Best Budget HD TV: Panasonic TC-P42X5
You can't get a better picture for your money.
Panasonic's 42-inch TC-P42X5 plasma HDTV sells for just shy of $400 online and delivers gorgeous video, especially for sports.
Why we like it
The TC-P42X5 produces rich colors and the deepest blacks available (as only a plasma can) due to the X5 screen, Panasonic's highest-quality 720p plasma panel. It also has very sharp images.
LCD or LED-LCD sets at this price level lack the deep blacks that create high contrast, as well as the vivid colors plasmas produce.
Plasma also always beats LCD technology for action video because of its higher screen-refresh rate.
[SEE ALSO: What is OLED Television?]
Plasma HTDVs refresh images 600 times per second, reducing what is called "motion blur." Moving objects and scrolling text look crisp no matter how fast they flash across the screen. On the TC-P42X5, you could almost discern the seams on speeding baseballs, and scrolling stock price text looked as crisp as if it were displayed still.
By comparison, inexpensive LCD HDTVs have a refresh rate of either 60 or 120 Hz, which means moving objects and scrolling text will look blurry.
Feature-wise, you can view photos stored on an SD card or a USB thumb drive, thanks to conveniently side-located card slot and USB jack.
Keep in mind
The TC-P42X5 is not exactly state of the art. It has 720p HD resolution, not the higher-end 1080p type, and it isn't a "smart" TV with an Internet connection, nor does it support 3D. But you may not need any of these features, if, say, you just want a really good HDTV sans gimmicks for the bedroom.
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From the correct viewing distance (around six to 10 feet), it is impossible to tell the difference between 720p and 1080p on a 42-inch set — the pixels are simply too small to discern. And 1080p Blu-ray material such as "Gettysburg" looked every bit as crisp and smooth as it did on a 50-inch, 1080p Pioneer Kuro, considered the standard by which all flat-screen HDTVs are measured. Only at 50-inches or larger can you detect the resolution improvement that 1080p delivers.
Second, the set includes only two HDMI input jacks. To stretch that, you'll need something called an HDMI switcher (about $20) if you have a lot of video gear, such as a digital cable/satellite box, a Sony PS3 or Microsoft Xbox, a media streamer such as Apple TV or Roku and a Blu-ray player.
This Panasonic plasma arguably delivers the highest price-to-picture-quality you can buy. It uses the deepest-black 720p plasma panel available.
It just lacks a plethora of HDMI jacks and modern bells and whistles such as Internet connectivity and 3D support. But that's why you can own it for less than $400.
Panasonic Viera TC-P60GT50 Plasma HDTV Key Specs
- 42-inch (diagonal) screen
- 720p-class HD resolution (1024 x 768)
- 39.6 in. (w) by 25.9 in. (h) by 9.1 in. (d) (with stand)
- 38.6 pounds (with stand)