Americans who are in the market for a new TV - perhaps in time for Super Bowl Sunday - will find models that are bigger, better, smarter, and cheaper, according to the latest Consumer Reports TV tests. The full report, which features Ratings of 140-plus LCD and plasma TVs, can be found in the March issue of Consumer Reports, on newsstands January 31, and online at ConsumerReports.org.
"If you're thinking about upgrading your TV, or if you're one of the holdouts planning to buy your first flat-panel TV, you'll find plenty of great models in our latest Ratings - many at prices that will put a smile on your face," said Jim Willcox, Senior Editor for Electronics, Consumer Reports.
Consumers should be heartened to know that TV prices are usually lowest in February and March, when manufacturers start shipping new models and retailers cut prices to sell off the old ones. Compelling new features on mainstream 2013 models aren't expected, so consumers shouldn't pass up great deals on top-rated 2012 sets. However, some TV bargains can be risky. Super-low priced sets, especially from lesser-known brands, aren't always the best deals. Some of the lowest-scoring sets in CR's Ratings - with below-average marks for picture, sound, or both - include TVs from Coby, Element, Haier, TCL, and Westinghouse.
LCD TVs from LG, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony have consistently been among the best performers in the Consumer Reports Ratings. Plasmas sets from Panasonic have been at the top, followed closely by Samsung and LG.
Internet-capable TVs proliferate
The Consumer Reports Ratings include more Smart TVs, or TVs that can connect to the Internet to stream video from various online services, putting on-demand movies and TV shows at viewers' fingertips. All tested TVs with this capability offer Netflix, but the availability of other services like Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and Vudu varies by brand. A growing number have full browsers for surfing the Web, built-in Wi-Fi, and access to an apps market. In addition to streaming video services, most Internet-capable TVs let you connect to a music service such as Pandora, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and even eBay.
Four basic questions to consider when you buy a TV
Buying a new TV is a big investment for many consumers. Here are four basic questions to consider when shopping for that new set: