These days, HDTVs come with a ton of special features designed to make them multimedia powerhouses. But with all the fancy extras, it's easy to overlook the number one factor that makes a top-notch HDTV--image quality.
Here are the nine sets with our highest ratings in picture quality. Whether you're looking for a basic model for channel-surfing or one with entertaining Internet capabilities, the images on these HDTVs ranked highly in our tests.
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With its top-notch image quality and its ability to handle fast-action motion, our favorite all-around HDTV is the Samsung LN40B650.
This 40-inch LCD set had the best image quality of any TV we've recently tested. It delivers crisp, sharp images with good color. It also comes with Internet access to YouTube, Yahoo Widgets, Flickr, and a variety of games--all with an easy-to-use interface. It has some flaws: Its picture-in-picture feature is less than satisfactory, and it didn't do a great job upconverting 480p DVDs to 1080p.
But both limitations are easy to overlook given the LN40B650's reasonable price tag and its outstanding performance in every other category.
Full Review | $1200
Looking for an easy-to-use 46-inch HDTV with great picture quality in addition to Internet and multimedia capabilities? Consider the Samsung LN46B750.
This 240Hz HDTV excels at handling fast motion, making it perfect for viewing sports and high-action programs.
It also scored well for its brightness and contrast. In addition to its very good picture quality, the LN46B750 lets you access a variety of online services, and you can play media files from external USB storage or from your PC network. While the sound quality can't quite compare with that from a surround sound system, its impressive speakers pull you into the environment that only a 46-inch LCD can create.
Full Review | $1700
Sony Bravia 40W5100
The HDTV with the most complete collection of Web-based entertainment features is the Sony Bravia KDL-40W5100. But beyond its Internet capabilities, this 40-inch LCD HDTV can handle any type of program with ease: From sports to panoramic views, it consistently delivers high image quality no matter what is displayed.
The KDL-40W5100 includes Sony's own Bravia Internet Widgets (based off of Yahoo Widgets) that can display weather, news updates, finances, and more. You can also play music and videos, or view photos from any PC on your home network that has DLNA server software (such as Windows Media Player 11 or 12) installed.
Full Review | $1100
Sony Bravia 52XBR9
The Sony Bravia KDL-52XBR9 HDTV combines high picture quality with fantastic Internet options, making this set a great choice if you're looking for a fun multimedia display.
Its 52-inch LCD screen features a 240Hz refresh rate and some barely noticeable motion problems, but it handles horizontal and diagonal pans like a pro. One shortcoming is its limited color adjustments; you'll never be able to make the color look absolutely perfect, and you might see a slight green tint. However, the set's sharp contrast, great brightness, and good-looking images make it well worth the price.
Full Review | $2000
Although the Vizio VT420M lacks some of the options found in other HDTVs, it outperforms the competition where it really matters, in image quality.
Paired with superb surround-sound-emulation speakers, the set excels with its excellent brightness and contrast, and it handles motion well. The VT420M includes a headphone jack, and it supports multimedia playback from a USB thumb drive.
We really like the Pause Live TV feature, where you can pause the show you're watching by initiating recording for up to 30 minutes. The high image quality makes this 42-inch LCD HDTV a standout set with an attractive price.
Full Review | $1000
LG Electronics 42LH55
For a no-frills HDTV that focuses on image and sound quality, we recommend the LG Electronics 42LH55.
This 42-inch LCD HDTV features pleasant images that have only slight problems with brightness and contrast, but an easy-to-navigate wizard can help correct these image issues.
This HDTV is lacking in the extra-features department, and it doesn't handle motion very well, so this wouldn't be the best option for viewing action-intense flicks.
Full Review | $1100
If you're looking for a set that is a multimedia machine as well as a stellar HDTV, then check out the Samsung PN50B650 plasma HDTV. While it displays pleasing colors and vibrant skin tones on its 50-inch screen, it unfortunately doesn't handle motion as well as other televisions--what should be fluid motion is instead a punchy vibration.
But thanks to its ethernet port, this TV can access online videos, music, and pictures stored on your PC (via a DLNA server application), and other online content such as Twitter and a wide selection of Yahoo Widgets.
Full Review | $1200
The 47-inch Vizio VL470M LCD performed well in our demanding motion benchmarks and panning tests, making it a great choice for watching the Super Bowl and other fast-action programming. It also earned high marks for its handling of color and skin tones.
The VL470M has some appealing extra features, too. You can view slideshows of photos stored on a USB drive, complete with background music and a selection of slide transitions.
Full Review | $1300
The Toshiba 47ZV650U is a good-looking 47-inch LCD model with a great picture and an excellent remote. It's an all-business machine with limited special features, focusing mainly on image and sound quality.
Although it has some motion problems and its colors are somewhat dull, the 47ZV650U handles 720p content brilliantly, and its speakers provide a rich, full sound.
The 47ZV650U makes a great bargain HDTV--if you can work around the hard-to-use interface.
Full Review | $1300
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