HDTVs are less expensive than ever.
If your holiday shopping list includes one, BehindTheBuy.com Senior Editor David Gregg is a man in the know whose guidance you might want to consider.
On The Early Show Tuesday, he spotlighted some of the ones he recommends.
He also discussed the federally-mandated switch from analog to digital over-the-air broadcasts, slated to happen in February 2009.
If you have an old, analog TV, one that runs on rabbit ears or another type of antenna, the switch will affect you. It doesn't affect TVs that get their programming from cable, phone companies, or satellite.
You'll need a converter box to see programs on analog TVs after the switchover. The boxes are expected to sell for $50-70. But the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is offering up to two, $40 coupons per household toward the purchase of the boxes. The coupons, which you won't be able to use toward other products, should be available from early next year through March 2009, and must be used within 90 days of their issuance and only on certain converter products. You can find more information on this program by clicking here or calling 1-888-388-2009.
As for Gregg's picks from among the newest HDTV models, with descriptions prepared in part with information from the manufacturers:
Panasonic 50" 1080p Plasma TV (Model #TH-50PZ750)
The 750 series Panasonic's TH-50PZ750, is a 50" full HD (1920 x 1080p) 1080p consumer plasma TV. This model includes a "Pro Setting" mode that optimizes color temperature and "studio reference" color points and an SD card reader capable of playing back high definition full motion video and audio.
MSRP: $3,500; www.panasonic.com
LG Electronics Opus Series 42-inch LCD-HDTV
Sleek, high-glossy black finish and Full HD 1080p resolution, the Opus series is a perfect combination of technology and design. In addition to Full HD 1080p resolution, the Opus series features several applications designed to enhance the consumer viewing experience. TruMotion Drive, with 120Hz LCD panel technology, improves moving picture response time for clearer picture images, particularly with scrolling text and fast action. TruColor expands the color gamut to 92 percent of the NTSC spectrum for striking picture quality.
MSRP: $2,499; www.lgusa.com
SONY Bravia Rear Projection 55" 1080pHDTV (Model #: KDS-55A3000 SXRD)
Sony's A-Series Rear Projection 55" HDTV delivers Full HD 1080p in addition to the Bravia EX Video Processor Engine, which sharpens images while enhancing contrast and colors. Choose between Auto and Manual modes to improve expressions in darker scenes with Advanced Iris Function. A wide range of input interfaces provide maximum versatility including HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface). Even though it's not a flat panel set (15" deep) this set delivers a picture size and quality unrivaled by most LCD and Plasma sets.
MSRP: $1,999; www.sony.com
Epson MovieMate 72
Enjoy true theater style entertainment with this all-in-one product with built-in progressive scan DVD/CD player and four 5 W Dolby® 5.1 DTS stereo speakers. Epson MovieMate 72 displays standard DVDs in even more detail at high-definition 720p resolution. It projects images up to eight times larger than on a 40-inch, widescreen TV. Simply plug it in and let the fun begin. There are no additional cables or equipment to hook up. Epson MovieMate 72 has a unique swivel base for versatile DVD loading. It delivers natural colors and bright, vibrant images with 3-chip 3LCD technology. Use Epson MovieMate 72 for videogames, movies and more. It works with your Apple iPod Nintendo Wiiâ„ SonyPS3 or Microsoft Xbox 360â video game system for more entertainment options. Connect it to high-definition devices via HDMI for even more entertainment value. Epson MovieMate 72 displays an 80-inch, widescreen image from just 6 1/2 feet away, or a 120-inch image from just 10 feet away!
MSRP: $1,199; www.epson.com
HDTV on a Budget
Insignia 42" Plasma HDTV (Model #: NS-PDP42)
Best Buy has initiated a unique trend among major electronics retailers and created their own brand (Insignia) of merchandise designed to deliver extreme value while offering a reliable product capable of delivering better than expected performance. This 42" Plasma HDTV offers 1024 x 768 resolution and supports 720p signals for stunning image clarity. XD Engine technology delivers lush image detail and vibrant color along with a 10-bit 3D digital comb filter delivers state-of-the-art detail and color enhancement.
MSRP: $899; www.bestbuy.com
Recommended Viewing Distances From A Big Screen TV
Don't Buy a Set That's Too Big For Your Room
Screen Sizes and Viewing Distance Ranges:
30" -- 3.75-6.25 feet
34" -- 4.25-7 feet
42" -- 5.25-8.75 feet
50" -- 6.25-10.5 feet
56" -- 7-11.75 feet
62" -- 7.75-13 feet
70" -- 8.75-14.75 feet