Expert Recommendation

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Best 42-Inch or Smaller HDTV Under $1000 for Watching Movies or TV Shows
Expert (3 Recommendations)
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September 29, 2009
Overview

The best sub-$1000 medium-sized television set is the Panasonic TC-P42G10. The picture quality on this HDTV is something that you will have a hard time topping, even in more expensive models.

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My Best In Class Pick
Panasonic TC-P42G10

The TC-P42G10 is a beast of a TV. This plasma features everything needed for widescreen viewing and fits into most people’s budgets. The black colors in this are full and rich, with great shadows and it creates a top-notch viewing experience in the dark as well as the light. You really have to see it to believe it.

Wired.com gave it their editors pick and said it ”…not only blew our eyeballs away with stunning color accuracy, but it comes with a price tag that makes its former competitor snivel in the corner with shame.”

The stand that comes with the TC-P42G10 does not allow rotation, so it is a little difficult to reach all the outlets in the back. Even without a rotating stand, the viewing is great at all angles.

The TV is equipped with a THX Certified Display mode meant to make movies look exactly how the director intended, all with the click of a button. It is a great feature that really sets this TV apart from the rest, but it only works well in the dark.

Panasonic’s Viera Cast is something the company uses on their HDTVs that allow the user to stream content from Web sites such as Youtube and rent or purchase movies from Amazon Video On Demand. It’s nice for those days when noting is on cable, but isn’t something that warrants a must buy.

With the amazing picture you will get, this HDTV easily earns my praise as best in class.

Comparison with Toshiba 42ZV650U

While they may not be as popular as they once were, plasmas are still the best way to go in a situation where lighting can be controlled. You will get much better blacks out of the Panasonic TC-P42G10 than the Toshiba 42ZV650U and even though the latter creates a 240 Hz effect, quick movements on the TC-P42G10 will look better.

Comparison with Samsung LN40B550

The Samsung LN40B550 looks the prettiest out of all the HDTVs mentioned, but it comes in third on the list. However more noticeable motion blurring and underwhelming speakers relinquish its right to the best in class throne.

Pros
  • +
    Incredible black levels
  • +
    Beautiful colors
Cons
  • -
    Base does not swivel
  • -
    THX mode only works well in dark
Panasonic TC-P42G10 is the Best 42-Inch or Smaller HDTV Under $1000 for Watching Movies or TV Shows
Where to buy
Panasonic TC-P42G10
Specifications
  • Screen Size: 42 in.
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Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Panasonic TC-P42G10
2
Toshiba 42ZV650U
3
Samsung LN40B550
Customer Rating
Price
Screen Size 42 in. 42 in. 40 in.
LCD Backlight Technology N/A CCFL CCFL
Pixel Response Time <1 ms 8 ms 6 ms
Max Refresh Rate 600 Hz 240 Hz 60 Hz
Display Format 1080p 1080p 1080p
Display Resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels 1920 x 1080 pixels 1920 x 1080 pixels
Anti-reflective Coating Yes No No
HDMI Inputs (Total) 3 4 4
Component Video Inputs (Total) 2 2 2
S-Video Input Yes Yes No
VGA Input Yes Yes Yes
DVI Input No No No
USB Interface No Yes Yes
Dimensions without stand (W x H x D) 40.6 x 26.1 x 4.2 in. 41.7 x 26.2 x 3.7 in. 38.7 x 24.7 x 3.1 in.
Dimensions with stand (W x H x D) 40.6 x 27.8 x 13.2 in. 41.7 x 28.5 x 13.0 in. 38.7 x 26.6 x 10.0 in.
Swivel Stand No Yes Yes
Ethernet Interface Yes No No
Weight without stand 55.2 lb. 42.5 lb. 32.8 lb.
Energy Star Compliant Yes Yes Yes
2
Toshiba 42ZV650U

The Toshiba 42ZV650U addresses a big issue with LCDs: motion blur. The ClearScan 240 technology mimics the effect of a 240 Hz HDTV by adding LED backlighting to make moving images appear crisper. The 240 Hz refresh rate basically means the screen refreshes at double the speed of a 120 Hz LCD and four times the speed of a 60 Hz. A higher refresh rate will come in handy when watching anything fast-paced, like sports or action movies as images tend to blur the faster they are moving. Plasmas do not have motion blurring issues due to the different technology used to make them.

The Dolby Volume control automatically adjusts volumes so loud commercials that follow a quiet block of television aren’t as annoying. The better than average speakers help round out the best audio package out of the three HDTVs.

The colors look great and there are plenty of customizable options to tweak to personal taste. Colors are brighter on the sides, which is the case for many LCDs. The biggest issue with this set is the blacks are rather light and not as detailed. With sports and many other television shows the issue isn’t as noticeable compared to watching darker programming, such as horror or noir films. It’s also worth nothing that the screen is relatively shiny and would pose some problems in a bright room.

Comparison with Samsung LN40B550

The Toshiba 42ZV650U creates a 240 Hz effect which makes the picture marginally cleaner looking than the Samsung LN40B550. The Dolby Volume control and speakers also make for a better audio package than the Samsung LN40B550.

Pros
  • +
    Minimal motion blur for an LCD
  • +
    Dolby Volume control
  • +
    Great customizable color settings
Cons
  • -
    Lighter blacks
  • -
    Shiny screen bad for bright rooms
  • -
    Some color uniformity issues
Toshiba 42ZV650U is one of the Best 42-Inch or Smaller HDTVs Under $1000 for Watching Movies or TV Shows
Where to buy
Toshiba 42ZV650U
Specifications
  • Screen Size: 42 in.
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3
Samsung LN40B550

The Samsung LN40B550 is definitely the sleekest looking of the three HDTVs.

This particular HDTV comes with Touch of Color and leaves a red glossy finish over the edges of the black frame. It gives the set a more polished look but will not affect viewing. Older Samsung models had an illuminated logo which some people found distracting, but it has been removed for this model.

One drawback is the 60 Hz refresh rate. While the LN40B650 is the next model up and offers 120 Hz refresh rate, it is a few hundred dollars more. The difference in refresh rates means that the 60Hz Samsung LN40B550 will have more motion blur than the next model up. It’s not a deal breaker, but prevents it from becoming the second best option.

This HDTV looks great when in action. The folks at CleverReviews.com said their ”…reviewers who researched this flat panel agreed that picture quality was excellent regardless of the definition settings (from standard definition 480p to full HD 1080p)”. They were right.

The colors are vibrant and realistic, but it can’t quite touch the black levels offered by the Panasonic TC-P42G10. The speakers are not the best either, but external speakers would easily solve this problem.

Pros
  • +
    Touch of Color
  • +
    Great color saturation
Cons
  • -
    60Hz refresh rate
  • -
    Average speakers
Samsung LN40B550 is one of the Best 42-Inch or Smaller HDTVs Under $1000 for Watching Movies or TV Shows
Where to buy
Samsung LN40B550
Specifications
  • Screen Size: 40 in.
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