I've been quietly researching HDTVs since Christmas. I've been seriously searching for the past few weeks. I've spent at least 4 hours a day for the past week at every Internet site imaginable to try to find the cheapest option for the 8 brands of HD sets that I had narrowed down to. And I've visited every Best Buy and Circuit City within a 30 mile radius of my house to properly compare the visual appeal of those 8 brands. And then today, finally, I bought the Samsung T5054 50" Plasma that was on sale at PC Richard for $1299 with 18 months no interest financing. And after a good two to eight hours spent setting it up, I just watched the entire first half of the NBA All-Star game because the picture and sound were so brilliant, I couldn't shut it off. And I hate the NBA. But I love my new TV.
My old TV was a 36" flat-screen Toshiba with a deep CRT out the back that made it weigh a good 150 pounds. It could receive HD channels but it wasn't a true HD, I don't think, because it had the black bars on the top and bottom whenever I watched an HD channel (which I rarely did). I could get optical surround sound on the HD channels, but this I only discovered recently, so although my TV was pretty big and pretty nice, it was no logner top of the line. Yet it was only a few years old and was going to be a pain in the ass to move from my living room, so I resisted buying a new set even after everyone I know got the newest and latest high-definition plasma and LCD sets. Well I finally caved. I'm still not sure why it took so long.
The first decision was plasma or LCD. Most stores have way more LCDs available and most of the salespeople seemed to be pushing them, but CNET was universal in its declaration that the plasma is better as long as you don't have a bright room (which I don't), especially when watching fast-moving images during sporting events. Also, the LCDs weren't very good from side angles, although in my small living room with a 50" TV, that probably didn't end up mattering.
The second choice was size and I was leaning toward 42" all along and it was really only the huge price break on the Samsung at PC Richard that drove me toward the larger set. And you know what? It is big. It kind of envelopes the entire space and dominates everything in the room, but hey, that's not such a bad thing necessarily. Is it too big? I don't think so. If I start getting blinding headaches from watching too much TV, I guess I'll know.
The third choice was brand, which was probably the easiest decision. For plasmas, CNET only ranks three brands well at all - Samsung, Panasonic, and the higher end Pioneer. I toyed with all of them and the Pioneer definitely looked better at the stores, as did the newer Samsung and Panasonic models. But there was at least an $800 price difference between those models and the one I ended up buying. That was just too much for me for what were minor differences that I noted while watching at the stores. Will my set become obsolete sooner? Probably. But even the brand new ones out today will be obsolete in a few years. So I'll just buy another one.
The final choice, related to the above, was the 1080p vs. 720p decision. I bought an older model Samsung (out for over a year) with a 720p/1080i resolution. The newer model LCDs are all 1080p and the plasma brands have been playing catchup by releasing their own 1080p models. According to CNET, there's no difference between the two for a TV under 50", and cable television doesn't even come in at 1080p yet (or in the foreseeable future), so we're really only talking about 50"+ TVs using HD DVD players. But at the stores, the 1080p definitely looks nicer, even though the signals coming in were cable or satellite. So I don't know. I was very, very tempted into plopping down $2200 for the Samsung T5084 or $2400 for the Panasonic model, but I just couldn't do it. That seemed like way too much to spend for such a seemingly minor improvement. Of course, this puts off my purchase of a Blu-Ray DVD player for the foreseeable future, but that may be a good thing.
So that's how it went. I searched and searched and couldn't decide between the Samsung or the Panasonic or the pricier Pioneer and the 42" or the 50" and the 720p or the 1080p until finally I saw this offer at PC Richard and I simply couldn't refuse. Was the entire process a pain in the ass? Yes. Would I want to do it again? No. Am I glad I've got the new TV set up and ready to go? Absolutely. Now I've got to get back to the NBA All-Star game. So much for doing any homework tonight.