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Consumer Reports Reveals that HDTV Shoppers Get More for the Money

YONKERS, NY – Consumers who have a high-definition TV on their shopping list this holiday season TV will be smiling all the way to the store. Thanks to continuing price cuts, they’ll be getting more TV for their money. The December issue of Consumer Reports covers HD TVs in all price ranges and sizes to help consumers during this holiday season.

Prices are expected to be about 30 percent lower on average than during the 2006 holiday season, with even steeper drops on some TV types and screen sizes. CR says that plasma TV prices will shrink the most – with 720p 42-inch models falling below $1,000 by the end of this year, along with some 50-inch models selling for less than $1,500.

“This holiday season there are many more high-definition televisions on the market and at lower prices, so a consumer can get a significantly better TV for the money than they could have last year,” said Paul Reynolds, Electronics Editor at Consumer Reports. In Consumer Reports tests, the quality of flat-panel TVs has only continued to improve. Picture quality, a critical attribute, matters the most according to CR, along with resolution, screen size – which consumers should not skimp on – and reliability, though these differ by brand.

How to match size and features to budget $1,000 or Less:

Consumers will find mostly 32-inch and 37-inch LCD’s with 720p resolution. These sets are perfect for bedrooms, or offices, but are a bit small for the main TV in a typical living room environment. Some of CR’s Quick Picks for excellent picture quality include the Panasonic TC-32LX700, $950, the Samsung LN-T3242H, $900, and the Toshiba Regza 32HL67, $900.

Holiday Forecast: This price range will continue to offer more choices, and consumers will be seeing much more in the way of 37-inch LCDs from major brands and some 42-inch plasmas from secondary brands.

$1,000 to $1,500: The options grow significantly in this price bracket. A major-brand 720p LCD set with a 40- or 42-inch screen is a fine choice for most homes. According to CR, the 40-inch Sony Bravia KDL-40S3000, $1,500, and the 42-inch Toshiba Regza 42HL67, $1,150, a CR Best Buy, both offer excellent picture quality, for their price. Also in this price range consumers will begin to see top-quality plasma TVs; a good choice would be the 42-inch Panasonic TH-42PX77U, $1,200, which provides great picture quality at a low price.

Holiday Forecast: Consumer Reports expects to see 720p 50-inch plasma models from major brands for less than $1,500 and the first 42-inch 1080p plasma at or near the $1,500 mark.

$1,500 to $2,000: Here consumers will find the richest selection of TVs. In LCDs come in 720p and 1080p models and screen sizes from 40- to 47-inches. The Sony Bravia KDL 40S3000, $1,500, is a great 720p set; for consumers who prefer a 1080p LCD, the Samsung LN-T4061F, $1,700 is a good option. For the first time, consumers can buy a 1080p 42-inch plasma TV for the same price as a 40-inch LCD. CR recommends two Quick Picks from Panasonic – the 42-inch TH-42PZ700U, $1,900, a 1080p model, and the 50-inch TH-50PX75U, $1,700, a 720p model which is also a CR Best Buy. Consumers can also consider a 56-inch rear-projection set with 1080p resolution, such as Panasonic’s PT-56LCZ70, $1,900.

Holiday Forecast: Look for more 46- and 47-inch 1080p TVs from major brands and 52-inchers from secondary brands for less than $2,000. Prices for 1080p 50-inch plasmas from big brands could dip below $2,000.

$2,000 to $2,500: This is the sweet spot for 46- and 47-inch 1080p LCD sets from major brands and 52-inch 1080p sets from secondary brands. Consumer Reports typically recommends quality over size. Consider the 46-inch Samsung LN-T4661F, $2,500, a CR Quick Pick, which excels in picture quality. Plasma offerings in this price range are very limited – 50-inch 720p models are less expensive and 50-inch 1080p sets are a bit pricier. But if a bigger screen is a priority, consider Vizio’s 60-inch 720p plasma, Maximvs VM60PHDTV10A, $2,500, or Mitsubishi’s 65-inch rear-projection WD-65734, $2,400, which has a fine picture quality.

Holiday Forecast: There should be a growing selection of major-brand 1080p 52-inch LCDs, with more 60-inch and larger 720p and 1080p plasma models coming in early 2008.

$2,500 and Up: Here is where consumers will find 52-inch 1080p LCD sets from major brands and 46- and 47-inch TVs in high-end series, such as the Sony XBR line and Toshiba’s Cinema Series. These lines add features like 120-Hz refresh rates for smooth motion and sophisticated video processing. Consumers with a budget of about $3,000 should consider a top-rated 1080p LCD TV from a major brand such as the 46-inch Sony Bravia KDL-46W3000, $3,000, which provides excellent picture quality on all types of content. For about the same amount of money, shoppers can also buy a larger 1080p plasma TV, like the 50-inch 1080p Panasonic TH-50PZ700U, $2,900, also a top-rated model.

Holiday Forecast: It seems likely that there will be aggressive price drops in the largest-size 1080p LCD sets. There will be a growing number of premium series 50-inch 1080p plasmas next year and 60-inch and larger 1080p sets priced around $3,000.

Also featured in the December issue is Consumer Reports’ first-ever report on TV reliability which covers almost 93,000 TV sets. The report found that there is mounting evidence that flat-panel LCD and plasma TVs have been highly reliable and require few repairs during the first three years of use, reinforcing Consumer Reports’ advice that consumers should ‘just say no,’ to extended warranties.

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