6 Best Plasma TVs in 2011
If you’re currently shopping for a large flat-panel TV for your living room, you have a choice between LCD or plasma technology.
Plasma TV images are produced by an array of countless tiny fluorescent cells that glow in primary colors. Unlike LCD screens, plasma sets are immune to motion blurring, where the pixels lag behind the action, explained Robert Wiley, senior editor of the Plasma TV Buying Guide site on the web.
Moreover, "Plasma is better for dim rooms," he said. "Price-wise, plasma usually offers a better deal, especially in larger sizes, and have no competition in the largest size ranges.”
Wiley's choice for the top six included (except as noted) 50-inch screens (measured diagonally) and an HD resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels (again, except as noted). All of the sets Wiley recommended had a 16:9 aspect ratio, USB connectivity and some kind of Internet or computer port.
His favorite was the 50-inch Panasonic Viera TC-P50S2, which retails for about $1,100. It will display images from an SD memory card while letting you choose between five different types of background music and five display effects. Connecting other home devices was easy, and many could be controlled through the unit's remote control. Colors were vibrant and flesh tones were realistic.
Second on his list was the 50-inch Samsung PN50C550, for which you can expect to pay about $1,200. There was good contrast even in dark images, and there was no leveling off of contrast even at high viewing angles.
Wiley’s third choice, the Samsung PN50C7000, is also a 50-incher. The $1,500 price range may seem steep, but the unit is actually one of the least expensive 3-D plasma TVs. (However, the 3-D viewing glasses are sold separately.) Picture quality was judged to be exceptionally realistic. When turned off the set was still pretty, with its burnished metallic frame and a screen that is only 1.4 inches thick.
Fourth was the 46-inch Panasonic Viera TC-P46C2, which brings quality features (such as seen in the No. 1 slot) into a lower price range, thanks to the use of a lower screen resolution (720 pixels) and a thicker (3.5-inch) screen. Frankly, if you are not going to get an HD signal, there is no reason to pay for an HD set. This set usually lists for around $700.
Fifth is the 50-inch LG 50PK550, which can usually be had for about $1,100. Image quality, contrast and viewing angles were considered excellent, but it had a problem with glare from environmental lighting, Wiley said.
In the sixth and final slot was the 50-inch Samsung PN50C8000, which had a laundry list of the latest features, including 3-D, a thin (1.4-inch) screen, realistic color, theatrical picture quality, and the ability to access many popular Internet sites. For all that you'll pay about $2,000.
One final consideration: plasma sets tend to make noticeable buzzing noises if used at high altitudes (over 6,500 feet) because of the air pressure difference. If you live in the mountains you'll want a specially made unit intended for your environment, or an LCD unit.
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