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Consumer Reports: HDTVs Are Cheaper, Better Than Ever

If price is not an issue, the magazine recommends shoppers consider the more expensive 1080p models first.
High-definition televisions are better than they were a year ago, while prices have fallen by as much as 40%, Consumer Reports said Friday.

As a result, Consumer Reports magazine has given the technology its blessing in its March issue, saying there's no reason for consumers to wait to buy an HDTV. If price is not an issue, then Consumer Reports is recommending that shoppers consider the more-expensive 1080p models first when comparing the most popular types of HDTVs -- LCD, plasma, and rear-projection.

Consumers, however, should not automatically rule out less-expensive 720p models, since not all 1080p sets were superior in Consumer Reports tests, especially on smaller screen sizes. The better resolution of 1080p sets was not readily apparent until sizes of 50 inches or more. A 1080p TV has a frame resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels.

The top-rated 720p model was the 40-inch Samsung (LN-T4053H), an LCD set that retails for $1,500. The 42-inch Panasonic (TH-42PX77U) plasma, which is priced at $1,300, was the magazine's best buy for combining top picture quality and price.

Consumer Reports' top-rated set of 50 inches or more was the 58-inch Panasonic (TH-58PZ750U), a 1080p plasma model that is priced at $5,000.

One new feature in the latest HDTVs is lower energy consumption. Consumer Reports engineers found that the amount of energy used by the typical LCD, plasma, and rear-projection TV was not significantly more than a 32- to 36-inch picture-tube TV. One exception was 50-inch 1080p plasmas, which used twice the energy as the biggest picture-tube sets and more than a comparably priced LCD.

Repair rates were very low for LCD and plasma TVs, averaging 3% overall during the first three years of use, which is the time covered by many warranties.

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