Traditional Values

Big-screen, rear-projection HDTVs based on traditional CRT (cathode-ray tube) technology are inexpensive enough - and good enough - to warrant consideration by just about every shopper. But they aren't all that sexy. Most of the HDTV excitement is reserved for slimmer, lighter DLP (Digital Light Processing), LCD, and other chip-based "microdisplays." But don't be taken in by buzzwords and claims of superior picture quality: three-gun CRT models still offer the best big-screen bang for your buck.

The three widescreen CRT sets reviewed here - Zenith's 45-inch R45W47 ($1,700), Mitsubishi's 48-inch WS-48515 ($2,099), and RCA's 52-inch HD52W58 ($2,199) - are all priced considerably less than their microdisplay counterparts of the same size, and you'll find them selling for even less than their list prices in stores. Yet they offer similar conveniences, including digital tuners so you can get HDTV broadcasts by simply hooking up an antenna, and their performance is comparable to that of microdisplays - or even better in some respects.

Unlike microdisplays, which generally sit on a tabletop or stand, rear-projection tube sets are freestanding furniture, complete with casters. They weigh around twice as much as microdisplays, so they're more difficult to ship and install. On the other hand, buying one means you won't have to spring for a separate stand, and once you get it ensconced in your living room, who cares about weight? If making your HDTV dollar go as far as possible matters more to you than being on the cutting edge of style and technology, these three sets are worth a closer look. PDF: Features Checklist PDF: In the Lab