Black Friday and it's slightly annoying younger sidekick, Cyber Monday, are both waiting around the corner to flex their sales deals muscles soon enough. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be looking for deals ahead of time on big ticket items like a new HDTV. There are numerous highly rated models available today under a grand, and possibly discounted even further after Thanksgiving...
We went diving online onto various tech review sites, Amazon.com, BestBuy, BuyDig, and other online sources to cross reference editorial reviews with customer feedback. The following 5 sets all scored amongst the highest in their respective size/feature categories in display performance:
1. Panasonic VIERA TC-P50ST60 50" 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV
Panasonic has long held a reputation amongst the plasma-loving contingency for picking up after Pioneer retired their legendary Kuro line. Key features: super rich oil black reproduction with Smart TV, Built-in wireless LAN and Bluetooth, 2D-3D conversion, voice guidance, and 2 sets of 3D glasses all for under $1,000 makes this one of the best televisions for videophiles on a budget, with 180 out of 243 reviewers giving the VIERA T60 a 5 stars score.
Amazon: "If you want a superior quality pictures with all the right blacks and vivid colors, look no further. If you just want a great TV for the money, look no further...Disadvantages that might disqualify this TV to someone could be the weight, since plasma TVs are a bit heavier, so if you plan on hanging this somewhere that the weight might be an issue, get an LCD. Also if you view TV in the daytime in a room with a ton of windows for some reason, you might want an LCD that handles highly lit rooms a little better. It is also a bit more fragile than an LCD and the glass is more likely to break if something hits it, you can buy a screen protector to solve that issue, but you will spend an extra $140 or so." - Corey
2. Samsung PN51F5500 51" 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV
Another plasma model, the Samsung PN51F5500 adds an additional inch compared to the VIERA above, while scoring a little lower in the black reproduction rating. That doesn't mean it's not a great HDTV set in the sub-$1,000 price range, offering a more decor-boosting presence with a midcentury inspired base, handsome narrow bezel, 3D and smart connectivity features, energy efficient performance, and solid scores in the color and black reproduction categories.
CNET: "The F5500 is cheaper than the [Panasonic] ST60, but its picture isn't anywhere near as good. From color response to black levels to shadow detail, the Panasonic ST60 is superior in every way. That's not to say the Samsung F5500 is a poor television — it's not, and it will tan the hide of most LED LCDs in its price range. If it wasn't for the strong competition from Panasonic, we'd be praising the F5500's deep blacks and relatively good color." - Ty Pendlebury/CNET
3. VIZIO M501d-A2R 50" 1080p 240Hz 3D Smart LED HDTV
Vizio has staked out the territory as one of the best bang for the buck brands, and the sleek (at least from the front) 50" M-Series is color-punchy LED LCD with respectable contrast detailing, thanks to a local dimming LED technology. Friends will likely ooh and ahh at the "nearly nothing there" front bezel, while smart TV apps like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, MGO, VUDU, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Facebook all take advantage of the wireless connectivity features. Vizio also doesn't skimp with their 3D, offering eight pairs (yes, eight!) of Theater 3D Glasses included with the display.
PCMag: "You can get HDTVs with slicker designs or better pictures like the Samsung PN60F8500 or the LG 55LA8600, but you'll pay nearly twice as much for them. The M551D-A2R's combination of price and performance makes it our new midrange Editors' Choice HDTV, edging out the Panasonic TC-L55ET60 in sheer value." - Will Greenwald/PCMag
4. Toshiba 39L1350U 39" 1080p 120Hz LED HDTV
The video gamers choice, this Toshiba model sports a key feature specific to a gamer's needs besides the modest price: the 39L1350U is rated for an input lag rating of just 30ms with surprisingly good black reproduction from a LED display. The Toshiba scored 4 stars or higher with 133 of 166 reviews amongst Amazon reviewers and is the most affordable of our five picks. But note there are some reports of inaccurate color reproduction, so be sure to pick up a calibration disc to fine tune this bedroom or small space HDTV before firing up a game or movie.
Reviewed.com: "...the 39-inch model we tested actually sort of astonished us with its hefty contrast, the color performance sobered us back up in a jiffy—and that's just one of several significant problems we noted with this TV's picture. [The] L1350U barely weighs a thing—with the stand, just 17 pounds. I could easily move this display from room to room unassisted..." - Virginia Barry/Reviewed.com
5. Sony KDL-50R550A 50" 120Hz 1080p 3D Internet LED HDTV
Amazon customer reviewers overwhelmingly scored the the Sony KDL-50R550A 4-5 stars (96 out of 119), with many raving about the "excellent" picture quality and the inclusion of passive 3D technology (alongside including 4 glasses). Like many smart televisions in this price range, there were a few gripes about the slow app and internet connectivity, but in the age of tablets and media delivery set tops, this seems like a minor tradeoff for overall performance for a 50" 120Hz display.
Gadget Review: "The KDL-50R550A’s screen is as bright, colorful and evenly lit as any I’ve seen — certainly on par with the more expensive Sony models that preceded it. I also found that the KDL-50R550A displayed black extremely well, regardless of where the image came from, and can’t remember when black areas of a DVD looked this good or had as much shadow detail visible (I’ll credit a lot of this to the Edge LED backlit technology)." - Marshal Rosenthal/Gadget Review
(Image credits: Gregory Han; Panasonic; Samsung; Vizio; Toshiba; Sony)