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3 HDTVs We'd Buy Now

So you want to buy a new HDTV, you want a good deal, you even find what seem to be a lot of good prices...but you're not sure whether the TVs are actually any good.

You could visit the manufacturer websites, check several online stores, dig through review sites, but then you feel buried in numbers and technical jargon. It's overly informative, it's confusing and frustrating. I don't want to buy a contrast ratio or a refresh rate!, you silently scream, furiously squeezing the comfortingly soft fabric of your Snuggie in your outraged fist. I just want a good TV at a good price!

We've felt your pain. Since we already spend all day watching prices, we've started reading through more of the those mind-numbing specs and reviews so we could help you out...with a few simple recommendations on the HDTVs we'd buy right now.

The Parent (or the feature-conscious shopper)

Sometimes you need a TV that does everything short of making you french toast and taking out the trash. We're not saying you should use a TV to raise your children, but there's nothing wrong with keeping them ensconced for a few hours so you can get some much-needed "me time" to maintain your sanity.

Although some view the feature as a gimmick, 3D HDTVs are not an unwise investment. Even if you rarely use the 3D display functionality, the 2D picture quality on today's best 3D sets is similarly excellent. But what better way to keep kids occupied than make them watch something that requires them to sit still wearing special glasses to see it?

For surrogate child-rearing and so much more, we'd recommend the 47-inch LG Infinia 47LW6500 3D LED HDTV.

It's currently our best-selling HDTV by a wide margin, and it's understandable why so many people choose it. Its extensive feature and award lists read like Rushmore protagonist Max Fischer's eclectic extracurricular list...except unlike Max, the Infinia 47LW6500 is actually good at the many things it tries to do. (Perhaps more importantly, it won't try to awkwardly establish an inappropriate romantic relationship with a teacher at your former school.)

The 47LW6500 uses LG Cinema 3D technology - technology that 4 out of 5 people picked over Sony or Samsung for "Overall 3D Experience." It also comes with LG's Smart TV functionality. Rated as the best "Smart TV Platform" of 2011 by PCWorld, it's DLNA certified and lets you stream Netflix and Hulu Plus, download apps, and even update your Facebook status. The TV can be controlled by an included gesture-sensitive Magic Motion remote for ease of use. It has a THX Certified display (in Bright mode) that uses an IPS panel to enable a wider viewing angle - perfect for viewing parties. Speaking of crowds, this TV can draw them for viewing sporting events thanks to LG's TruMotion 240Hz refresh rate (although we'd recommend turning it on only for sports, since it tends to make other motion content appear unnatural).

PCWorld reviewed the Infinia 47LW6500 at the end of September, awarding it 4/5 stars and ranking it 2nd on their Top 10 HDTV list. It was awarded an Energy Star Most Efficient designation for 2011. And we've seen a ton of reviews where real customers rave about its features and overall picture quality. Finally selling for just under a grand and often coming with more bonus 3D glasses than you'll know what to do with, the LG Infinia 47LW6500 is a great all-around 3D LED HDTV for features and value alike...and one we'd actually buy.

The Movie Buff (or the performance-conscious shopper)

If you're the one whose real-life dialogue with friends is peppered with movie quotes...if you find yourself analyzing the precise lighting the director used in a particular shot...if you can spout off a dozen sports-related statistics faster than you can remember your home phone number...then you might want an HDTV that excels at screening films and sporting events.

There's ongoing debate over which technology provides the optimal mix of image characteristics for the best movie-viewing experience, but at the time of this writing, we'd have to err on the side of PLASMA.

There are a few inherent drawbacks to plasma HDTVs. They aren't great at high altitudes (~6,500 feet and higher) because the thinner atmosphere creates a pressure gradient, making the TV audibly hum and work harder to function properly. And historically plasmas have suffered issues with burn-in, where the ghost of a static image can become imprinted on the screen if it's left alone long enough (although burn-in is largely a thing of the past with better implementations of plasma technology in name-brand sets). Plasmas can also get warm during normal functioning, and accordingly they draw more power than comparably-sized LCD and LED sets.

But for any shortcomings, plasma HDTVs in general can display deeper blacks and richer colors than even high-end LED sets. They have an effective refresh rate of 600Hz, virtually eliminating motion blur and making chase scenes or game-changing plays a joy to watch. And since they're a well-established technology, plasma TVs generally retail for significantly less than a same-size LCD/LED set.

For movie and sports aficionados looking for a deal without compromising quality, we'd recommend the 50-inch LG 50PZ550 3D Plasma HDTV.

Featurewise, it's DLNA certified, so you can use an inexpensive Network Attached Storage with a huge hard drive to stream video content to your heart's content. It's got LG's NetCast Entertainment suite, so you can also stream Netflix films, sporting events, and other high-definition Internet video content directly to your TV. The 50PZ550 features active shutter 3D, meaning the effective resolution stays at full-1080p and isn't halved as it is with passive 3D technology.

Judging from very positive customer reviews, it's got the characteristically gorgeous picture and motion performance of a plasma. And with a best price often hundreds less than a grand, the LG 50PZ550 is a lot of TV to get for comparatively little money.

The College Student (or the budget-conscious shopper)

There's no secret college students want to do and get as much for as little as possible - whether it's going a night without sleep to finish assignments they knew about months earlier but didn't look at until the day before the due date, or investing in industrial-scale packages of Ramen at their local Costco. This same fanatical frugality applies to students shopping for an HDTV for their dorm rooms.

For college students on a shoestring budget who don't want to compromise quality for cost, we'd recommend the 32-inch JLC32BC3000 LCD HDTV from JVC's new Black Crystal line.

They're relatively new on the market, but they've been getting unanimously positive reviews from customers comparing their picture quality favorably to Tier-1 manufacturers' sets. The set doesn't come with Internet connectivity, but any inexpensive Blu-ray player you'll buy these days comes with Ethernet or WiFi streaming, and you can always quickly connect a laptop to the TV for a spontaneous, ill-advised Youtube viewing of Rebecca Black's "Friday".

The JLC32BC3000 displays full-HD 1080p resolution - a capability less commonly seen on 32-inch TVs. If you want to connect a Wii or other gaming console that outputs a sub-HD resolution signal, the JLC32BC3000 has a gaming mode that'll let you avoid input lag by disabling image processing. It'll do an audio-only mode that lets you use the TV solely to play music through its forward-firing speakers, which reviewers say produce very good quality sound. And if you want to connect the TV to a boombox or stereo for even louder sound, it does offer a stereo audio output in addition to the usual optical out - something not all TVs offer anymore. Plus, at under 20 pounds, this set is easy to move, and build quality is good enough to help forestall damage from bumps and spills.

All in all, the JVC JLC32BC3000 is a very appealing option for college students or anyone with uncompromising standards on a budget, with a lowest new price hovering around a very affordable $300.

In summary, while we think these are all excellent choices for the purposes we suggest, don't mistakenly infer that these sets are only good for one kind of viewing pattern or even that these will be the absolute best TVs for your budget or needs.

Keep in mind that all three TVs mentioned here are versatile performers and part of larger product lines with equal image quality, reliability, and essentially identical features other than screen size. Also, there are plenty of other great TVs on the market, and we're keeping track of their prices to help you get what you want while letting you keep as much of your money as possible.

So if you're looking for an HDTV this holiday season, check our Dealzon HDTV page. If a model strikes your eye, sign up for a price drop email alert on the item, and we'll notify you the moment the price goes down so you can be sure to get the best possible value on a great product. We're always dreaming up new features to make the selection and purchasing process easier for you, so stay tuned (pun intended :)

    Past Editor’s Notes and Discussions

  • Daniel BrasherNov 11, 2011

    Deals and discounts are nice, but sometimes we just want someone to tell us what to buy. To help you cut through the clutter of HDTV shopping, we asked Brasher to share his top picks for the TV he'd buy in 3 different scenarios -- (1) if you want all the latest features, (2) if you care most about picture quality for movies or sports, and (3) if you just need a good little 32-inch that's not just "cheap" but a solid value with above average quality.

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