6 Best LED TVs in 2011
Given the somewhat bewildering array of TVs currently available, it's good to know what makes certain sets stand out from the pack. For those viewers seeking super-thin screens that are still bright enough to pop in illuminated rooms, LED TVs are the clear choice.
In the world of flat-panel TVs, LED refers to TVs whose screens are LCD displays with light-emitting diode (LED) backlighting. Compared to plasma TVs (the main alternate flat-panel technology), LED TVs "are usually thinner, giving them an aesthetic appeal," said Robert Wiley, senior editor of the LED TV Buying Guide website. "Also, their higher peak light output makes them a better choice for well-lit rooms."
Wiley spelled out the current six best LED TVs available in a range of screen sizes. (Screen measurements are diagonal.) All offer full HD resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels, with a theatrical 16:9 aspect ratio. All have Internet connectivity, at least one USB port , and a high screen refresh rate intended to suppress motion artifacts (i.e. blurring).
Wiley's favorite LED TV is the 55-inch Samsung UN55C7000, which is only 1.2 inches thick. The decorative bezel — the frame around the picture itself, containing supports and electronics — is only an inch wide. But what Wiley really likes is Samsung's proprietary 3-D software that can present 3-D material in a variety of formats. Retail prices are in the $2,000 range.
Next is the 40-inch Sony KDL-40EX710. It features a sensor that can judge the ambient light in the room so the unit can automatically adjust picture brightness. Prices are in the $1,000 range.
Third up is the 46-inch Sony KDL46EX710. The set's screen is just two inches thick and contrast-wise it offers blacker-than-average blacks. The colors are therefore impressively realistic, but Wiley is not impressed with the ballpark $1,400 price tag.
In fourth place is the 52-inch Sharp Aquos LC-52LE820UN whose screen technology treats yellow as a fourth primary color , joining red, green and blue. While many LED TVs use side lighting to generally light the whole screen, this one uses a full-screen LED array to light individual pixels, producing what Wiley called "picture quality second to none." The retail price is about $1,350.
Next is the 47-inch LG 47LE8500. Color is faithful and black is very black, but Wiley is impressed with the fact that the unit uses a glass screen surface. A plasma TV must have a glass screen as a component of its thousands of tiny pixel elements, but the glass generates some glare and is therefore usually avoided in LED TVs. Wiley thought that glare was not an issue, and that the use of glass added depth and realism to the image. Retail pricing is in the $2,000 range.
In the sixth spot is the 46-inch Samsung UN46C8000. It has the aforementioned Samsung 3-D display technology, plus the unit is Energy Star 4.0 compliant, using 40 percent less power than other models of the same size. Expect to pay around $1,700 for a set.
Finally, Wiley noted that although stores tout LED TVs as the latest thing, these sets are not necessarily the best value when compared to a plasma TV of the same size. "For pure picture quality the best plasmas are better," he said. "Plasma pictures are smoother and more consistent, and never have movement artifacts."