Expert Recommendation

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Best 42-Inch or Smaller HDTV Under $1600 for Watching Sports or Playing Video Games from Wide Viewing Angles in a Bright Room
Expert (7 Recommendations and 1 Compliment)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
November 2, 2009
Overview

In a bright room, a matte (as opposed to glass or glossy) screen is ideal for combating reflections and glare. For sports, gaming, and off-angle viewing, a plasma screen would be ideal, but the technology behind plasma doesn’t allow for anything but a large, glass screen. To compromise, all these LCDs have outstanding refresh rates (to keep motion blur to a minimum) and matte screens (with the exception of the last) that are sure to please whether the lights are on or off.

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My Best In Class Pick
Sony KDL-40XBR9

Sony’s XBR series of HDTVs has always been the company’s top of the line, and the KDL-40XBR9 is no exception. The XBR9 features a refresh rate that is 4 times that of a standard television so motion-blur should be a non-issue. The 40XBR9 has an extensive set of features and very accurate primary colors, which CNET.com described as “nearly perfect.”

Among these features are Yahoo! widgets which will allow you to check things like weather, stock reports, and headlines from the comfort of your couch. Additionally the set allows access to Amazon Videos on Demand as well as free services such as You Tube and Sports Illustrated. If the XBR9 is connected to your home network, you will be able to stream media from DLNA compatible devices (i.e a Windows PC).

Whats more and typical of Sony’s HDTVs, the XBR9 features a matte screen (rather than a glass or glossy one) that will make viewing great whether the lights are on or off. While off-angle viewing with the XBR9 won’t be quite as good as a plasma, it is on par, if not better than, other sets in it’s class.

My only gripe with the XBR9 is the way it handles it’s image processing. Although the 40XBR9 packs the huge 240Hz refresh rate of the other sets in it’s class, the motion blur reduction can’t be enabled without also turning on a film-smoothing effect. This means that while there won’t be any significant blurring, the image may appear artificially smoothed at times and look more video-like (as opposed to life-like), a major concern when watching sports or playing video games.

That said, a high refresh rate, matte screen, and solid off-angle viewing make the XBR9 an excellent choice for gamers and sports enthusiasts alike and my best-in-class pick.

Comparison with LG 42LH55

The LG shares the same screen type as the Sony (matte) so both will look great, bright lighting or no. However, the LG’s video processing isn’t quite up to snuff when compared to the Sony (although the difference may be difficult to notice) and off-angle performance is slightly worse.

Comparison with Samsung LN40B750

The Sony has a huge advantage over the Samsung and that lies in it’s matte screen, which knocks the pants off the Samsung’s glossy one in a bright room. To be fair though, the Samsung does maintain excellent black levels in bright lighting and allows the separation of film-smoothing and motion-blur reduction.

Pros
  • +
    Matte screen reduces reflections
  • +
    Solid picture quality
  • +
    Accurate color
Cons
  • -
    Video processing options limited
Sony KDL-40XBR9 is the Best 42-Inch or Smaller HDTV Under $1600 for Watching Sports or Playing Video Games from Wide Viewing Angles in a Bright Room
Where to buy
Sony KDL-40XBR9
Specifications
  • Screen Size: 40 in.
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Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
Best badge
Sony KDL-40XBR9
2
LG 42LH55
3
Samsung LN40B750
Customer Rating
Price
Screen Size 40 in. 42 in. 40 in.
Display Type LCD LCD LCD
Max Refresh Rate 240 Hz 240 Hz 240 Hz
Display Surface Matte Matte Glossy
Anti-reflective Coating N/A N/A Yes
HDMI Inputs (Total) 4 4 4
Component Video Inputs (Total) 2 2 2
USB Interface Yes Yes Yes
Ethernet Interface Yes No Yes
2
LG 42LH55

As the lowest priced set on this list, LG’s 42LH55 delivers a lot of bang for it’s buck. The set comes equipped with a matte screen so you won’t have to turn off the lights to enjoy a good picture and because of the 240Hz refresh rate, motion-blur won’t be an issue.

Furthermore, the LH55 features a plethora of picture adjustment options and, what could be considered somewhat of a rarity amongst HDTVs, on-screen test patterns so you can make sure colors are as accurate as possible. Videophiles rejoice! Because of this, CNET.com was able to achieve “excellent color accuracy” which was marred only by “less impressive” black levels.

Keeping the LH55 from the top is it’s average wide-angle performance and a lack of internet connectivity which severely limits it’s feature set (i.e no widgets and no streaming content over a home network). Otherwise, the LH55 is sure to deliver an incredibly smooth and high-quality experience for both gamers and sports junkies.

Comparison with Samsung LN40B750

The LG features the same matte screen as the Sony, so it will similarly knock the pants off the Samsung in a bright room. Color accuracy between the sets is roughly equal, if not better on the LG. However, Samsung does include an Ethernet connection and thus, a much more extensive set of interactive features.

Pros
  • +
    Matte screen good for bright lighting
  • +
    240Hz refresh rate reduces motion-blur
  • +
    Very accurate color
Cons
  • -
    Off-angle viewing could be better
  • -
    No internet connectivity options
LG 42LH55 is one of the Best 42-Inch or Smaller HDTVs Under $1600 for Watching Sports or Playing Video Games from Wide Viewing Angles in a Bright Room
Where to buy
LG 42LH55
Specifications
  • Screen Size: 42 in.
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3
Samsung LN40B750

The Samsung LN40B750 is a feature-rich option that is sure to please buyers whatever their needs are, but it’s 240Hz refresh rate will especially appeal gamers and sports enthusiasts.

Additionally, the LNB750 comes packed with such things as Yahoo! widgets and a myriad of connectivity options. The picture quality of the LNB750 is among the best in it’s class and is sure to impress.

What keeps this set from the top is it’s wide-angle viewing, which isn’t quite as good as the Sony, and it’s glossy, reflection-prone screen. Thanks to it’s 1500:1 contrast ratio, however, the LNB750 maintains excellent black-levels, even in bright lighting.

Pros
  • +
    Excellent picture quality and feature set
  • +
    240Hz image processing for minimal blur
Cons
  • -
    Glossy screen prone to reflections
  • -
    Off-angle viewing not quite as good as on the Sony.
Samsung LN40B750 is one of the Best 42-Inch or Smaller HDTVs Under $1600 for Watching Sports or Playing Video Games from Wide Viewing Angles in a Bright Room
Where to buy
Samsung LN40B750
Specifications
  • Screen Size: 40 in.
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com

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