Looking for a television or computer this Christmas? Now’s not a bad time to buy.
Computers are as cheap as they’ve ever been and prices for HDTVs are dropping. You can buy a 32-inch HD set, a good entry-level size for the technology, for as little as $399, nearly half of what low-end models cost 12 to 18 months ago.
The rectangular-shaped HDTVs, used with equipment to receive HD signals, can deliver pictures that are much sharper than the old box-shaped TV. Plus they’re flatter and much lighter. To get the HD signals, you have to have a set-top box from your satellite or cable TV provider or a TV with a built-in digital tuner and an HD antenna.
Value HD Sets: Smaller is always cheaper. You can find 22-inch sets going for $229.99. But about the smallest you’ll want for everyday use is probably a 26-inch model. Our pick? Westinghouse’s 32-inch W3223 set ($449.99 at most retailers currently or $100 off normal pricing).
Lower priced/value option: Again, it’s about size. Step up in price and you get a wealth of 32- to 37-inch flat screens to choose from. And with HDTV, bigger screens generally look better.
You can also choose a rear-projection DLP set. DLPs don’t give out the crisp pictures that plasmas and LCDs do, and you can’t hang them on a wall, but you get more screen for less money. That’s why our pick here is the 56-inch Samsung DLP HL56A650 ($999.99).
Big splurgers: We think plasmas have better pictures than LCDs. They have deeper blacks, handle fast-motion better and more life-like. If money’s no object, go get a Pioneer Elite 60-inch for $7,000. You’ll think you’re looking out the window. But a better bet, even for splurgers, is to save some cash and get the Pioneer-lite, the Panasonic 58-inch PZ800U, which is $3,100 but generates about the second best picture out there among flat screens.