What Should My Next HDTV Purchase Be?

Should consumer go with a quality 720p plasma or decent 1080p LCD?

Jul. 10, 2009 — by Simon Scotland

Q. I’m debating my next HDTV purchase. Should I go with a better quality brand (Samsung) 720p plasma with 2,000,000:1 dynamic range or decent brand (Insignia) 1080p LCD with 10,000 dynamic/native range? The price difference is about 50 dollars. - Mike, Phoenix

A. Mike, the short answer is, for $50, go with the better brand every time. It’s a no brainer!

There are only a few manufacturers of the panels themselves. I’ve often seen ‘no name’ brands advertise the fact that they use a panel made by a big name brand. Never be fooled by this. While the panel is a very important part of the screen, the supporting electronics are also very important.

Here you will find the scaler that takes the incoming picture and, if it’s standard definition, scales it to the size of the screen. Other processes take place for high speed motion and color adjustment before delivering the picture to the panel. This means that, for example, a Samsung panel with cheap electronics won’t look as good as a Samsung panel with Samsung electronics.

Developing consumer electronics is an expensive and time-consuming business. It is very difficult for the smaller companies to compete, especially with smaller budgets.

Also, treat manufacturer figures on contrast ratios with caution. The only real way to tell how good a screen will look is to see it demoed when it has been set up correctly.

You might consider the decent brand if you’re talking about a smaller screen that you don’t use very often. But it’s a different story for $50 in your main living room.

Return to full story: