Social Connect
« Quality HDMI Cables for $7! | Main | Project HTPC: The Build »

$800 Big Screen HDTV Recommendations

Best wishes and take care.Right now is prime time for HDTV shopping, and I'm receiving a steady stream of requests for product recommendations.  A recently received query inquired about what big screen HDTV options there were for around USD$800.  This person wanted a screen size of about 50-inches and they were partial to the sublime picture quality of plasma displays, or perhaps a decent LCD if one stood out.

Here are three of my 'must have' prerequisites for big screen HDTVs (at any price):

  • 1080p screen resolution (1,920 by 1,080 pixels)
  • Ample HDMI inputs (at least 3)
  • Can display 24p video (Blu-ray) at a 24x refresh rate

That last item is for cinema purists who prefer a display that can evenly repeat the frames within a 24fps video stream (Blu-ray movies/players) for display at higher refresh rates such as 48Hz, 72Hz, 96Hz, 120Hz, or 240Hz - all even multiples of 24.  This type of video processing (frame repeating) maintains the film-like look of the original presentation unlike frame interpolation methods that can can introduce judder or oddly/overly smoothed on-screen motion.

Considering our $800 budget and desire for some big screen goodness, available candidates will most likely lack today's premium TV features such as support for 3D content and Internet-based multimedia streaming services (e.g., NetflixPandora, Vudu) - the latter could be added to any TV via a capable Blu-ray player or other set top box.

Generally speaking, plasma televisions provide more screen area per dollar spent than LCDs, but plasma TVs can be energy hogs especially if the brightest picture mode preset (often labeled 'vivid') is selected.  Also keep in mind that most plasma TVs are designed for use at altitudes of less than 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) - plasma TVs tend to emit more electromechanical noise (often perceived as high pitched squealing) as elevation increases.

Here are two solid $800-ish plasma TVs:

LG 50PK550
LG 50PK550 Plasma Television

  • 50 inch screen size
  • 3 HDMI ports [1 side]
  • 2 component video inputs
  • Analog PC input (VGA)
  • USB [music, pictures]
  • 24x refresh rate: yes (72Hz)
  • Swivel stand
  • Panel depth: 2.2 inches
  • Warranty: 2 years panel; 1year parts/labor

Panasonic TC-P50S2
Panasonic TC-P50S2 Plasma Television

  • 49.9 inch screen size
  • 3 HDMI ports [1 side]
  • 2 component video inputs
  • SD card reader [pictures]
  • 24x refresh rate: no
  • Panel depth: 3.7 inches
  • Warranty: 1 year parts/labor

Comparing the specs of the aforementioned plasma televisions, LG's PK550 provides these advantages over Panasonic's S2:

  • Improved warranty
  • Analog PC input (VGA)
  • Swivel stand
  • Slim cabinet depth
  • Can display 24p video at a 24x refresh rate

The Panasonic (like most modern HDTVs, 1080p or not) accepts a 1080p24 video signal without complaint, but the signal is immediately converted to 60Hz (the TV's refresh rate) - see related: Telecine judder.  The LG also provides a superior selection of picture calibration controls.

Liquid Crystal Display
Looking at LCD televisions, our budget and prerequisites put us in the 46/47 inch screen size category.  A slightly smaller screen, but significantly brighter and with excellent energy efficiency.  LCD's main weakness is that its picture contrast, color saturation, and hue degrade when the screen is viewed outside of its sweet spot (front and center).  The picture quality of plasma televisions is negligibly affected as viewing angle increases.

Toshiba 46G300U
Toshiba 46G300U LCD Television

  • 46 inch screen
  • 4 HDMI [1 side] w/InstaPort
  • 1 component video input
  • Analog PC input (VGA)
  • USB [music, photos]
  • Ethernet port for DLNA streaming [photo, music, MPEG2 video]
  • Panel depth: 3.52 inches
  • Warranty: 1 year parts/labor

LG 47LD520
LG 47LD520 LCD Television

  • 47 inch screen
  • 3 HDMI [1 side]
  • 1 component video input
  • Analog PC input (VGA)
  • USB [music, photos]
  • Picture Wizard [calibration tool]
  • Headphone output
  • Panel depth: 4.00 inches
  • Swivel stand
  • Warranty: 1 year parts/labor

Both LCDs feature 120Hz display technology that can present 24p video using a 5x frame repeat for a more cinema-like viewing experience.  The Toshiba G300U's network multimedia streaming abilities certainly add to its appeal as does its extra InstaPort-enabled HDMI port.

Reader Comments (6)

thanks Robert, I am going to wait until I get my tax refund, so keep the great recommendations coming.

November 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

I was thinking of a new TV, finally. I googled "robert heron lcd tv" within a short time I learned what I needed and picked my TV... Thanks AGAIN Robert! I can always use a hit of Heron!

November 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom Rowles

Does the Toshiba pass through the audio from HDMI to the
optical audio port or is that only for Internal Tuner? I assume the
former, since it does not have an analog audio out, but one never
knows. I was about to buy this TV, but can't seem to find a
definative answer.

December 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Hey Robert,

Is there anyway we can get your choice for "the" best tv no matter the size for $800ish or under?

January 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Thanks for the great info Robert! Have fun with Portal 2!!!

April 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOpticX86

My first attempt at creating a HTPC based video recorder failed miserably, I tried to use a Hauppauge WinTV DCR 2650 am not sure why, thats why I am writing. I have Verizon Fios 50/50, bought a cablecard ($5/ month) from FIOS, The PC, intel 2nd gen i5
8 GB ram
(2) Hitachi 1 TB HDD
OS - Win 7
I am ready to try again, this time I thought I would use a Penton 4 chan output. I am hoping you may have some detailed destructions on how to build it, sure hope so. please list a URL with the info, thks.....


February 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert E Young

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>