I watched a lot of television growing up. But I was also a passionate reader. Okay, more often than not what I was reading was a Radio Shack catalog or the latest issue of the now-defunct <I>Audio</I> or <I>High Fidelity</I>. But sitting at least a dozen feet away from my parents' 21-inch console television with all the room lights on, it was easy to divide my attention between the book—er, magazine—and the latest episode of <I>Gunsmoke</I>.
Price: $3,299 At A Glance: Unique audio design • Inaccurate color tracking • Blacks measure better than they look
LCD Picture, Widescreen Sound
Many of today’s flat-panel HDTVs can look amazingly good. But when sets frequently offer similar features that differ mainly in name, it’s hard for any particular model to break loose from the yada, yada, yada sameness of the pack. That is, unless the manufacturer can convince the consumer that its Super Dynamic Image Enhancer is something he’s just gotta have.
You know who you are. You're an experienced <I>Ultimate AV</I> reader with friends who just bought a new flat panel HDTV for the holidays. They've had it delivered and set up by Crazy Zeke's TV and Refrigerator Superstore.
Price: $5,000 At A Glance: State-of-the-art black level and shadow detail • Superior color and HD resolution • 480i video processing could be better • Poor off-axis viewing
XBR Goes LED
LCD flat panels now dominate the television marketplace. But despite their popularity, they have been notably inferior to the best plasma sets in the depth of their blacks and the quality of their shadow detail.
Price: $1,700 Highlights: The price is right • Accurate color • Crisp, dimensional image with excellent resolution • Poor black level and shadow detail
At 61 inches diagonal, the Samsung is the smaller member of this two-set match-up, but it’s still considerably larger than most comparably priced flat panels. Also, like the Mitsubishi, you’ll be surprised at how light it feels. Even better, the price will also be light on your wallet.
The set provides an adequate number of inputs, including a WiseLink port—Samsung’s name for the USB connection that lets you view JPEG photos, listen to MP3 audio files, and input possible future firmware upgrades.
Price: $2,999 Highlights: Accurate color • A high contrast ratio with convincingly deep blacks • Bright, punchy, dimensional image
With its 65-inch (diagonal) screen, the Mitsubishi WD-65835 is the second from the largest set in Mitsubishi’s full-featured Diamond line. But it’s a lot lighter and more maneuverable than you might expect.
The set offers a full array of the usual video and audio connections. Plus, it includes the increasingly common USB port for viewing your JPEG photos. There is no RGB computer input. You can only connect a computer via a digital link to one of the HDMI jacks.
A small but vocal segment of the video business, and of video enthusiasts, believes that HD on a disc—that is, Blu-ray—is merely a stopgap. Soon, they are certain, we will all get our HD movie fix via Internet downloads.
Price: $4,999 At A Glance: Exceptional black level and shadow detail• Accurate color & superb resolution • Superior video processing • Limited acceptable viewing angle
Light Me Up, Dim Me Down
Last year, Samsung launched its first generation of LCD flat-panel sets with LED backlighting, the 81 Series. These sets were exciting in a number of ways. LEDs offer potentially superior color performance compared with conventional fluorescent backlights and also provide lower energy consumption.