Use this guide to help you choose the HDTV flat panel that best fits your needs. Part II covers screen size, LCD and plasma technology and a list of HD GURU® recommended displays.

The criteria for choosing the optimum screen size are viewing distance and a display’s native resolution. The HD Guru has a chart that provides the maximum viewing distance (for screens from 17”-120”) that will allow you to see all the resolution the HDTV provides. Of course, you can use a smaller screen at the distance in the chart; however, your eyes will not be able to perceive all the detail in the content. The link for the PDF chart is at  .

Once you have chosen the screen size you want, you will need to decide which HDTV you want to purchase. The big question often asked is “Should I buy a plasma or LCD?”
Lets compare the advantages and disadvantages of each technology.

Plasma Advantages

Widest viewing angle
Best overall contrast ratio, sets typically have deeper blacks than LCD
Lower Cost at the same screen size (though its getting close this holiday season)
Freedom from motion blur (display maintains high resolution with motion)
Stronger front glass than LCD (safer from flying Wii remotes and hard pokes from children)
Overall better picture quality than LCD
No Burn-in (image retention) when the HDTV is adjusted for in-home viewing (as opposed to showroom mode, based on results of tests of 2008 models).

Plasma Disadvantages

No models available below 32” (there are only two 32” HD plasmas Vizio & [email protected] Buy)
Heavier than LCD
Higher power consumption than LCD on larger size screens 60” and higher (smaller size display power consumption is highly dependent on the user settings)

LCD Advantages

Higher Brightness (makes them more suitable for very bright rooms such as retail store showrooms and home settings for daytime viewing with rooms large bare windows)
Weighs less than plasma screens of same size
Screen sizes range from around 19”-70”
Large screen sizes (>55”) typically consume less power
No Burn-in (image retention)

LCD Disadvantages

Horizontal off-axis image quality depends on make and model considered
Poor vertical off-axis image quality
Poor motion resolution with 60 Hz models, medium motion resolution with 120 Hz models (as compared to plasma TVs).
Poor black levels and low contrast ratios with low-end models.

How to Pick an HDTV

25” and Below

The only HDTVs available in this size range are LCD flat panels. Unfortunately, this size range is very price sensitive, resulting in TV manufacturers often choosing low cost over higher performance. Here is what you should look for in a HDTV in this size range.

First thing to do with any display you are considering is to make sure the screen aspect ratio is 16:9. This is the HDTV standard with a width to height ratio of 1.78:1 (also written as 16:9). Many small widescreen (under 27”) HDTVs makers use early generation LCD computer monitor screens to save money. These screens have an aspect ratio of 1.6:1. Purchasing one of these TVs will result in you choosing to cut-off part of the HD image or constantly have black bars appear during HDTV programming. You can easily check the aspect by learning the screens native resolution. True 16:9 HDTVs in this size range have screen resolutions of 1280 x 720 or 1365 x 768. Dividing the lower number into the higher one will result in the aspect ratio of 1.78. Computer monitor screens used in HDTVs have non-standard resolutions such as 1440 x 900, which equals an aspect (1440/900=1.6) ratio of 1.6:1. Avoid these non-standard HDTVs.

Another consideration, image quality as you move off center, called off-axis viewing. There is a huge range how different makes and models of LCD flat panels handle off-axis viewing. While all LCD flat panels produce lighter blacks and darker whites as one moves off center, some models have very fast drop-off of brightness and contrast and also cause a significant shift in color intensity and tint. Compare the HDTVs you are considering by moving off center axis, before making a purchase. Don’t worry about the dealer’s demo content; the quality of off-axis viewing is constant regardless of the source material. Off-axis image quality applies to all screen sizes.

26”-39”  HDTVs

The choice again is LCD (for the record there is one 32” HDTV plasma sold in the US by Vizio, however, I have yet to see it myself). The LCDs (in this size range) with the best off-axis performance use a technology called IPS for in-plane switching.   All Panasonic and Hitachi LCD HDTV use IPS panels. LG uses IPS panels in all its 60, 70 and 90 series models (except the 52″ size). The next best, SPVA panels are found on Samsung 4,5,6,7,8 and 9 series LCDs and select Sony LCDs (Caution, Sony does not disclose which of its HDTV use SPVA panels and which do not).

Signal processing also affects picture performance. Check out the HD Guru’s test of 125+ HDTVs to see how various displays’ signal processors perform. You can find the chart at

There are a number of 32” and 37” LCD flat panels that are 1080p with 1920 x 1080 resolution (as opposed to most in this size range of 1365 x 768 often referred to as 720p). Displays that are less than 40” diagonal are too small to allow the viewer to perceive the added resolution 1080p affords at any normal viewing distance, as you would have to sit about 4 feet from a 32” display to see the additional resolution. The averages viewing distance in the US is 9.5 ft. Stick to 720p displays in this size range if you plan to view beyond 5 feet and save money.

Motion resolution is the ability of an HDTV to maintain resolution with the presence of movement in the program, such as in pans, sports or action movies. Small screen LCDs are 60 Hz and when motion is present, resolution falls to about one-third of maximum (usually down to about 340 lines).  120 Hz refresh reduces motion blur, and is found in three 37” models, the LG 37LG60 and the Hitachi UT37V702 and UT37X902.


In this size range the choice widens to LCD or plasma. The plasma HDTV typically cost less per inch, though the gap has narrowed with the 40”-42” sizes. Plasma HDTVs have better contrast ratios because of blacker blacks; a wider viewing angle and better motion resolution. Overall, image quality is better than LCD. Plasma is superior in normal home lighting conditions; LCD exceeds plasma in viewing conditions with high ambient light such as daytime viewing in rooms with large windows and no window shades or curtains.
LCD LED backlit HDTVs have very high contrast ratios and bright images and excellent motion resolution, however they come with a very high price premium over normal CCFL backlit LCD panels and cost more than comparable size plasma HDTVs.(note: LEDs do not improve off-axis image quality). Whether you choose an LCD or Plasma, both technologies can produce superb HDTV images.


Plasma has a wider price advantage over premium LCD HDTVs ( displays with 120 Hz, and SPVA wide-angle panels).

HD GURU Recommended HDTVs

<26” Low Price LG 22” 22LG30 Premium Price-Samsung 22” LN22A450 (Why? SPVA panel) 26” 1) Panasonic TC-26LX85 (Why? IPS panel) 2) Sony 26M4000 3) Samsung LN26A450 32” 1) Panasonic TC-32LZ800 (Why? IPS panel) 2) Samsung LN32A550 (Why? SPVA panel) 3) Sony KDL32XBR6 37” Low Price- LG 37LG60 (Why? IPS, 120 Hz panel) Medium Price- Panasonic TC-37LZ800 (Why? IPS panel) Premium Price- Hitachi UT37V702/UT37X902 monitor (Why? IPS panel, 120 Hz) 40”/42” LCD Low Price-Toshiba 40RV525U Medium Price-Samsung LN40A550 (Why? SPVA panel) Medium Price-Samsung LN40A650 (Why? SPVA panel, 120 Hz) Premium Price-Hitachi UT42X902/UT42V702 (Why? IPS panel, 120Hz) 46”/47” LCD Low Price-Samsung LN46A550 (Why? SPVA panel) Medium Price-Samsung LN46A650 (Why? SPVA panel, 120 Hz) Medium Price-Mitsubishi LT46149 (Why? 120 Hz, built-in Surround Sound) Premium Price-Sony KDL46XBR8 (Why? LED Backlight, 120 Hz) Premium Price-Samsung LN46A950 (Why? LED Backlight, SPVA panel, 120 Hz) 52”-55” Low Price-Samsung LN52A550 (Why? SPVA panel) Medium Price-Samsung LN52A650 (Why? SPVA panel, 120 Hz) Premium Price- Sony KDL55XBR8 (Why? LED Backlight, 120 Hz) Premium Price-Samsung LN52A950 (Why? LED Backlight, SPVA, 120 Hz) 42” Plasma Low Price-Panasonic TH42PX80 (768p) Low Price-Panasonic TH42PZ80u (1080P) 46” Plasma Low Price-Panasonic TH46PZ80/TH46PZ85 (1080p) Medium Price Panasonic TH46PZ850 (1080p) 50” Plasma Low Price- Panasonic TH50PX80 (768p) Medium Price-Panasonic TH50PZ80/TH50PZ85 (1080p) Medium Price-Panasonic TH50PZ800/THPZ850 (1080p) Premium Price-Pioneer PDP-5020FD (1080p) Premium Price-Pioneer Elite PRO-111FD (1080p) Premium Price-Pioneer Elite PRO-101FD (1080p Monitor) 58”-60” Plasma Medium Price-Panasonic TH58PZ800/TH58PZ850 (1080p) Premium Price-Pioneer PDP-6020 (1080p) Premium Price-Pioneer Elite PRO-151FD (1080p) Premium Price-Pioneer Elite PRO-141FD (1080p Monitor) 65” Plasma Medium Price-Panasonic TH65PZ850 (1080p) Premium Price-Panasonic TH65VX100 (1080p Monitor) Copyright ©2008 Gary Merson/HD Guru™. All rights reserved. The content and photos within may not be distributed electronically or copied mechanically without specific written permission.