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The best of the plasma sets we tested have fine picture quality, with good brightness and contrast from any angle. Most plasma sets have 42-inch screens, but you'll increasingly find more 50-inch and larger screens. These larger-screen plasma TVs cost considerably more than comparably sized microdisplay projection sets, but plasma sets are much slimmer and can be wall-mounted. You can get flat-screen LCD sets with bigger screens now, but plasma TVs typically cost less.
Less-familiar brands of plasma TVs being sold at big-box chains cost much less than major brands. While their prices are tempting, the sets we've tested have been middling to mediocre, so you'll sacrifice some picture quality.
If you watch a lot of DVDs, check out the DVD-playback scores, which indicate picture quality from a progressive-scan DVD player. Picture quality scores for HD, DVD, and SD content are not directly comparable across signal types, because each is capable of a different level of quality. Thus, a very good score for HD indicates a better picture than a very good score for regular TV signals.
Best 50-inch sets:
2 LG 50PC1DR, $3,300
4 Panasonic TH-50PX60U, $3,100
The LG offers a lot for the money, including a built-in DVR. Picture quality was very good, though images were a bit soft, and it had very good sound. With its DVR and CableCard slot, you don't have to connect any boxes, a plus for wall-mounting. It has a 2-year warranty instead of the typical 1 year. …