How to Get the Best Deals on Flat-Screen TVs

ByABC News via logo
November 24, 2006, 9:44 AM

Nov. 24, 2006 — -- According to Consumer Reports, one in five Americans plan to buy a flat-panel TV during the holiday season.

But buying a TV is not as easy at it once was. There's a whole new language out there: Should you get an LCD, plasma TV or HDTV?

"Good Morning America's" technology contributor Becky Worley has the latest information to help you decide which one is right for you and where to get the best deals.

The good news, though, is that the price of flat-screen TVs has dropped about 40 percent from last year.

What Is HDTV?

HD (high definition) means more data is being transmitted to your TV, which means richer color, sharper images and a wider picture.

If you're going to spend more than $1,000, spend a bit more and get HD.

All flat-screen TVs are not HDTVs, so if the price seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. You're not going to beat the system by hundreds of bucks. Wal-Mart has a Viore 42-inch Plasma HDTV for under $1,000.

If you've found an off-brand HDTV that you feel comfortable with and you've researched, go ahead and buy it. But if you're not sure, pay a little bit more for the name brand.

There are two flat-screen technologies: LCDS (liquid crystal displays) are affordable up to about 42 inches. Plasmas are affordable up to about 50 to 60 inches.

Also the appearance is different: On an LCD, the whites are whiter and the colors are incredibly vibrant. They look great in a well-lit room.

On a plasma, the blacks are blacker. The blacks are inky, not gray or mottled. The colors are rich and saturated. For many enthusiasts who watch TV in darker rooms, it's the depth of color, not the brightness that matters. Plasmas are better in darker rooms or home theaters. Ultimately, you have to decide what you like best.

LCD Options:

At the low end, the 15-inch Advent Plasma (which is not HDTV) is $129. On the more expensive end, there's the 42-inch Sharp LC-46D62U for $2,599.

Downside for LCDs: The picture is not as good from the sides.

Plasma Options:

On the low end, there's a 42-inch Panasonic (not HDTV) for $1,000. There is also the Maxent 50-inch Plasma for $1,499, an incredible price, says Worley.

Finally, at the high end, the Pioneer Purevision 60-inch flat-panel plasma HDTV which costs $6,500.

Downside of Plasma TVs: People don't realize that even if you buy the HDTV, you still need to upgrade your cable or satellite service or use an HDTV antenna to receive an HD signal. Only 36 percent of HD set owners have made the transition to HD service, according to a new study by media research company In-Stat.

Plus, not many shows are broadcast in HD, but that's coming. When you set your budget, you must factor in the monthly cost of an HDTV signal from the cable company into your budget.