The Best HDTVs for Viewing Football

September 20th, 2012 · 17 Comments · 3D HDTV, LED LCD Flat Panels, Plasma


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.

Go Big

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).


Our Picks

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.

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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.


Our Picks

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

Samsung PN51E450 51-Inch

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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17 Comments so far ↓

  • Frank

    A totaly different issue…
    Is out there any hdtv with more than one PIP?

    The dimencion of the new screens are ideal to be splited in 4 and follow 4 games at once!

  • Frank

    A totaly different issue…
    Is out there any hdtv with more than one PIP?

    The dimencion of the new screens are ideal to be splited in 4 and follow 4 games at once!

  • Cory

    I get it that Plasma is the best for picture quality, however my main TV room had light sources that I can’t control (sky lights) during the day. The reflections on the GT50 even in the dark magnolia room drive me nuts, so what are the options where Plasma doesn’t make sense because of ambiant light. I have Matte finish Sony 46XBR I have been pleased with but want to move up to 60.

    There are no large screen matte finished 2012 LED LCDs or plasmas. All now have a shiny finishes and will reflect bright objects opposite the TV.

    The Panasonic VT 50s have their best filter and are good and reducing lights from above. However none of the built-in filters will completely kill very bright reflections.

    We recently wrote about a anti-glare screen that can be applied to any HDTV and is matte finished and very effective. They come in custom sizes. The link is at

    HD Guru

  • Rick

    Will you get the soap opera effect with high end plasmas?

    Yes and no. Panasonic and Samsung have included motion estimation/motion compensation frame insertion circuit, however it is defeatable. The top of the line VT Panasonic models offers 96Hz with 4 frame repeat and no “soap opera effect” and no judder.

    HD Guru

  • Rick

    Help, I just received HD boxes from comcast, still using them on old crt tv’s. I’m looking to buy 2 or 3 new tv’s. A 55/65 for the family room . This room is extremely dark w/ one window and shades usually drawn. A 46 for a small living room, also not very bright. And a 40/42 for the bedroom where most of the viewing will be in total darkness w/ lights usually off. I would appreciate some recommendations. I’m all about PICTURE QUALITY and reliability. I don’t need the TV telling me what my wife is making for dinner in 2 weeks. I own 5 tv’s, 4 panasonics and 1 sony. Price is a factor, but I don’t mind paying more for a better product but I want it to be better. I thought I would get a plasma, (I’ve been told 100’s of times that plasma loves a dark environment) but just like someone posted earlier they always look washed out and dull (not very bright) in the big box stores next to the led’s. The led’s are definitely brighter and seem to show more detail. I even went to a small dealer, who didn’t have 200 tv’ s on display and I thought the same thing. Why is that? Does it have something to do with the way they are set up in the stores? A salesman told me, you can tone the brightness down on a led to make it look like a plasma. But , you can’t brighten up a plasma to look like a led. Will that change when you get the tv home and you have nothing to compare it to. I’m 59, am I not seeing something? What’s the best way to look for a tv today, other than watching it, should I watch it thru a blu ray with a DVD. Suggestions please. Thanks Rick.

    We’ve measured and written about big box store lighting and found it far brighter than any of the home TV rooms we measured.

    It boils down to how bright is bright enough. Many folks don’t realize today’s plasmas and LED LCDs are far brighter than the 35-inch CRTs. Yet we’ve never heard of CRT owners complaining their TVs were too dark. We feel brightness is a non-issue in most homes.

    An added note. The higher end Panasonic plasmas have far better a/r filters this year than earlier models. They act like miniature blinds and do an excellent job rejecting over head lamps, although nothing beats a darkened room for improved contrast.

    As the article states, we prefer plasma for picture quality. If you want to consider an LED LCD be aware the backlit local dimming models are the most competitive in terms of contrast and picture quality. The Elite 60-inch was highly reviewed by us and others, but does not have the viewing angle and motion response of plasma, produces the soap opera effect with the 120Hz circuit on and costs $4600 for the 60-inch compared to $2500 for the 55-inch top-of-the-line TCP55VT50 Panasonic or $3600 for the 65-inch VT50 from Amazon direct.

    As for sources, Blu-ray is going to provide the best image as it is far less compressed than broadcast but if you watch sports or TV series you will be using cable, broadcast or satellite and have to live with the signal quality of your provider for these sources.

    HD Guru

  • Cecy

    Regarding plasmas I have a question to how you break them in ? If you can tell me what to do before I calibrate . I will be purchasing a 50″ st50 after returning my LG 6700 and have concerns about what I do once I get my new 50″ home & if or when can i adjust the pic settings?

    Plasmas are broken-in fully after the first 200 hours of use. We recommend the standard or cinema mode, keep contrast control around factory setting or a little higher and avoid letter box or black side bar content or static images during that period.

    Once past you can use one of the calibration discs to optimize your settings today’s plasma images are very stable beyond the break-in period. Here’s a link for more information (

    HD Guru

  • Dave

    Harold said plasmas tend to look washed out and dim in Best Buy and other showrooms. Why is that and do they look brighter and sharper at home. In showrooms the LED TVs look like a better football picture being brighter and sharper.

  • John

    Most sheeple have NO Clue! If someone want’s the best image quality and also likes to not over-pay for it. THEY WILL BE BUYING A PLASMA! Period! I own a Panasonic Plasma. I also know Many other “real” people in “real” life that also own Panasonic, Pioneer and Samsung plasmas and non of them have any burn-in or have dealt with any serious long term image retention. Just go easy on the logo/still graphics and black bar content for the first 200 hours and then use a plasma like you still own your CRT there after. That simple.

  • Joe C.

    Is the maximum distance of full resolution viewing the furthest back you should go or, where seating begins?

    The only reason I ask is that on other sites they give similar numbers but refer to this as the minimum distance.

    Its the maximum distance to see all the resolution based on screen resolution and the human vision (assuming 20/20). Of course nothing would keep you from sitting further away, you just will not be seeing all the detail within the image.

    HD Guru

  • Sam K

    HD Guru, thanks for another great article. I’ve been fowarding this to my friends who are still brainwashed into believing that LEDs and LCDs are better than plasmas.

    I think I’ll get a Panasonic ST50 model but I’m trying to figure out from the Panasonic website if the ST50 will play 24p movies natively or if that’s only available in the VT50 series. According to Panasonic’s website the ST50 (along with the GT50 series) has 24p cinematic playback at 48 Hz and the VT50 has 24p cinematic playback at both 96 Hz and 48 Hz. All of them also have the features “24p Playback (3:2)/24p Smooth Film” so I was confused if it’s going to use the 3:2 pulldown method for 24p movie playback or play it natively. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    There are three ways to play native 24fps content on these Panasonic plasmas. The first is at 60 Hz using 3:2 pulldown. The disadvantage is if there are slow pans you may see judder.
    The second is 48 Hz for the ST and GT. This eliminates judder, however we and others see flickering because of the 48Hz refresh. The VT’s 96Hz refresh repeats each frame 4 times eliminating judder, and no flicker because its 96Hz.

    The third is Smooth Film which uses frame interpolation. It makes pans smooth with no judder, however it makes film look like video often called the “Soap Opera Effect”.

    For the ST and GT for 24Hz native content we choose the 3:2 pulldown (60 Hz refresh). For the VT we pick the 96Hz refresh.

    HD Guru

  • Brian

    Regarding the comment about plasmas, I’ve been hearing that for years and, correct me if I’m wrong, aren’t sales increasing?

    Last year sales were up. This year all TV sales are down due to ww economic conditions. I do not know the actual sales or ship data is as the year is not over. There has been a shift in the plasma marketing away from the 42-43 inch screens to the 50s and above. Since the cheapest models have the highest sales volume we expect lower sales this year.

    HD Guru

  • Brian

    I have a 42″ Panasonic plasma and I absolutely have image burn issues, but it’s probably my fault. I use it 99% of the time to play the same PS3 video game which has certain images, boxes, etc on the screen the entire time I’m playing the game. And at an average of 1-2 hours daily for 2+ years, I’m seeing these ghost images during the few times I watch a DVD.

  • Greg Wong

    Great article and could not agree more
    I have a panny 65 vt30 calibrated by DeWayne “d-nice” Davis. We love watching college f’ball and the NFL and even the 3d junk on Dtv (pic is great, but it is a pain wearing those glasses)… No motion blur, great viewing angles and no “home video” effect for movies.. Only issue is that one could feel the heat from it.. Oh well, that’s what a/c is for…

  • Harold

    Plasma rules…
    I made a really big mistake when I sold my KURO 720p 42in.
    Thank goodness I was able to convince family to buy a plasma last year (a big Samsung)…
    How shall I say it: “they reproduce HD so much better than LCD…BTW…LED-LCD is still LCD.”
    Oh yea, they (plasmas) look really washed out and dim in Best Buy showrooms.

  • mbrennan191

    Steve, it is people like you that give others the wrong perceptions about plasma. Most people who are knowledgeable about the tech and care about picture quality see (literally) the benefits.
    How could HD Guru not recommend sets that offer larger sizes and better performance at cheaper prices?

  • Tony

    And how can you not mention image retention and burn in in the plasma Facts section??? Don’t bother denying that they are still issues, even in the top of the line VT50. All you have to do is read the threads on AVS to know. Or, you know just use your eyes.

    We have written extensively about image retention and uneven wear. Once broken in we find it a non-issue as we have frozen images up to 24 hours and only seen temporary slight image retention for a few hours, no permanent damage. If folks would use the standard or movie mode settings we don’t feel this is an issue. Sure any phosphor based system can be abused, however once passed the first 200 hours we find wear so slow one would have to work at retention. We only go by our tests and not hearsay from a forum.

    We used to see “burn in” on store demo units. We have not encountered it on showroom floors in the last couple of years.

    HD Guru

  • Steve McFarlin

    Is this a joke? Every “Pick” TV is a plasma. The plasma category is nearly dead for a reason…nobody is buying them. BTW, I have a 60″ 120Hz LCD/CCFL (not LED) and have never experienced anything close to motion blur.

    No joke. Plasma provides a top quality picture at a lower cost. We are pleased you don’t see motion blur on your LCD, others do. A number of folks don’t mind film content that looks like video on 120 and 240 Hz LCDS, while it drive others nuts.

    Last year plasma makers shipped 17.2 million units of plasma worldwide, hardly “nobody”.

    If you are happy with your purchase that’s great. We want our readers to know plasma TVs produce amazing images that are particularly well suited for sports viewing.

    HD Guru

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