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Release Date: 01/24/2013

Consumer Reports: Latest TV Sets Are Bigger, Better, Smarter, and Cheaper

Super-low-priced Sets from Lesser-known Brands May Offer Questionable Value; LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony are Among Best Performers in CR’s TV Ratings

CR Mar. 2013 CoverYONKERS, NY Americans who are in the market for a new TV – perhaps in time for Super Bowl Sunday – will find models that are bigger, better, smarter, and cheaper, according to the latest Consumer Reports TV tests. The full report, which features Ratings of 140-plus LCD and plasma TVs, can be found in the March issue of Consumer Reports, on newsstands January 31, and online at ConsumerReports.org.

“If you’re thinking about upgrading your TV, or if you’re one of the holdouts planning to buy your first flat-panel TV, you’ll find plenty of great models in our latest Ratings – many at prices that will put a smile on your face,” said Jim Willcox, Senior Editor for Electronics, Consumer Reports.

 Consumers should be heartened to know that TV prices are usually lowest in February and March, when manufacturers start shipping new models and retailers cut prices to sell off the old ones. Compelling new features on mainstream 2013 models aren’t expected, so consumers shouldn’t pass up great deals on top-rated 2012 sets. However, some TV bargains can be risky. Super-low priced sets, especially from lesser-known brands, aren’t always the best deals. Some of the lowest-scoring sets in CR’s Ratings – with below-average marks for picture, sound, or both – include TVs from Coby, Element, Haier, TCL, and Westinghouse.

 LCD TVs from LG, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony have consistently been among the best performers in the Consumer Reports Ratings. Plasmas sets from Panasonic have been at the top, followed closely by Samsung and LG.

Internet-capable TVs proliferate

The Consumer Reports Ratings include more Smart TVs, or TVs that can connect to the Internet to stream video from various online services, putting on-demand movies and TV shows at viewers’ fingertips. All tested TVs with this capability offer Netflix, but the availability of other services like Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and Vudu varies by brand. A growing number have full browsers for surfing the Web, built-in Wi-Fi, and access to an apps market. In addition to streaming video services, most Internet-capable TVs let you connect to a music service such as Pandora, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and even eBay. 
 
Four basic questions to consider when you buy a TV

Buying a new TV is a big investment for many consumers. Here are four basic questions to consider when shopping for that new set:

  • What screen size?  Don’t think small and regret it for the life of the TV. If you sit 6 to 8 feet from the TV, get at least a 40-inch set, but consider a 46- to 50-incher to get a more immersive experience. If the screen is too small for your viewing distance, it’s difficult to appreciate the clarity that makes 1080p high definition so compelling.

  • Plasma or LCD? Many of the highest-scoring models in our Ratings are plasma TVs, which have several advantages over LCD TVs. Plasmas, which come in 42-inch and larger sizes, tend to cost a bit less than comparably sized LCDs, especially those using LED backlights. The best plasmas can provide rich, movielike images with deep blacks that add depth and dimension. Unlike most LCD models, they have blur-free motion and unlimited viewing angles.

  • 1080p or 720p resolution? Most new TVs have 1080p (full HD) resolution, but some smaller sets and low-priced 42- and 50-inch plasmas still have 720p. A full HD model can display finer detail than a 720p TV, but more detail doesn’t always result in better picture quality. Some 720p TVs CR has tested had very good picture quality. In general, CR recommends a 1080p set if price isn’t a top concern, but consider 720p for top value.

  • 3D or not? 3D capability is simply a feature on a regular HDTV, not a new kind of TV. Even if you don’t plan to watch 3D in the near future, don’t rule out a TV that has that feature. Many are among the best HD sets CR has tested. And if you get a 3D-capable set, you’ll be good to go if 3D becomes appealing to you in the future.

More tips on getting the right TV for the big game can be found at ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually.  Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications.  Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

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