Expert Recommendation

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Best Overall 50-Inch or Smaller HDTV Under $1600
Expert (7 Recommendations and 1 Compliment)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
October 29, 2009 Updated: November 9, 2009
Overview

The mid-range $1600 HDTV market is flooded with plasma and LCD options alike, but none will provide you with the picture quality and as much versatility as the Panasonic TC-P50G10.

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My Best In Class Pick
Panasonic TC-P50G10

Panasonic’s G10 line of plasma displays are among the best in their class and indeed the best you’re going to find for less than 1,600 smackers. The plasma display means that every angle in the room is a good one and there is very little to no blurring making the G10 one of the most versatile options for the price.

The G10 includes Panasonic’s VieraCast, which allows access to such internet items as YouTube, stock reports and headlines, and local weather. New this year is the ability to access Amazon.com’s video on-demand service.

If you’re worried about that ESPN logo or the Call of Duty HUD being burned into the screen, fear not. Burn-in on the TC-P50G10 is rare, but should it occur, Panasonic offers ways to remedy the issue. For prevention, a pixel orbiter can be set to automatically shift the image around the screen. And if burn-in does occur, the set’s scrolling bar function will likely clear it up.

Also newly available on the TC-P50G10 is THX Display certification. When engaged, this mode delivers near-perfect color accuracy (with just a couple of flaws) and black levels which CNET.com described as “Superb… with excellent shadow detail.” This coupled with the “3:2 pull-down” control and the “24p direct-in” option should please the cinema purists among you.

Wired magazine called the G10 a “plasma dazzler” and said they were blown “away with it’s stunning picture.”The G10 won’t disappoint.

Comparison with Samsung PN50B650

The Panasonic is able to obtain deeper blacks than the Samsung, bringing it’s picture quality to the top. Both set’s feature options are on par with each other, however (although the G10’s are ever so slightly more polished).

Comparison with Sony KDL-46XBR9

The G10’s plasma screen features much better viewing angles and deeper blacks than the Sony’s LCD but the latter gives it a run for it’s money in terms of features and connectivity. Additionally, the Sony’s matte screen makes it an excellent choice for bright rooms.

Pros
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    Great off-angle viewing
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    Very little to no image blur
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    Excellent value
Cons
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    Color accuracy a bit off
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    Glass screen more prone to reflections
Panasonic TC-P50G10 is the Best Overall 50-Inch or Smaller HDTV Under $1600
Where to buy
Panasonic TC-P50G10
Specifications
  • Screen Size: 50 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-P50G10
2
Samsung PN50B650
3
Sony KDL-46XBR9
Customer Rating
Price
Screen Size 50 in. 50 in. 46 in.
Display Type Plasma Plasma LCD
Display Surface Glass Glass Matte
Cinematic Playback Yes Yes Yes
HDMI Inputs (Total) 3 4 4
Component Video Inputs (Total) 2 2 2
Ethernet Interface Yes Yes Yes
2
Samsung PN50B650

Being a plasma, the PN50B650 is money well-spent no matter what you use the TV for. The set has what CNET.com calls “nearly perfect” color accuracy and is crammed full of interactive features and picture-adjustment options.

The PNB650’s ethernet interface allows access to such things as Yahoo! widgets (which includes such things as news feeds and weather reports), YouTube, and Twitter. Additionally, the set can connect to media devices (i.e, your home PC) on your network to stream videos, pictures, and music.

And for the movie-buffs and videophiles amongst you, the PNB650 features a film-mode which allows the set to display HD movies as true to their film counterparts as possible.

Comparison with Sony KDL-46XBR9

The Sony can go toe-toe in terms of features but it comes up short in picture quality and viewing-angle.

Pros
  • +
    Excellent color accuracy
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    Extensive feature-set
Cons
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    Glass screen more prone to reflections
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    Black levels not up to competition
Samsung PN50B650 is one of the Best Overall 50-Inch or Smaller HDTVs Under $1600
Where to buy
Samsung PN50B650
Specifications
  • Screen Size: 50 in.
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3
Sony KDL-46XBR9

Sony’s XBR series of HDTVs has always been the company’s top of the line, and the KDL-46XBR9 is no exception. The 46XBR9 has an extensive set of features and very accurate primary colors, which CNET.comdescribed as “nearly perfect.”

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.

My only gripe with the XBR9 is the way it handles it’s image processing. Although the 46XBR9 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) and while some may like this effect, many others will be turned off by it.

Pros
  • +
    Matte screen reduces reflections
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    Solid picture quality
Cons
  • -
    Video processing options limited
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    Expensive
Sony KDL-46XBR9 is one of the Best Overall 50-Inch or Smaller HDTVs Under $1600
Where to buy
Sony KDL-46XBR9
Specifications
  • Screen Size: 46 in.
More
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