Some quick picks
General buying advice is great, you say, but what about some specific picks? There are a few bigger sets in our Ratings that have impressed us with their combination of screen size, performance and price. For example, the Panasonic ST60-series plasma sets deliver a lot of what we like about the flagship VT60 models, at a considerably lower price. The 60-inch model, which doesn't skimp on any major features, sells for about $1,500, and the 55-inch version is a few hundred dollars cheaper. Its sound isn't so hot, so you want to consider adding a soundbar or other speaker system to convey the impact of a bone-crunching tackle.
LG cut back on its plasma lineup in 2013, but its 60-inch PH6700-series set, priced at just $1,150, had great picture quality and a lot of features, including the company's smart TV platform. We were similarly impressed with several models in Samsung's PNF5500 plasma series, especially the big 64-inch set, which had excellent picture quality, the company's smart TV platform, and an $1,800 sticker—a nice price for a TV this size from a major brand. The 60-inch version of this sets costs about $1,200.
Those looking for a big LED LCD TV should consider one of the new M-series models from Vizio, a company that's been aggressively pushing prices for big-screen, full-featured TVs ever downward. We reviewed the 60-inch M601d-A3R, which sells for $1,400, and came away impressed by its picture quality (excellent) and array of features, including Vizio's VIA smart TV platform. The company also has a less-fancy E-series, where you can get a 60-inch set (model E601i-A3) for less than $1,000 without sacrificing high-def picture quality.
Of course, not everyone has room for a 60-inch screen, and you can certainly trim the price tag by going smaller or choosing a more bare-bones model without features such as Wi-Fi and Internet access. We found models in the 46-inch to 51-inch screen size that we recommend starting as low as $600.
The bottom line is that if you're shopping for a new TV set for football season, even if you're on a budget, you won't have to sit on the sidelines. These days big screens don't always have to come with big prices.
—James K. Willcox