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The axiom "You get what you pay for" is so often vindicated that when a product breaks the rule by giving you more than you pay for (or less than you pay for), we consider it big news. Among 46- to 47-inch HDTVs, the Samsung LN46C650 pulls off the rare feat of giving consumers (relative to what other vendors offer) a remarkable bargain, combining outstanding image quality with a very affordable price.Besides looking at midrange (46- to 47-inch) HDTVs we examined set in the 40- to 42-inch range and the 50- to 55-inch range.
Image quality: Samsung takes the top spot in this category with its 120Hz LCD LN46C650 ($1050), a midrange set that outperforms rivals priced much higher. On paper, the LN46C650 (one of the best products of the year; see page 86) looks as though it shouldn't have been able to outscore the 240Hz, LED-backlit TVs we tested, but it did--unmistakably. True, it exhibited mild imperfections with motion in The Dark Knight, and skin colors occasionally looked somewhat oversaturated, but overall the set's performance in our motion, contrast, and backlighting tests was very impressive.
The Sony Bravia XBR-46HX909 ($3150) and the Mitsubishi Unisen LT-46265 ($2500) tie for second place on image quality, while the LG Infinia 47LE8500 ($1800) falls only slightly behind them. The Sony delivered perhaps the most consistent image quality across the board, displaying reasonably good color and handling motion well, though it showed a little too much contrast in some scenes and botched skin tones in others. The Mitsubishi handled motion exceptionally well, but couldn't beat the Sony on color, contrast, or brightness. The LG HDTV posted roughly equal scores across the board but made a few mistakes in motion and details.
The Panasonic Viera TC-P46G25 ($1100) and the Hitachi UltraVision LE46S704 ($1300) struggled with every motion test. Despite the multitude of jaggies (one judge said that a diagonal panning shot was vibrating so much it could have been filmed in an earthquake), the nonranking Hitachi displayed passable color, brightness, and contrast. The Panasonic received the lowest image-quality marks across the board.
Features and design: At just over 1 inch thick, the LG Infinia 47LE8500 is the sexiest HDTV of the bunch; and despite being so remarkably slim, it keeps most of its ports easily accessible. None of the other sets had a particularly remarkable physical design, aside from a few quirks here and there: The Hitachi and Mitsubishi TVs have a few ports that can be a little tricky to access, and the Mitsubishi doesn't swivel at all, which is unusual for a TV these days.
As for image-tweaking options, the LG and the Samsung were the only two sets in this category to feature ten-point white balance. Both the LG and the Panasonic have a THX Mode, but the Panasonic wouldn't let us change the green levels at all, which made it difficult to calibrate.
Available streaming services and Internet options for this middle-tier category of HDTVs were much the same as for the 40- to 42-inch models: Amazon Video on Demand, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Picasa, Vudu, and YouTube are offered on most of the sets. Again, the LG television's options are relatively limited, and the Hitachi set lacks networking features altogether. The Mitsubishi HDTV comes with no Netflix support--a truly staggering omission--but since you can access Netflix on several different set-top boxes and game consoles, you may not miss it too much on the TV itself.
For head-to-head comparisons of the five highest-ranking 46- to 47-inch HDTVs we evaluated, see our "Top 5 46- and 47-Inch HDTVs" chart.
This story, "Best New 46- to 47-Inch HDTVs" was originally published by PCWorld.