enjoy).
TV's are bigger, thinner and more completely integrated with cable, satellite and internet services.
Smart TV with internet connectivity and genuinely useful apps is now standard in the higher price ranges.
So what is new in 2012 and what are the big improvements?
How to Choose a Hi Def TV
- Local dimming is superior to edge lit displays.
- LED back-lighting is superior to the older-style florescent tube back-lighting.
- Refresh rate is important for low blur and avoiding eye strain. The best TV's now offer 600 MHz
- WiFi is more convenient than cables for Smart TV's
- Everyone loves thin
- Full internet browsing is now possible with a few models
Want the Very Best Picture? Look out for THX
Not many TV's get THX certification. Stringent tests are applied to make sure the TV shows a movie with a true-to-cinema quality. This means the colors are accurate, the black level (one of the most difficult and important effects) is true and the screen performs evenly with no areas of low or high light.
Apart from picture quality, price and reliability, there are a host of features that feed into any decision. There is a TV out there that will slot perfectly into your home entertainment system and there is one that is perfect for the kids. There is 3D TV and Internet-ready TV. There is also one that will mesh most easily with your Slingbox, Tivo, camcorder, smartphone, iPod and iPad.
In fact, for many people it is ease of integration with their existing entertainment systems that will decide what they buy.
Internet-ready TV's have been offering games, movies, music, useful weather and news widgets and plenty of shopping opportunities for a long time. Many manufacturers now have HDTV's that offer full internet browsing.
Best Plasma in 2013?
Panasonic: still top of the tree?
Panasonic has long been regarded as the top maker of plasma-screen HDTV's and has delivered some significant improvements this year.
The top product line features Vierra Smart TV, WiFi connectivity, Skype, 2D to 3D conversion, and full 3D playback from Blu-ray or 3D cable channels. All plasmas offer a wider viewing angle compared to LCD's and more natural gradation of color (though the softness of plasma does not appeal to everyone).
Improvements this year include:
- Less motion blur and better still-image display courtesy of 2500 Focused Field Drive technology. You can read the maker's name on a football as it leaves a kicker's boot.
- Better speakers. Many people use surround-sound systems, of course, but the speaker improvements will be welcomed by many.
- Blacker blacks. Even in daylight the improvement is noticeable, especially in dramatic night scenes where false rendering can kill the moment.
- This is one of the few TV's to be awarded the THX3D stamp of approval which mean it displays 3D at a standard you would find a good movie house.
- A good price for a big 55-inch screen at under $1500
Samsung Plasma- best Plasma TV for Surfing?
Panasonic's Vierra smart TV cloud services include Huluplus, Amazon Instant, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and plenty of news Apps but it does allow full web browsing.
Samsung have gradually been catching up with Panasonic in terms of picture quality over the last few years. For anyone looking for full internet access the big plus with a top Samsung plasma is the Smart Hub Internet portal with QWERTY keyboard. There are a lot of apps and a very usable web browser.
Previously, the downside was price. You payed for the extra functionality. This year, at Amazon at least, a top Samsung plasma with web browser is comparable in price.
Don't care about Smart TV, WiFi or 3D? Try LG
LG offer the no-frills, but well-priced (and huge!) 60-Inch 60PN6500. Picture quality is very good with a 1080p resolution and 600 Hz. The onboard speakers are a little below average but no issue if you have surround sound speakers.
At under $1000 online this is an affordable centerpiece for a home entertainment setup.
Plasma TV's may not suffer from burn in anymore but not everyone likes the the softer tones plasma tends to give.
LED HDTV's with micro-dimming deliver ultra crisp images. The latest models with fast refresh rates mean little blur in the action scenes or sports events.
LG Cinema Screen
Sadly, Samsung have had some production issues this year and left many people disappointed. LG, on the other hand, are going from strength to strength. Not only is the company's TV's better priced, they are delivering all the latest tech.
The standout product line is the LG Cinema Screen in 47-inch and 55-inch versions.
The 47-inch delivers 3D, 1080p, 240 Hz in a neatly designed, slender LED-LCD with one of the narrowest bezels around. The Smart TV function does not have a full web browser just yet (although LG have promised to deliver this) but there are plenty of apps available for movies, news, weather and games.
Built-in WIFi makes for easy connectivity.
Best Value from 2012?
Last year's tech can be a bargain. If you need a TV for a bedroom or the kids, it can be worth a glance through the back catalogue.
Panasonic Vierra LCD/LED
While Samsung has been catching up with Panasonic in plasma tech, Panasonic has been quietly establishing themselves in Samsung's LED territory.
With lackluster offerings from Sony in 2012 and quality control issues affecting Samsung's models, the Vierra line was best overall LCD/LED HDTV in 2012.
Don't expect a web browser or huge screens from this product line, however.
What Vierra Does and Does not Offer
One thing to note is that the biggest screens on offer from Panasonic are 55 inches so if you are looking for a 60 or 70 inch monster Panasonic will not satisfy.
Also there is no web browser included with the Smart TV.
Apart from these drawbacks there is plenty to get excited about.
All the usual widgets and apps for downloading Movies
All but the smallest Panasonic TV's have a media center built in. This means you can slip in an SD card or USB stick and play music and videos or view photos.
Again only the smaller models lack WiFi so you stream content from a PC. You will need to buy a seperate LAN adapter, however.
178 Degree Viewing Angle
This is as good as you will get with an LED TV right now and a big improvement on earlier models.
Vierra prices are very affordable with a 37-inch model at not much more than $500.