finally flattening
October 24, 2012 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Recommend an HDTV, late 2012 edition.

I'm a CRT-using dinosaur, but I was thinking coming holiday sales might be the time to finally go flat. Viewing distance is around 12 feet (3.6m for people in civilized countries.) Does anyone have any specific models to recommend?

Desired specs:
  • 37-42".
  • I figure 1080p, but I'd consider 720p (I know 720p is entirely adequate at these sizes/that distance, but it seems like most things are 1080p anyway.)
  • LED backlighting, and I'd really like it to be really backlit with dynamic control for good blacks, not edgelit, but that one seems to be a premium feature that's hard to find.
  • High contrast (see above)
  • It'll be controlled by an HTPC so I'm thinking a single HDMI or DVI connector is adequate, and I'm not interested in it having a built-in computer or net access or web gewgaws.
  • I'm indifferent to whether it has its own speakers
  • I'd like a digital tuner (and thus a coax antenna in), but I think that feature is pretty universal.
  • 120 Hz? Is it really so much better than 60Hz for playing 24fps video? I haven't been able to figure out if this issue's for real or just a/v elitists gotta elite.
  • No interest in 3-d
Are there any significant criteria I'm not thinking about?

I expect to get some freestanding piece of furniture to mount it on so I don't have to worry about the wall supporting it or the cat managing to knock it over.
posted by Zed to Technology (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What is your price range?

I asked this question a few months ago and it may include some helpful data. The best advice was to go to the store and choose what looked best to me.

This guide was very useful. I settled on this Toshiba (40", 1080p LCD) and it's great but you say you want LED.

I think 40" TVs tended to be cheaper because there's a lot of competition in that size, so there are more options and you can get a better quality for a lower price. TVs that size are heavy enough that a cat won't knock them over. I have mine on a low coffee table and it's very sturdy.
posted by DoubleLune at 11:51 AM on October 24, 2012

I can't recommend a specific model, although I'm very fond of and happy with Samsungs.

If you understand the difference between 1080p and 720p, get 1080p.

120 Hz is not worth it unless you watch a lot of sports, in which case there's a long, long argument you can have over whether it is worth it or not.
posted by griphus at 11:53 AM on October 24, 2012

120Hz is noticeable. Whether it's better is entirely up to individual preference - I find that the near-total removal of motion blur makes everything so sharp that it's much harder to ignore the fakeness of sets, CGI and makeup in TV shows and movies. I still switch it on when watching sports or playing a video game, though (and you can easily turn it off if you decide you don't like it).
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:54 AM on October 24, 2012

I just bought a new TV and settled on a Samsung 46" ES6500. I started knowing I wanted a Samsung LED TV because I've had good luck with them in the past. Then I went to this (mildly spammy) Guide to Samsung LED TVs to understand the differences in model numbers. The E6500 has some gimmicks that probably aren't worth the price; 3D and a bullshit claim of 240Hz (spoiler: it's 120Hz). But it sure looks great in my house, so I'm happy.

You already know what you're looking for, should be easy to find it. I agree the LED and dynamic backlight stuff is worth it. I absolutely think 1080p is better than 720p. 120Hz is useful because it can display 24fps, 30fps, and 60fps sources all without awkward frame doubling.

Prices at Best Buy and Amazon are just about identical.
posted by Nelson at 11:55 AM on October 24, 2012

Price range is something to the effect of "I don't expect to pay less than $500, but I'd love to be wrong" to "maybe could talk myself up to $700 or a little beyond, but it'd be a painful conversation."
posted by Zed at 11:55 AM on October 24, 2012

You want 1080P. You're hooking this thing to a computer, you want a decent resolution for when you're doing things other than watching video, like gaming or browsing the web. 1280×720 is okay but it's not great. 1920x1080 is a lot more versatile.

LED Backlighting: LEDs are great, but maybe consider a plasma? They're cheaper than LCDs and they have the excellent colour fidelity and contrast you're looking for, even in the lower end models. Also with plasmas refresh rate is not a concern, it's high enough to please anybody by virtue of the way these displays work. (Mine is 600hz)

You're right about refresh rate. Past 60hz it's not all that important although some epileptics have trouble with refresh rates between 60hz and 70hz so if you or anyone you know is epileptic try to go a bit higher. Here's a good technical explanation of refresh rates and how they apply to TVs.

I'd recommend an LG 50PV450 - it's a 50 inch plasma and I picked up mine for 800 bucks Canadian tax in at best buy. I'm very happy with this TV! Great bang for the buck. Tech specs here
posted by signsofrain at 12:15 PM on October 24, 2012

Current LG TVs have trouble with 24p HD sources I believe, so if that's important to you, perhaps stay away until they've fixed it in the next generation.
posted by pharm at 3:03 PM on October 24, 2012

I often rely on The Wirecutter for reviews. They like this Samsung.
posted by schoolgirl report at 5:59 PM on October 24, 2012

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