Best big-screen TVs money can buy

Find the winners and losers among the latest LCD, LED, and plasma televisions

Published: May 2013

Panasonic Viera TC-P50S60

Wondering how the new 2013 TVs are going to shape up? We recently evaluated 17 new models and found that while the majority of the models were commendable sets capable of delivering satisfying high-definition picture quality, there were also a few clear winners and losers.

Many of the TVs released early this year were from secondary brands, including Coby, Hitachi, Insignia, RCA, and Sanyo. But we also had new models from bigger brands, including Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony, and sets from JVC, Philips, and Vizio. It was no surprise that many of the best-performing TVs we tested were from those better-known brands.

Clear winners

Heading our list of winners: two sets in Panasonic’s new S60 plasma series—the 50-inch Panasonic Viera TC-P50S60 ($700) and 42-inch Viera TC- P42S60 ($650)—that had excellent high-definition picture quality, and the highest overall scores of any newly tested models. These sets also had a decent number of features, including built-in Wi-Fi and access to several popular streaming video services.

Two LCD TVs closely followed the Panasonic plasma sets: a 55-inch JVC, and a 42-inch Panasonic. The JVC had very good high-def picture quality and a lot of features, including 3D capability, built-in Wi-Fi, and access to the Netflix and Vudu streaming services. Panasonic’s LCD TV—a step-up model with more features than the S60 plasmas—had excellent picture quality, and better sound than the 2012 model it replaced.

Other higher-scoring sets include a fully featured 42-inch LCD TV from Vizio, and a more basic 40-inch LCD TV from Sony.  Detailed information—including scores for high-def picture quality, 3D performance (if applicable), sound quality, viewing angle, and motion performance, plus a description of features—about these models is available in our TV Ratings, which are available to subscribers.

To see all the winners from our latest tests, check our reviews and Ratings of more than 130 LCD, LED, and plasma televisions.

The losers

But other sets didn’t fare as well. LCD TVs from Insignia (Insignia NS-65D260A13, $1,000), Hitachi (Hitachi Ultravision LE42S606, $500), and Sanyo (Sanyo FVM4612, $480) had picture quality that while good, falls below what we expect from a TV set these days. RCA, which had three models in our Ratings, was the most inconsistent brand in terms of performance, as two models had very good high-def picture quality, while the third set—a bare-bones 52-inch model—had the lowest overall score of any of the new TVs in our Ratings. It was also the only set to earn a fair high-def picture-quality score, primarily due to its inability to accurately produce colors.

Other tested TVs

Several other TVs on the TV Ratings turned in middle-of-the-pack performance. Those sets included a 720p Coby and 32-inch 720p JVC in the smaller screen sizes, and a 55-inch Philips and 58-inch Sanyo—both 1080p TVs—among the larger-sized sets.  All these LCD TVs have very good high-definition picture quality, though they weren’t without some flaws.

Emerging TV trends

Based on our review of the new sets, some trends are emerging. One is that fewer LCD TVs have fluorescent (CCFL) backlights, as many manufacturers are moving to all-LED lineups. Also, more TVs now connect to the Internet using built-in Wi-Fi, and a growing number offer “smart TV” platforms that include full Web browsers and access to apps, and streaming video services such as Netflix and Amazon. But at least in this first group, 3D had less of a presence, with only one of the 17 sets being a 3D-capable TV.

The complete TV test results for all of these sets—and for those 2012 models that you can still buy—are now available in the latest TV Ratings. In our reviews, you'll find expanded descriptions, enhanced model pages, and more extensive detailed test reports for key performance attributes. For the first time, we are now also publishing the exact picture settings we used for evaluation.

Best TV brands

Read "Find the Best Plasma and LCD TVs" for more details.

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