3 Faces of HDTV

After half a decade of struggling to attract eyeballs, high-definition TV (HDTV) has turned the corner at last. A lot of people have moved beyond wondering if they should spring for an HDTV to asking themselves, "Which one should I buy?" If you've been pondering the same question, it's time to get a grip on the different types of big-screen HDTVs. So here's a hands-on review of the major rear-projection display technologies: cathode-ray tube (CRT), liquid-crystal display (LCD), and Texas Instruments' Digital Light Processing (DLP).

To showcase these technologies, we called in three widescreen sets, all HDTV monitors (the name for sets without built-in digital tuners): Mitsubishi's WS-48315 ($1,699), Panasonic's PT-50LC14 ($3,000), and LG's RU-52SZ61D ($3,300). Mitsubishi's leading role in the big-screen incursion into American living rooms over the past decade gives it an edge when it comes to traditional CRT-based rear-projection TVs. Panasonic was one of the first companies to offer LCD rear-projection HDTVs. And Zenith's parent-company LG is out to make a name for itself and aggressively trying to steal some thunder from other big names in the DLP rear-projector arena. While all three sets have their unique characteristics, which one you ultimately decide to go with will depend on your viewing preferences, taste, and, in some cases, budget.