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Lab-Tested: The 10 Best 40- and 42-Inch HDTVs

For each of these HDTVs, the PCWorld Labs evaluated the image quality, as well as the extra features offered and how easy the model was to use. Here are the results.

Samsung LN40B650

With top-notch image quality and the ability to handle fast-action motion, the Samsung LN40B650 is our favorite all-around HDTV.

This 40-inch LCD TV delivers crisp, sharp images, and its speakers produce little distortion. It also offers fun Internet features such as Flickr, Yahoo Widgets, YouTube, and a variety of games--all with an easy-to-use interface. The only flaws we noted were the set's less-than-satisfactory picture-in-picture function and its mediocre upconversion of 480p DVDs to 1080p.

Both drawbacks are easy to overlook given the LN40B650's price tag (not superlow, but reasonable considering what you get) and its outstanding performance in every other respect.

Full review | $1200

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LG Electronics 42LH50

For an easy-to-use 42-inch HDTV with a great feature set, consider the LG 42LH50. Its connected features are some of the best we've seen: The 42LH50 has built-in support not only for Yahoo Widgets but also video-on-demand from Netflix, Vudu, and YouTube.

Although the 42LH50's full user manual is available only online or through the included CD, the TV's first-time wizard makes setting up the inputs a breeze. The 42LH50 also offers effortless network connectivity and above-average image quality.

Full review | $1100

Sony Bravia KDL-40W5100

The HDTV with the most complete collection of Web-based entertainment we've tried recently is the Sony Bravia KDL-40W5100. It includes Bravia Internet Widgets (based on Yahoo Widgets) that can display weather, news updates, finances, and more. And thanks to the KDL-40W5100's ethernet connection, you can also play music, videos, or photos on the TV from any networked PC running DLNA server software (such as Windows Media Player 11 or 12).

This 40-inch LCD HDTV handles any type of program with ease: From sports to panoramic views, it consistently delivers high image quality no matter what you watch.

Full review | $1100

Vizio VT420M

Although the Vizio VT420M lacks some of the options found in other HDTVs, this 42-inch LCD set performs well where it really matters: image quality.

The VT420M excels at handling color, brightness, and contrast. Its features include superior audio, a headphone jack, and support for multimedia playback from a USB thumb drive. And in our tests, its speakers did a great job emulating surround sound.

We really like the Pause Live TV feature, with which you can pause the show you're watching by initiating recording for up to 30 minutes. The VT420M's high image quality makes this a standout set at a reasonable price.

Full review | $1000

LG Electronics 42LH55

If you're looking for a no-frills HDTV that focuses on image and sound quality, we recommend the LG Electronics 42LH55. This 42-inch LCD HDTV displays pleasing images that have only slight problems with brightness and contrast (and an easy-to-navigate wizard can help correct such issues, too).

This HDTV is lacking in extra features, however, and it doesn't handle motion very well, so it wouldn't be the best option for viewing sports or action-intensive flicks.

Full review | $1100

Vizio SV421XVT

The Vizio SV421XVT is a great budget 42-inch LCD HDTV that also offers multimedia playback from USB drives and a 240Hz refresh rate, for an estimated price of $900. It displays good picture quality and handles motion well.

But the SV421XVT really stands out for its simplicity: It's nearly painless to set up thanks to its accessible inputs and setup wizard. It also has an easy-to-use remote control with well-placed buttons that allow you to change between inputs in a flash. Though its color accuracy wasn't perfect and it had some problems with detail in our tests, the SV421VT still offers a lot for a knockout price.

Full review | $900

AOC Envision L42H961

Aside from some difficulty handling fast motion, the 42-inch AOC Envision L42H961 LCD delivers pleasing image quality at a rock-bottom price.

We recommend this set if you're looking for a bargain, bare-bones HDTV, as the L42H961 lacks media-playback capabilities and network connectivity. However, it does come with a lot of input connectors, including a VGA input for PC hookup. While not ideal for sports or action-intensive programs, the L42H961 covers the basics and is a great starter HDTV.

Full review | $700

Insignia NS-L42X10A

With plenty of customization options for tweaking sound and image, the Insignia NS-L42X10A offers plenty of flexibility for a personalized viewing experience. We really like the Channels menu, where you can pick favorite channels and delete the ones you don't want to surf.

The NS-L42X10A has a nice selection of picture options, including an Energy Savings mode that conforms to Energy Star requirements, as well as Vivid, Sports, Theater, color modes, and a create-your-own color mode that you can program. Though the picture quality (particularly color and contrast) could be better, the NS-L42X10A has fun options that make it a great buy.

Full review | $700

Vizio SV420M

If you're looking for an HDTV that does its part to conserve energy, try the Vizio SV420M, a set that exceeds Energy Star's three power requirements. But just because it's environmentally friendly that doesn't mean it lacks in picture quality.

Apart from a slight loss of detail in dark areas, the SV420M displays stunning color on its 42-inch screen. This 120Hz, 1080p LCD model has one stand-out feature that you normally won't see at this price point: picture-in-picture from two different video sources. Although the SV420M lacks a network hookup for Internet features or external media support, its extra features and midrange price place this set high on our list.

Full review | $1000

Panasonic Viera TC-P42X1

The Panasonic Viera TC-P42X1 has a great price for a 42-inch plasma HDTV. It has an excellent viewing angle, so you can sit way off to the side of the set without losing any of the images' full color or brightness.

A few drawbacks to be aware of: In our testing, the TC-P42X1 gave everything a slight greenish tint, and it lacked the controls to fully remove the effect. The set has only 720p resolution, as well. Nevertheless, the affordable price of the TC-P42X1 makes it an attractive option.

Full review | $700

For more HDTV tips, see:

* Essential HDTV Accessories

* HDTV Buying Guide: Shopping Tips

* HDTV Holiday Pricing: How Low Can It Go?