With football season in full swing, readers often ask us which HDTVs provide the best viewing experience.
We answer by listing the most important performance criteria for high definition football viewing, then give our picks for the HDTVs that deliver the most picture for the least money.
When it comes to viewing football, the bigger the TV screen the better, right? The best value in HDTV today are in the 50- and 60-inch screen sizes. The 50s are available in one of two resolutions, 720p and 1080p. The 60s are all 1080p resolution. Football in high definition is broadcast in either 720p or 1080i depending on the network. CBS, NFL Network and NBC broadcast games in 1080i. It’s converted (called deinterlaced) into 1080p within the HDTV.
Fox, ESPN and ABC broadcast in 720p. HDTVs that are native 1080p will upconvert the 720p broadcast to 1080p seamlessly. Deciding which HDTV resolution and size to buy depends on your viewing distance and budget. We explain how to choose the right size and resolution under the “Our Picks” section.
Getting Clear Motion Resolution
When a player is running down the field or the TV cameras are panning the field, you want to continue to see a crisp image. 60 Hz LCDs and LED LCDs suffer from motion blur. Plasma TVs do not. Big screen LCDs and LED LCDs need higher refresh rates to reduce or eliminate motion blur. This feature adds to the cost of the TVs.
We’ve tested hundreds of HDTVs for motion blur. 60 Hz models have lowest motion resolution (around 300 lines out of 1080). The next best are 120 Hz models. Their motion resolution is about double that of 60 Hz LCDs and LED LCDs. Next comes 120 Hz HDTVs with a scanning backlight (often mislabeled as 240 Hz). However, this scanning light cuts down on screen brightness. The best LED LCDs feature true 240 Hz refresh rates. These models (like plasmas) produce full motion resolution , however they are very pricey as this feature only appears on the top-of-the-line LED LCDs. Typically 240Hz LED LCD cost $2500 and up for 60-inch models.
Wide Viewing Angles
All HDTVs regardless of technology look great when viewed straight-on. At an angle, LED LCDs and LCDs lose contrast and brightness. The degree in which they do varies greatly from model to model. As a general rule 50-inch and larger TVs with IPS LCD panels (Panasonic, Toshiba and LG and a few others) tend to have better off-axis viewing. There are several by Samsung and Sony LCDs that do a decent job with off-axis viewing.
Plasmas have the best off-axis images beating out every LED LCD. Football is more fun when viewed with others, so viewing angle is very important, especially when not everyone is seated dead center (or when some people are standing).
For the best image, viewing angle, motion resolution, and value, we feel plasma HDTVs are the way to go. They are made and sold by three of the biggest name brands: Panasonic, Samsung and LG. As mentioned earlier, the best values are the 50-inch and 60-inch screen size classes. 50s are offered in the 720p and 1080p formats. Which one is right of you? This depends on your viewing distance. To see all the resolution on a 720p 50-inch HDTV requires a maximum viewing distance of 9ft, 10 inches (10 ft for a 51-inch screen). To see all the resolution with a 50-inch 1080p TV you’ll need a maximum viewing distance of 6.5 feet. A 60-inch 1080p HDTV the full resolution viewing distance is 7 feet 8 inches.
Facts and Myths About Plasma HDTV
Uniformed sales people may claim plasma TVs wear out quickly, are energy hogs and are deep, not thin. This is misinformation.
Today’s plasma HDTVs are as thin as most LCDs. The 50-inch class models are around 2-inches to 2.5-inches deep. The least expensive 60-inchers top out at around 2.6-inches depth with the higher end models as thin as 2.2 inches deep. Yes, some LED LCDs can be as thin as 1.2-inches, however we would hardly think it makes a difference to most viewers.
Plasmas consume do more electricity than LED LCD. However, not by much and the savings will never be offset by the huge price difference you must pay to get a top LED LCD with good motion resolution. We checked out a few models and found the 60-inch plasmas had annual energy costs ranging from a $21-$33/year compared to a 240 Hz 60-inch LED Samsung at $21/year.
A far as lifespan, Panasonic provides a rating of 100,000 hours to half brightness, the industry standard of measuring TVs usable hours. This translates to over 54 years at 5 hours a day every day. Some LED LCDs makers have thrown told us to expect a 50,000 hour lifespan on the LEDs, the light source within an LED LCD. Too sum it up, any of these HDTVs will be technologically obsolete way before they wear out.
There are a wide range of plasma models in screen sizes from 50- to 65-inches. Entry level 720p models start under $500. Full HD 1080p start at under $700 and 60-inch models are now under $1000. Below are a number of entry, intermediate and high performance models with prices and links to Amazon.
50-inch 720p Basic
LG 50PA4500 $499
51-Inch 720p Basic
51-Inch 720p with 3D
Samsung PN51E490 $644.98
50-inch 720p with Smart TV and 3D
LG 50PM4700 $699
50-inch 1080p Basic
Panasonic TC-P50U50 $698
50-inch 1080p Smart and 3D
Samsung PN51E550 $848
50-Inch 1080p Smart, 3D and Best Performance/Price Ratio
The Panasonic TC-P50ST50 $1098 uses Panasonic’s best plasma panel, with performance exceeded only by its GT and VT series products
60-inch Basic 1080p
Samsung PN60E530 $997.99
LG 60PA6500 $999.00
Panasonic TC-P60U50 $999.99
60-inch 1080p Smart and 3D
Samsung PN60E550 $1297.99
Panasonic TC-P60UT50 $1299.00
60-inch 1080p Smart, 3D and Best Performance/Price Ratio
Panasonic TC-P60ST50 $1599.00
All listed TV prices include free shipping. All are sold via Amazon direct (except Samsung PN60E530) and are sold under its policies. We recommend and affiliate (we may earn a small commission on referred sales) with Amazon because they have among the best HDTV policies in the industry. Amazon direct offers 14 day low price guarantee and 30 Day returns with free return freight. They stand behind their sales. Note: prices are correct as of posting and may change at any time, please verify with our links; Most states do not collect sales tax on Amazon orders with the exceptions of CA, TX, CO, KS, KY, NY, ND & WA. You always must pay sales tax (in states that collect it) when buying at a brick and mortar store. Should you buy an HDTV from on-line or from a retail store? Learn all the pros and cons in our article here.
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