SLIDESHOW

Top Choices: 46- and 47-Inch HDTVs

As HDTVs become ubiquitous, prices have dropped dramatically on sets that provide an optimal combination of handy features, elegant design, and superior image quality. Here are the five lab-tested 46- and 47-inch HDTVs on our current chart.

Samsung LN46B750

The Samsung LN46B750 HDTV may not be perfect, but it comes quite a bit closer to perfect than any other model in this size that we've tested. On picture quality it scored higher than any other 46- or 47-inch HDTV we’ve seen, and we found the set genuinely user friendly, with an intuitive interface and an excellent remote control.

While no TV speakers can replace a real surround system for optimal cinematic effect, sound from this set is as good as anyone could ask for. You can also connect the LN46B750 to your router via an ethernet cable and access news, weather, sports, financial information, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, and full-screen movie trailers. And you can stream media from any PC on your network with DLNA server software installed (such as Windows Media Player 11 or 12).

In the end, the combination of sound quality, clear picture, and Internet connectivity makes the LN46B750 well worth its high asking price.

Full review | $1600

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Toshiba 47ZV650U

Short on some of the extra features that we loved on the Panasonic TC-P46S1 and the Vizio VL470M, this 47-inch Toshiba LCD nonetheless catapulted to the second spot on our most recent chart due to its superior image quality and highly capable sound system.

The exceptionally energy-efficient Toshiba 47ZV650U boasts both a USB port and an SD Card slot (most sets have one or the other, not both), as well as a great remote. We didn’t enjoy the unintuitive menu or the lack of adequate instructions, but overall its performance was more than commendable.

Full review | $1300

Vizio VL470M

This slick 47-inch 1080p LCD HDTV wins points for its good looks and its excellent image quality. Turns out you really can be pretty and smart.

The higher-end VL470M has tons of menu options and, like other Vizio models, straightforward instructions on how to make the most of its many features.

We had some problems playing back media files from a flash drive, but the set performed well in our image quality tests. LCD screens (especially LCDs with 60Hz refresh rates) often have a hard time keeping up with quick motion, but not the 120Hz VL470M--it would serve admirably as a sports viewing center. Overall, it offers an impressive combination of price and quality.

Full review | $1300

Panasonic Viera TC-P46S1

The only plasma screen to make our list, this customizable 46-inch HDTV from Panasonic is certainly well designed, but its image quality leaves something to be desired.

The easy-to-use setup menu lets you go back to adjust your original preferences, create customized input labels, and access power-saving settings, among other options. The remote is equally well devised, with useful buttons for accessing controls and menus. The set can also create a slideshow from photos stored on an SD Card, and it comes with three HDMI ports. Unfortunately, it does not have a VGA port (for hooking up a PC) or music playback.

More important, in our picture-quality tests the TC-P46S1 slipped behind LCD models of comparable size: Its images lacked detail, and its skin tones had a slight green tint. At $1000, though, this easy-to-use set may be a good option for someone seeking a plasma model.

Full review | $1000

Vizio SV471XVT

This 47-inch budget LCD HDTV sports a cool price tag and has some nifty features that may make it a terrific choice for the economically inclined shopper.

In our tests, we found the energy-efficient SV471XVT simple to set up and use. We were also keen on the large, programmable remote, the USB port (for playing media from an external drive), and the music and photo sharing capabilities. Unfortunately, the set struggles with fast motion and doesn't offer nearly the same level of picture clarity as other HDTVs do. Its built-in speakers are below average, too.

Nonetheless, the trade-off may be worth it if you’re looking to get a pretty decent HDTV without shelling out big bucks.

Full review | $1200