There's a national holiday coming up this Sunday, the day where over 100 million people in America worship football by watching Super Bowl XLII. You might be among the 2.4 million people (according to the Consumer Electronics Association) who will succumb this year to temptation and upgrade that old clunker with a shiny new HDTV. Good luck with that.
No luck needed, though, because we've got you covered. After taking a close look at lots of HDTVs, we'll explain the differences between LCDs, plasma screens, front and rear projectors, and then we'll even pick our favorite in each category. If you need some help to throw the best Super Bowl party ever, click Continue to find the best HDTV for you.
Prices are plummeting for LCDs, and they're nice and bright — perfect for watching a game in a crowded room with the lights up full. You'll be able to see every blade of grass with the latest 1080p sets, and when the game's over, all those pixels will serve you even better when you're watching Blu-ray movies. A 52-inch screen seems to be the current sweet spot for LCDs, and the best value we've seen is the Sharp Aquos LC-52D64U (pictured above), with vivid colors and high contrast. Pick one up at Best Buy for around $2,700, but you'll miss the game if you order one online for around $2,300.
If you want to go all-out, the best LCD we've laid eyes on is the Samsung LN-T5281F, a 52-inch screen whose blacks were nearly as good as a plasma. But that extra quality will cost you — it'll be hard to find one for less than $4,050.
For the best picture quality, plasma is the way to go, especially when watching the fast action of a football game. Gone are the old problems with images burning into the screen, and prices are getting more reasonable by the minute. The finest plasma display we've seen is the 60-inch Pioneer Elite Kuro 110-FD. This 1080p monster can make the most of that live TV broadcast, as if you're standing on the sidelines of the game itself. If the Pioneer Kuro's $5,850 price is too steep for you, check out the 1080p Panasonic 58PZ750U, whose 58-inch picture quality comes in a close second to our eyes, but it's a much better value at around $3,595.
There's nothing like a front projector to make you feel like you're in a movie theater, and it'll give you an outlandishly large screen (think 120 inches diagonally!). But that might not be the best for a Super Bowl party, with people milling around in a darkened room. Anyway, a magnificent 1080p picture can be tossed up on the big screen for around $2,600 with the Panasonic AE2000U, the best value in a projector we've seen yet. We tested one, and its astonishing projected image looks better than many movie theaters. By the way, unless you want to project your image on a white wall, allow another $500 or so for a screen.
Rear-Projection TV (RPTV)
Here's where you can get the best bang for the buck, with the Samsung HL-T5689S leading the way with its 56-inch 1080p picture for $2,150. We've tested every possible source on this TV, and its picture quality is stellar, with the blackest blacks we've seen, perfect colors and ultra-sharp resolution. The downside is the rear projector's need for you to be sitting at the set's level. Viewing from the sides looks great, but if your eyes are higher or lower than the screen, it looks much dimmer. For an even better deal, hunt around for an older Samsung rear-projector, say, the highly regarded 56-inch HL-S5679W, which you may be able to find for under $1,000.