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Consumer Reports: Tips for Buying a New TV Before the Big Game

1:32 PM, Jan 23, 2014   |    comments
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Super Bowl XLVII TV finalists

Top performers
LG 60LA8600, $2,200. This was our top-rated LCD (LED) TV last year, with excellent high-def picture quality, very good 3D, a wide viewing angle for an LCD (LED) TV, and effective motion-blur-reduction performance. Another plus: It even has very good sound.

Samsung PN60F8500, $2,100. Samsung's top plasma was one of the brightest plasma sets we've ever tested, with excellent high-definition picture quality and very good 3D. This is a flagship model loaded with features, including Samsung's smart TV platform. Prices for this set have fallen anywhere from $300 to $500 from when we purchased it, depending on where you find it.

Panasonic TC-P65VT60, $2,500. An excellent all-around performer with no real weaknesses, except its sound quality. This flagship model is also loaded with features, including the company's smart TV service. For those with even deeper pockets there's a limited edition ZT60 series, which had arguably the best picture quality we've seen from a regular 1080p TV. (Which excludes Samsung's 55-inch OLED TV.) If you don't need a set this large, Best Buy has the 60-inch VT60 for $1,800, which is down from the $2,100 we paid when we tested it.

Sony XBR-65X900A, $5,000. This pricey set was our top-ranked Ultra HD (UHD) TV last year, with excellent high-def picture quality and incredible picture detail. It also was one of the best-sounding TVs we tested (apart from the $5,000 Bose VideoWave II, the only set to ever earn an excellent sound-quality score). One caveat, though: Most 2014 sets we've seen will support the new HEVC (H.265) video format, which will allow 4K video streaming via broadband. We're not yet sure whether this 2013 model can be upgraded to support this new video codec. However, the TV's firmware has been updated to HDMI 2.0 capability, so it will support 60 frames-per-second video, something not all 2013 UHD TVs can do.

Best values
Samsung PN64F5500, $1,800. Although it's not cheap, this 64-inch plasma is still priced below many other similarly sized and featured major-brand models. It delivers excellent high-definition picture quality and-if you care-perhaps the best 3D performance we've seen. And you don't have to give up anything, as it's loaded with features, including Samsung's smart TV platform. Its 60-inch sibling is also recommended, and you can get it for under $1,000, since you still pay a premium once you go above 60 inches in screen size.

Panasonic Viera TC-P60ST60, $1,500. This is a bit of a teaser, since it's getting impossible to find this set, which arguably delivered the most best bang of any TV in 2013/ It has excellent picture quality and a ton of features, though like other Panasonic sets we reviewed last year, its sound quality was severely lacking. If you can locate this set, you may find yourself being asked to pay as much as f $500 over the $1,500 we paid when we reviewed the set. Another option: the 55-inch model, which is a bit more readily available.

Sony Bravia KDL-60R550A, $1,370. Great high-def picture quality with among the better motion-blur performance we've seen from an LCD (LED) set. However, its viewing angle is fairly limited, which may not be great for a crowd watching the big game. Also, its 3D performance was below that of most sets, if that matters. It's loaded with features, including has Sony's full smart TV platform.

Vizio M601d-A3R, $800. Vizio has made a mark by offering full-featured sets that perform well, at prices lower than the major brands. This model is no exception, as Walmart has it as a big-game special for $798. It's an especially good deal when you consider Vizio's 65-inch M651d-A2R set is priced at $1,750. Both sets deliver excellent high-def picture quality, though their motion-blur performance wasn't great.

Samsung PN60F5300, $1,000. Though it doesn't have many features (no 3D, no smart TV service), this 60-inch Samsung plasma delivers the essentials, primarily excellent high-def picture quality. You can get this set right now at Walmart for $948, and just under $1,000 at Amazon.

 Panasonic TC-P60S60, $1,100. What do you get if you strip the 3D capability out of the ST60-series sets we like so much? Basically, the S60 models, such as like this 60-inch set. Though lacking 3D, it delivers excellent high-def picture quality, and it includes Panasonic's smart TV platform. Now for the bad news-like the ST60 models, this one is hard to find, and typically sells for higher than the $1,100 we paid when you do. If you can go higher in both screen size and price, the 65-inch version (TC-P65S60) is still available for $1,500 from Sears.

For more information on TV Buying and the best deals on TVs before the Big Game:

www.consumerreports.org/cro/tvs.htm 

www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2014/01/does-size-matter-when-you-are-buying-a-new-tv-for-the-super-bowl/index.htm

 

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