2010 HDTV Holiday Gift Guide 
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Written by Dick Ward   
Monday, 15 November 2010

The holiday season is rolling around and there's no gift more exciting than a television, whether you're on the giving end or the receiving end.  You can expect to see some absolutely crazy deals this holiday season, especially as Black Friday rolls around, but deal or not, you've got to make sure you get a great set for your money.

Up to $1,000

We'll start out at the entry level with sets that sell for $1,000 or less.  You get what you pay for, of course.  Sets in the $1,000 range won't boast the same video quality and features as a set that you'd put in your main viewing room, but they're great for second viewing rooms, cottages, or even as gifts for someone you love.

Sony Internet TV ShotTop Pick: Sony 40" Internet TV

If you're looking for a set that can do just about everything, this is it.  The Sony Internet TV, Sony Google TV, or NSX40GT1 – whatever you want to call it – does almost anything you need it to do.  It's a nice looking set that uses LED edge lighting for a solid contrast ratio, but it's not the video quality that sets the Internet TV apart.

As you might have picked up from the name, the Sony Internet TV absolutely dominates when it comes to online content.  It's got plenty of apps, a built-in flash capable web browser and it can even let you search your DVR without having to switch inputs.  It doesn't do 3D and it won't go over 60Hz, but if you're looking for entertainment options, it'll get you there.

samsung pn50c490b3d.jpgSamsung 50" C490 Plasma PN50C490

You're not going to find a cheaper 3D capable plasma set than Samsung's.  Though it has an MSRP of $1,099, the PN50C490 isn't being sold for more than $999 anywhere you look.  It's a nice looking set, but that low price comes at the cost of resolution.  Samsung's inexpensive set is only 720p.

This is a great set to buy if you're not yet sure about making the jump into 3D.  It's cheap, it's plasma – the preferred display technology for quality 3D – and it boasts 3D capability, but doesn't come with the required glasses.

Mitsubishi shotMitsubishi 60" Home Cinema DLP WD-60638

If you're looking for the best size to money ratio, you won't do better than DLP.  It's a less often seen technology these days, but don't count DLP out.  Mitsubishi's WD-60638 has a massive 60 inch 1080p screen with a six color processor to keep those images bright and vibrant.

Like the Samsung Plasma, Mitsubishi's DLP is 3D ready.  Unlike the Samsung though, you'll need to get more than just glasses to make it work.  An adapter and an IR emitter will be needed, both of which can be purchased from Mitsubishi in a starter pack with two pairs of 3D glasses.

$1,000 - $2,500

Jumping up a little in pricing can make all the difference in the world, especially since it gets you into the range of fully equipped 3D sets, higher quality screens, and the much sought after fourth color.  Keep in mind, we're looking at the current selling price here – some of these sets have MSRPs above the $2,500 limit.

Panasonic GT25 plasmaTop Pick: Panasonic  50" GT25 Plasma - TC-P50GT25

Panasonic has a history of excellence with its plasmas.  They sport better black levels than most, as well as better color reproduction.  The GT25 in particular boasts THX certification, which means you'll also get THX Mode, saving you some hassle in calibration.

The GT25 shines when it comes to 3D, too.   Panasonic plasmas were just rated as the best 3D sets by Consumer Reports which cited very small amounts of ghosting as compared to other sets.  It's a good thing too, since if you buy a GT25 before the end of the month, you'll get a starter kit that includes a DMP-BDT100 Blu-ray player and two pairs of glasses.
sony internet TVSony 46" Internet TV - NSX40GT1

If you don't care about 3D, this might be the most exciting set in its price range.  It may not offer the absolute top in video quality - LED edge lighting leaves something to be desired – but it's by no means a bad looking set.  

Unlike most of the TVs on the list though, it's not the picture that really gets us excited.  The Internet TV packs a load of features into one set.  You get an internet browser, apps for Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon on Demand and more.  The set even comes with a QWERTY keyboard to make searching and web navigation even easier.

Samsung 8000 seriesSamsung 50" 8000 Series Plasma - PN50C8000YF

The 8000 series is a huge step up from Samsungs sub-$1,000 plasma offering.  It ups the resolution to 1080p and adds an E3 panel and Samsung's own Crystal Full HD Engine that promises improved color saturation and an elimination of off-angle reflections.  It's also internet capable and can access Netflix, Blockbuster, YouTube and more.

Samsung's 8000 line also includes a Blu-ray starter package if purchased before the end of the month.  In addition to two pairs of glasses, you'll get a BD-C5900 3D Blu-ray player absolutely free.  Not too shabby for someone that wants to jump into 3D.

Sharp QuattronSharp 52" Quattron - LC-52LE810UN

Sharp's Quattron  doesn't do 3D, and though it's got plenty going for it as far as internet features goes thanks to Aquos Net, it's not a set that relies on these features.  The LE810UN  is designed exclusively with picture quality in mind.

It's a 1080p set that uses a new X-Gen light panel that Sharp says minimizes light leakage and allows for the highest contrast level in the industry.  It also uses a fourth color – yellow – to the traditional red, green and blue.  

$2,500 and up

This is where things start to get really interesting and where your TV doesn't have to sacrifice features for price.  It's also the price point where these turn into presents for yourself rather than for someone else.

Samsung 9000 seriesTop Pick: Samsung 55" 9000 Series LCD UN55C9000ZF

You won't find this one at big box retailers or hanging around in stores that sell a little bit of everything.  This is the top of the line for Samsung and it clearly earns the title.  The 9000 is quite thin at just under a third of an inch and boasts the best features Samsung has to offer.

The Samsung 9000 offers a 6,000,000:1 contrast ratio and a refresh rate of 240Hz.  It boasts WiFi capabilities for streaming of internet content, an Ultra Clear Panel to eliminate reflections and Samsung's own Wide Color Enhancer to make your 2D and 3D movies look as good as they can.  The 9000 also comes with an incredibly cool touch screen remote that helps set it apart from the competition.

Panasonic plasmaPanasonic 85" Plasma TH-85PF12U

If you've got the money – between $20,000 and $30,000 depending on where you get it – you're not going to do much better than Panasonic's monster plasma.  It's the biggest on the market and stands four feet tall, measures over six and a half feet in length and weighs in at a massive 260 pounds.

No, it doesn't do 3D and it's not packed with internet streaming features.  In fact, there's only one real feature that even needs to be mentioned – it's an 85 inch plasma.

Mitsubishi laservueMitsubishi 75" Laservue L75-A91

When the Laservue A90 hit the market it made quite an impression.  The A91 aims to improve upon the already impressive reputation of Mitsubishi's unique technology by adding features both to improve the image quality and improve the user experience.

The L75-A91 offers a new feature called Perfect Tint that lets you adjust the tint of all six colors individually.  It also introduces StreamTV internet capability to the Laservue series.  Of course, the most important thing about the A91 is that it purports to offer twice the color of any other set on the market today.

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