I need to find an affordable 50" LCD.
November 22, 2008 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Hey AskMe, it's time for the yearly "Help me buy a TV" question! I need to find one that's right for me...

Or actually, my parents. They've asked me to do some research on it for them, and they have a few requirements.

They want to get a 50+ inch LCD, and they want to do it relatively cheaply (we'd like to spend less than $1300, $1500 would probably be doable if it's an awesome TV) so I'm not looking for anything top-end. I want to find a quality product, but they're upgrading from a Westinghouse 32 inch LCD so anything will be a drastic improvement.

720p vs. 1080p: I measured out the room and we sit approximately 12-14 feet away from the TV. This link says that at that distance, there's no discernible difference between 720p and 1080p--is that really true? I'd be fine with a 720p as they're usually a lot cheaper, but my concern is that a 720p TV is going to be lower-quality in other areas as well, such as colors and the like. We're getting HD cable and a DVR but I can't think of any content we'd be watching that would be in 1080p; I want to be future-proof, though, if there will be a noticeable difference between 720p and 1080p.

So, in short, I realize most people spend $2000+ on a TV of this size. That's not in our price range, and we're okay with that and understand that we might not get the best TV ever. However, I know that some TV's in that range have to be "good enough", and that's what I'm looking for.

I haven't posted on AVS Club yet, and I plan to. But I've always turned for Metafilter for advice, and wanted to do so again. Thanks for the answers that I know will come!
posted by DMan to Technology (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I bought last year's model of the 46" Samsung and it's fantastic. The 52" model is just over $1500 from Amazon, which includes tax, delivery, and unboxing/setup in your home. It doesn't have state of the art response time, but it's 1080p and damn good. If you can live just under 50", the 46" model is about $1200 delivered.
posted by mkultra at 1:37 PM on November 22, 2008

I haven't shopped very hard, but I keep walking past a lot of 46-52 inch plasma and LCD screens this season with prices $1200 or less, and I've noticed $999 more than once. All were real brands (Sharp, Toshiba, etc) with no Sonyo's or anything... so your price guesses might be a bit dated.

With the horrible retail conditions, I imagine there will be some pretty enormous sales this time around.

Also, whatever you buy will cost half as much next year (or more accurately, the same price will get you much more) so it's probably wise not to invest in anything top of the line right now. Flat screen prices have been plummeting for the last 18 months or so.
posted by rokusan at 2:25 PM on November 22, 2008

just wanted to say thanks for asking the question! :)
posted by mittenedsex at 2:37 PM on November 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Addendum: I was wrong; looks like our price limit is about $2000, with tax.

How smart is it to buy online? I'm a bit worried about not being able to see it in person first (although we could look at the model at Best Buy or something and then buy online) and wondering how hard it would be to return if there was a problem.
posted by DMan at 3:18 PM on November 22, 2008

I bought my TV online and didn't have any problems. If your TV requires service under warranty, at least with Samsung, they send a repairman to your house.

I'm not an expert, but my understanding is that Sony and Samsung are the top tier brands in LCDs, with Sharp, LG and Toshiba a step lower, then Vizio and Westinghouse below those.
posted by MegoSteve at 3:33 PM on November 22, 2008

OK, this is my one big recommend re. digital TVs. Be informed that some of the best brands contain a QAM tuner. My Panasonic 37" LCD is a very very good TV. And it is one of those with a QAM tuner. By possessing this little puppy, one is able to enjoy any local HD transmission from your cable company (and conceivably even over the air) that is, according to your local cable regulations, REQUIRED to be unblocked. We have cable's cheapest package, w/o the set top box and w/o the remote. We just plug in the cable and for $14 per month we get about 7 or 8 HD stations that piggyback on their mother-stations (when they are broadcasting in HD). That is, channel 7 is our CBS here, but on our Panasonic remote we press "7.1" and voiz la! HD shows on CBS, etc.! The same applies to other enhanced DTV stations that piggy-back. Catch: not all companies will even mention the word "QAM" in their spec sheet. Our Panasonic sheet and its website are mute. I found out about it at "AVSforum.com"

If you want to try out this feature, get TV with a QAM. But watch out: once you have cable that requires a box, the cable company reconfigures all the stations and if you don't have their level of service that brings in HD for their fee, it may be impossible to get the HDs free with your QAM tuner.

posted by yazi at 4:24 PM on November 22, 2008

Best answer: I've been researching this myself, though I don't have nearly the budget. I would suggest compiling a list by cross-referencing the reviews here with some of the Black Friday ads currently online. You should be able to come in well under your budget if you find one on special. If you find a better deal online than in-store you should certainly check it out in person to make sure you're satisfied, but also be sure that the shipping provided meets your needs. Some companies will only drop it off on your porch, but others will help you get it inside where you need it.
posted by kyleg at 8:42 PM on November 22, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the help so far!

yazi: Thanks for the advice, but we already have to have a cable box to received standard-def cable channels. So the QAM thing won't help me.
posted by DMan at 8:51 PM on November 22, 2008

Response by poster: I'm noticing that plasmas are generally cheaper for the same screen size/feature set. Is burn-in still an issue on plasmas? Not avid video gamers; we play Wii sometimes but only for an hour or so a night.
posted by DMan at 9:14 AM on November 23, 2008

Best answer: Before research I'd written off the idea of a Plasma due to my idea that they had burn in, but everything I've read over the past month of research I've done has said burn in is essentially a thing of the past. I always think Plasmas look better (people say this is likely due to the deeper blacks). I've been watching prices on the PANASONIC TH50PZ800U VIERA 50" Plasma, which online seem to hover around $1800-1900 right now. The reviews on it seem to be uniformly excellent and it has the best price/quality ratio I've found. It has a well-received THX mode that has presets for video quality that I like the idea of. Presets suck on many, many tvs. I'm waiting to see what prices due post-thanksgiving. They also have a cheaper 50 inch Viera Plasmas that are well reviewed, but I haven't done as much research. Additionally they have a 42" version that is much cheaper. link link link
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:48 AM on November 23, 2008

LCDs tend to be faster (better for computer use / some games) while Plasmas tend to have deeper blacks and better color gamut (better for tv / movies), but of course those are very broad generalizations: there are deeper LCDs and faster plasmas.
posted by rokusan at 2:24 AM on November 24, 2008

Response by poster: We ended up going with a 50" Samsung plasma (PN50A550 for anyone interested) and we couldn't be happier with it. Got it for $1500, which seemed to be a reasonable price to me.

Thanks for all the help!
posted by DMan at 12:37 PM on November 28, 2008

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