If you're buying a TV these days, it makes quite a bit of sense to go ahead and buy an HDTV, which deliver much sharper pictures than traditional sets. HDTVs also offer Dolby Digital sound via a stereo hookup, so your system will look and sound like a movie theater.
All that's cool, but which kind should you buy: LCD, plasma, DLP?
Panasonic vice president of technology, Jeff Cove, says it depends.
"Each of these technologies all look beautiful," Cove said. "You have to focus on what's the most important thing for (your) living room."
For example, if you want to put a digital set in a kitchen or a room with a lot of light, you probably want to try an LCD.
"It's the best performer in really bright viewing conditions," Cove said. "Plasma wouldn't be as good."
LCD sets go up to about 40 to 45 inches in most product lines and smaller digital sets, Cove said, tend to be LCDs. Plasmas start at 37 inches and have their own advantages.
"If you and your family are going to be sitting 10 feet away from the screen and sit all around the room, you probably want to go plasma," Cove said. "It gives you a wider viewing angle. Wherever you sit in the room, it gives you the same picture. LCD gives you the best picture when you're right in front of it."
DLP sets also provide strong pictures but don't have the panoramic viewing angle of the plasma sets, which I think deliver the best overall picture. Panasonic lent me a 42-inch plasma for a few weeks before Christmas. Right off the truck, the set was beautiful, delivering rich, accurate color reproduction and images so clear during the Panthers' last football game that I almost felt like I could jump through the screen and into Seattle.
Plasma sets deliver better contrast than the other slim line sets, which makes colors look richer. LCD sets can't produce dark colors, especially black, as well. And with sports, plasmas look much better as LCDs can sometimes appear blurry because they can't flash pictures as fast as a plasma.
Now, the old rear projection sets, heavy and wide, still put out quite a good picture and are the most affordable sets. If you want to go past 50 inches, the costs for plasmas explode and you may want to consider the old rear projection unit. But know that rear projections are fast becoming a dinosaur in the industry. And there's one reason why.
"You can't hang it on the wall," Cove said, "and that's important to a lot of people."
What kind of set did you buy or are you thinking about buying? Let me know.