The DVICE guide to buying an HDTV in the off season

Now is not the perfect time to buy an HDTV. You just missed all the fab Black Friday door-buster deals, and the real HDTV deals materialize between New Year's and the Super Bowl. Further complicating your HDTV investment decision are next year's 3DTVs equipped with new HDMI 1.4 connectors. I don't care about 3D sets right now, but who knows — so I'm going to wait.

If you insist on buying now, get a 50-incher-plus to gain full Blu-ray benefit — and you want plasma. LCD requires digital trickery (LED backlighting, 120/240 Hz, et al) to even get close to plasma's smooth, deep-black delivery. Only silly store sales staffers insist LCD is superior. It isn't.

Click Continue and I'll show you a few HDTVs that'll do you right even in the off season, and even end up being quite the bargain.



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1. Pioneer Kuro PDP-6020FD

Price: $5,500

Flat out the best flat screen HDTV, period. With its Kuro technology, Pioneer completely re-invented plasma, producing a set with the blackest blacks ever, which makes colors jump off the screen. One problem: Sadly, Pioneer is now out of the HDTV business (its HDTV business was bought by Panasonic). But several sites including Amazon and Best Buy are still selling this set and its 50-inch sibling at nearly $2k below list, which makes this a ridiculous bargain. The bottom speaker comes separately in case you connect your Kuro to a full home theater speaker system.



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2. Vizio VF551XVT

Price: $2,200

If you insist on LCD, this is one of the great HDTV deals — you'll likely be able to find this 55-inch 1080p LED backlit LCD with local dimming (better than LED edge backlighting) and a USB jack to view photos from a thumb drive for less than $2k. But it'll be greater in a few months when Vizio re-introduces it as the VF552XVT. For the same price, you'll get the same set only with Internet connectivity via Yahoo! Widgets and a "d'uh!" remote control equipped with a cellphone-like, horizontal slide-out QWERTY keyboard to ease text searching.



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3. Panasonic TC-P54G10

Price: $2,000

Yes, the Vizio 55-inch is a great bargain - but for same price, you can get this inch smaller Panasonic, which inherits the "Best Plasma" mantle from Pioneer. This set is cheaper not because it's not as good as more expensive models — it's the same THX-certified, deep-black, colorful panel, or glass, as Panasonic's other plasmas — it's just not as feature-laden. You do get VIERA Cast Web connectivity, an SD card slot and three HDMI jacks, though. If this set is too big, it's also available in 50-, 46- and 42-inch varieties, the latter just $1,200 list.



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4. Sony Bravia KD37L5000

Price: $630

Okay, you need an HDTV that'll fit in your old TV cabinet or won't monopolize the bedroom, which means a 32- or 37-inch LCD (plasmas don't come smaller than 42 inches). Where price intersects LCD quality, you'll find this entry-level Sony. It's a 720p model — at this size, you'll can't see the benefits of 1080p unless you watch TV with a magnifying glass, or of other recent LCD enhancements such as LED backlighting or 120/240 Hz, which explains the low price. But Sony has packed this Bravia with some other image-enhancements and three HDMI jacks.



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5. Panasonic TC-P54Z1

Price: $5,500

A flat screen HDTV looks pretty hanging on a wall — until you connect that ugly trailing HDMI cable. No such problem here. This Panasonic is one of the first of what promises to be a whole bunch of WirelessHD models — no HDMI cable needed. You situate the separate transceiver box, which includes all the A/V jacks, within 30 feet of the TV, to transmit digital surround sound and 1080p video to the Z1. Not only is it wireless, the Z1 is only an inch thin, includes an SD card slot for digital photo viewing, and is equipped with Panasonic's VIERA Cast Web connectivity.



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Got your HDTV all picked out? Be sure to check out one of our other gift guides, part of 12 Days of Gadgets here on DVICE:

Day One: 7 gadget gifts that will never go out of style
Day Two: 6 tech gifts billionaires are giving each other this year
Day Three: Giving a Kindle? Check out these 8 other e-readers first
Day Four: 8 offensive gadget gifts for the frenemies in your life
Day Five: 6 absurd gadget gifts your girlfriend will dump you over
Day Six: 5 classic sci-fi gadgets guaranteed to please your geekiest beloved
Day Seven: The DVICE guide to buying an HDTV in the off season
Day Eight: 7 awesome tech toys you can't buy in America
Day Nine: 7 gifts steampunks are giving each other this year
Day Ten: 6 gifts for if we lived in the retro tomorrow of yesterday
Day Eleven: 7 tech gifts you'll have to wait until next year to buy
Day Twelve: 5 holiday tech gifts that just might save the planet