Best HDTV Sets Best in features, performance and style

If you are in the market for a great TV, this is surely the right time to research the best TVs, especially when most models are selling at significant discounts. To help you in the process, we have complied a list covering the best TVs overall for 2012; HDTVs with the highest ranking feature at the top of the list. The list takes into account features, design, overall performance, and price.

We are also including a few shopping tips with stuff you need to know to help you pick the best television for your needs without falling to TV maker’s tricks!

Best HDTVs for 2012: It takes more than just a great picture...

Most HDTVs are capable of a great picture, yet the best HDTVs deliver more than just an excellent image. Mid-range/premium HDTVs come with advanced features and conveniences that help make the TV viewing experience more complete. It is this that differentiates the best HDTVs from the rest. Mind you, picture performance remains the most important deliverable, and the most-weighted TV attribute in this ‘Best HDTV’ list. However, picking the best TV also depends on whether it features what you are looking for to deliver the best viewing experience at a price that fits your budget.

Excellent models for 2012 include plasma TVs from Samsung and Panasonic that offer superior picture and extensive features at a price that is well within reach of the average household budget. Unfortunately, 2012 has also brought a negative trend in LED TV performance, but plasma phobics can rest assured that there are still a few models that deserves a place in this ‘Best HDTV’ list.

Are you shopping for the Best HDTV? Here is some stuff you need to know

Which Display Technology makes the Best HDTVs?

Both plasma and LCD/LED TVs deliver, yet plasma remain the number one choice by demanding videophiles for the best picture. 2012 have re-affirmed plasma’s superiority in this respect. These come with slim panels, reduced power consumption, and a price that delivers the best value for your money at the big screen TV category.

CCFL LCD TVs have almost disappeared as LED-backlit technology is taking over. Being thin is part of the LED TV game – but not for 2012! Not all 2012 LED TVs come in a slim profile. Main problems with LED TVs are their relatively narrow angle of view and less screen uniformity; but otherwise, they deliver a bright picture that is ideal for most entertainment.

If you are still uncertain about your ‘best HDTV’ display technology choice, please check our Plasma versus LCD versus LED TV guide for more information.

More than just numbers… Be aware of manufacturers’ tricks!

Mid-range and premium LED TVs come with at least 120Hz panel refresh rate; this brings a perceived improvement over 60Hz sets in minimizing judder and blur, while improving motion resolution. However, as explained in our LCD Motion Blur article, higher refresh rates than 120Hz does not necessary imply a superior performance. Rather, these often lead to an increase in image artifacts!

Equally important, mega-contrast ratio ratings do not necessarily make a great picture. The same holds true with LCD response times; quote response times are often meaningless.

The best HDTVs are not necessarily the ones with the bigger or smaller numbers; rather, they are the ones that deliver the best picture to your liking.

Best HDTVs overall… Picking up the Best HDTVs for 2012

What follows is a list of the top-ten HDTVs that in our opinion fall within the ‘best HDTV’ category, irrespective of display technology. Our ‘Best HDTV’ equation ranks each HDTV based on features, style, performance, and price. Included with each HDTV is a summary of the main features and performance, as well as rank the selected model, and links to related HDTV reviews and product guides appearing on our site. We hope that this list will make your ‘best HDTV’ selection a bit easier.

1. Panasonic TC- PST50 Plasma TV Series: Best HDTV for overall value and picture quality, and the best HDTV for the Videophile on a Budget

Since Pioneer left the TV market, the top spot for the best HDTV has been invariably occupied by Panasonic; but for 2012, it is not the Panasonic flagship plasma TV that takes the best HDTV title, but the ST50 series.

Panasonic ST50 HDTVs deliver a surprisingly superior picture performance that is very much in line with that of the more expensive Panasonic flagship VT50 HDTVs, but at the price of a mid-tier series. Inky blacks, subtle shadow detail, and accurate color characterize the ST50 picture.

Complemented by excellent video processing with minimal artifacts, and very good 3D performance with hardly any crosstalk issues (as long as you activate the 48Hz movie playback), this is the TV series that delivers the best overall value for your money.

It comes to no surprise therefore that it is the 55-inch TC-P55ST50 the best-selling 3D plasma TV for 2012 irrespective of brand. Other screen sizes within the series include the 50-inch, 60-inch, and 65-inch. These are also proving to be extremely popular, with online prices ranging from $1,100 for the 50-inch, to under $2,100 for the 65-inch.

2. Panasonic TC-PVT50 Series: Best Picture with unsurpassed Black Levels

Panasonic plasma TVs have always been the ones to deliver the deepest blacks, and this year is no exception; it is the Panasonic TC-PVT50 the best HDTV in this respect, delivering superior blacks to any other TV.

Yet, there is more than just superior blacks; the VT50 picture also enjoys accurate grayscale, superior color accuracy, perfect screen uniformity, and superior bright room performance than any other TV presently available on the market.

It delivers the ultimate in picture quality that present day display technology has to offer. The only reason for not making it to the top of our Best HDTV list is simply one of price; the price difference between the ST50 and the VT50 is such that in our opinion, it does not equate to what you get extra in TV performance. However, if you want the best picture, it is the VT50 the one that delivers!

Unlike the ST50, the flagship series covers just two screen sizes, the 55-inch TC-P55VT50 and the 65-inch TC-P65VT50 — both of which are extremely popular despite their more expensive price tag.

3. Samsung PNE7000 Series: ‘2nd-Best HDTV’ for overall value and best HDTV for the home entertainment on a budget

Once again, it is a non-flagship series that makes it ahead of the flagship from within the same brand. It is not because the Samsung flagship is not capable of a superior picture but simply because the premium one pays to jump on the flagship does not equate to what one gets extra in features and performance over the less expensive series.

In this respect, it is the E7000 series the best HDTV value option overall from the Samsung 2012 plasma lineup. The E7000 series is capable of superb picture performance that is practically the same as that of the E8000 flagship series but comes at a price that is a few hundred dollars cheaper; the only features missing are Samsung’s Clear Image panel and Smart Interaction. Price-wise, the E7000 is in direct competition with the Panasonic ST50 rather than the GT50 equivalent; main appealing factor over the ST50 is the presence of dual core processing which leads to an improved Smart TV experience.

E7000 Samsung plasma HDTVs come in three screen sizes, the 51-inch, the 60-inch, and the 64-inch; prices range from $1,350 to $2,600 for the 64-inch; the best-selling model within the series, the 60-inch PN60E7000, is selling at almost $300 cheaper than the TC-P60GT50 Panasonic equivalent.

4. Panasonic TC-PGT50 Series: ‘Best HDTV’ for Picture Quality and overall Design

If you want the best TV picture but do not afford the Panasonic flagship, this is the TV series to go for, delivering a picture that is just a hairline apart from that of the flagship, while still enjoying excellent aesthetics, and an enhanced feature set over the ST50 series.

Main upgrade over the ST0 is dual-core processing, a feature that as in the case of the Samsung PNE7000 series, leads mainly to an improved Smart TV experience, but not to an improved TV picture.

Like the Panasonic ST50, this series comes in four screen sizes, 50-inch, 55-inch, 60-inch, and 65-inch; best-selling set within the series is the 50-inch TC-P50GT50, followed by the 65-inch TC-P65GT50; prices range from $1,400 for the 50-inch to $2,550 for the 65-inch.

5. Samsung PNE8000 Series: Best-featured HDTV and Excellent Picture

The Samsung flagship plasma TV is the best-featured plasma TV for 2012 – mainly thanks to the presence of Smart Interaction.

Yet there is more to the Samsung flagship. It is also the Samsung HDTV that comes with the best TV picture, one that just fails to make it to the very top of the best HDTV list simply because of the relatively slightly deeper blacks of the Panasonic VT50. Yet the difference between the two is one that is mainly detectable only through the use of special test instrumentation.

The price difference between the E7000 and E8000 HDTVs is the reason that sends this superb HDTV to the fifth place. The $300 premium for the flagship is not justified by either the minimal improvement in picture quality over the E7000 series, or by an improved TV user experience because of Smart Interaction.

Samsung E8000 HDTVs come in three screen sizes, 51-inch, 60-inch, and 64-inch. Prices range from $1,600 for the 51-inch to $2,900 for the 64-inch; best-selling E8000 HDTV is the 60-inch PN60E8000, which at $2,100 represents a relatively ‘affordable’ flagship HDTV option that is some $150 cheaper than the 55-inch VT50 Panasonic plasma HDTV equivalent!

6. Sony KDL-HX850 LED TV Series: Best LED TV for Overall Value

The Sony KDL-HX850 is the LED TV series for 2012 that delivers the best overall value; it is capable of the best LED TV picture after the Sony HX929 and the Sharp Elite PRO-X5FD. It is the TV for plasma phobics that want to enjoy the best picture LED TV technology has to offer at a more affordable price. In this respect, the Sony HX850 would not disappoint, thanks to a superb videophile-grade picture at a price that is at least a few hundred dollars cheaper than Sony’s flagship and a few thousand dollars cheaper than the Sharp Elite!

Despite the cheaper price with respect to the HX929, the HX850 series HDTVs do not miss much in terms of features and set design. These include Sony’s Monolithic panel with the ‘Opticontrast‘ filter, and a superb 1.5-inch slim set design, as well as Sony’s Motionflow XR960 and the latest suite of Sony’s Smart TV, referred to as Sony Entertainment Network.

Screen sizes available include the 46-inch and the 55-inch; price range from $1,800 for the 46-inch and $2,400 for the 55-inch. Best-selling model within the series is the the Sony 55-inch KDL-55HX850; this is also the Sony LED TV for 2012 that is enjoying the best ratings among professional TV reviews and consumer feedback.

7. Sony XBR-HX929 Flagship Series: Best LED HDTV for Picture Quality

There is no doubt that after the Sharp Elite, it is the Sony HX929 series that delivers the best TV picture, with one of the deepest black levels thanks to Sony’s full LED array with local dimming technology. It still does not manage to supersede the picture quality from the cheaper Panasonic ST50 or Samsung PNE7000 series plasma TVs; but if for whatever reason, you do not want to invest in a plasma TV, and 3D is not a priority, (the Sony flagship is a 3D-enabled HDTV but its 3D performance is not among the best), the Sony flagship is the TV that delivers the best LED TV picture.

It does so at a  few thousand dollars cheaper than the  Sharp Elite. The latter is the only LED TV that is being rated in professional reviews as capable of the same picture quality as the best 2012 flagship plasma TVs from Panasonic.

The Sony flagship also comes with one of the best HDTV designs, extensive features that you will surely use, and an extended suite (for Sony) of advanced picture controls.

This in effect is a 2011 series that Sony is re-proposing for 2012 in 46-inch and 55-inch sizes; the 2011 lineup also included a 65-inch version. Both available sizes are enjoying among the best consumer ratings, but it is the 55-inch XBR55HX929 with its sub-$3,000 price tag that is the best-selling model in this series.

8. Samsung UNES8000 Series: Best-featured LED TV with the Best Design and 3D Performance

The UNES8000 is Samsung’s flagship LED TV and is the second-best LED TV model from 2012. It is also one whose picture quality – like that of the Sony HX850 – fails to surpass that of the HX929 or the Elite, both of which come from 2011.

It is worth noting that Samsung has just released a second flagship for 2012, the ES9000 series. This comes in a 75-inch version only and use an improved LED backlight that is a hybrid between Samsung’s micro dimming ultimate technology as used on the ES8000, and precision full array LED local dimming technology. This combination is said to produce much deeper blacks than has been possible so far while doing away with the typical ‘halo’ effect associated with full array LED backlight systems using local dimming. We still have to see how this new Samsung LED technology will perform with respect to the Sharp Elite but at $9000 for the 75-inch, it would be hard for the UNES9000 to make it into the ‘Best HDTV Overall’ list for 2012.

The UNES8000 falls within the Sony HX850 class in terms of picture quality with deep blacks (though its blacks are not exactly in line with those of the Sony HX850), and exceptional accurate color. It is also the TV that comes with the best set design and a most extensive feature set complemented by the much-touted Samsung Smart Interaction.

If for whatever reason, you are being faced with the dilemma of choosing between the Samsung ES8000 and the Sony HX850, we suggest checking our ‘Best LED TV shootout’ here.

Screen sizes include the 46-inch, 55-inch, 60-inch, and 65-inch; best selling model in the series is the Samsung 55-inch UN55ES8000, which at $2,500 is selling at practically the same price bracket as the Sony HX850.

9. Sharp LC-LE640U LED TV: 2D-only Best LED TV for the mainstream market

Despite the Sharp LE640 is one of Sharp’s 2D-only entry-level series, it still has the necessary attributes to make it within the best HDTV overall value list, thanks to a solid 2D picture for a LED TV at the cheaper price bracket, targeting mainly the big screen home entertainment on a budget.

It is a 120Hz standard edge-lit LED TV with the improved Sharp X-Gen LCD panel; no form of intelligent backlight dimming, and no extensive features or superb styling, but you still get built-in Wi-Fi and Sharp Smart TV suite, and a most extensive suite of connectivity options.

These Sharp LED TVs offer a surprisingly solid 2D picture quality — better than the LE745U 3D Sharp step-up TV series — coupled with accurate colors and an extensive suite of picture controls. Like most 2012 LED HDTVs within this class, these Sharp HDTVs deliver a rather lighter shade of black and suffer from a few picture uniformity issues.

Available screen sizes include the 52-inch, 60-inch, and 70-inch. Best selling models in the series are the 52-inch LC-52LE640U and the Sharp LC-60LE640U, which at $1,200 and $1.500 respectively, represents among the most valid 2D LED TV options for the mainstream market.

10. LG 55LM7600 LED TV Series: Best 3D LED TV for the mainstream market

LG’s real strength is its ability to deliver feature-packed TVs at a lower price. Yet, there is no better way to enjoy the LG price advantage than at the higher-end HDTVs. It is here that LG series like the 55LM7600 comes into play.

The LM7600 represents a most interesting LED TV option for home entertainment, complemented by extensive features and a most stylish TV design.  As one would expect at this price bracket, it is not exactly the TV with a videophile-grade picture quality due to its slightly lighter shade of black, but it still delivers a solid overall 2D and 3D TV picture with excellent color accuracy, good blacks, and above average screen uniformity for an edge-lit LED TV. 3D performance is also superb — one of the best irrespective of price — delivering a very good impression of depth and with practically zero 3D image cross talk.

It is definitely the LG TV series that would satisfy all except the most demanding purest in picture quality, and comes at a price that delivers the best HDTV overall at this LED TV category if 3D is for you.

Screen sizes on offer are the 47-inch and the 55-inch. Best selling model in the series is the LG 55-inch 55LM7600 LED TV, which at $1,500, represents an excellent piece of TV hardware complemented by LG’s unique motion remote, one of the best Smart TV suites, and six pairs of passive 3D glasses to cover all members of your family!

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