There are more TVs launched in a year than there are episodes of EastEnders to watch on them. Okay, so that's probably not quite a true fact, but it certainly felt like it when we were trying to sort the sheep from the goats to decide the nominees for Best TV 2010 in the 7th annual Pocket-lint Gadget Awards. Whether you're into 3D, LED, LCD or plasma technology, you'll find something to champion your cause in this list; there are so many options of both bargain and high end that there's going to be tears shed when the final result comes out.
Of course, if you're simply looking for something to buy in time for Christmas, then you also happen to be in the right place. As they say down the best markets, everyone's a winner. Or not, as it will actually turn out.
The LG LX9900 is definitely one we’d mark "high end". It only comes in 47- and 55-inch panel sizes and is just 31mm deep with LED backlighting providing all the action. It’s got both a USB and Ethernet connection for all your digital file access, as well as taking you into the LG NetCast online portal, and there's also an 8-day EPG to go with it. On top of all that it’s 3D Ready and has a 400Hz mode to make sure that those images alternate at a high enough speed for the effect to work properly. We loved the fact that the menu system is wonderfully designed, we loved the fact the TV comes with a secondary nunchuk-style remote control but, most of all, we loved that, regardless of the 3D credentials, it just happened to give us one of the best 2D pictures we’d seen all year.
Philips 21:9 Cinema 3D
There’s only one TV out there that gives you the genuine cinema aspect ratio that was meant to be, and since the Philips 21: Cinema just went 3D that gives it a serious reason to be a strong contender for the Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2010 best TV winner. The 58-inch panel and added width makes the canvas for the possible 3D effect so much better than anything else out there. There’s also a nice thin bezel and that famous Ambilight system to maximise the effect. On top of that, Philips seems to have learnt from the last 21:9, and improved both the colours and black levels by borrowing the technology from the company’s top of the line 9000 series TVs. So, now there’s 400Hz scanning, Perfect Pixel HD processing and 1500 LEDs backlighting the lot. Very expensive and very tasty, but rather a specialist for movie lovers with 4:3 pictures looking, well, a little odd.
If you’re looking for mid-range in 2010, then the Sony Bravia EX503 is absolutely where it’s at. Bargain is the watchword here with the fantastic cleanness and clarity with which it handles broadcasts in both SD and through its in-built Freeview HD receiver as well. On top of that there’s the kind of contrast you’ve no business to get for the comparatively little outlay, and the speakers, though not perfect, are perfectly adequate for those not interested in hooking up a 5.1 home cinema set up. Throw in a USB port, four HDMIs, 100Hz Motionflow, the fact that it’s Wi-Fi-enabled and a good dollop of Sony’s noise suppression technology and you’ve got one superb little panel.
For every way that the EX503 is a value product, the Samsung C9000 is just the opposite. Coming in 46- and 55-inch panel sizes it is the Korean manufacturer’s grand opus of AV. Yes, it’s £4000 and no one's going to tell you that TVs should cost that much, but this one offers an awful lot of justification. First up, it’s LED backlit and, as a result, Samsung has managed to shave it down to just 7.98mm thick. Go and get a ruler and see what that looks like. Go on. It’s worth it.
See? Bloody thin, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is all about art and looks. The picture itself is mesmerisingly crisp with wonderful well-like blacks and fantastic colour reproduction. It’s got all the mod-cons you could be after in terms of connectivity and online content, and, of course, it’ll also do 3D for you too. There is a little cross-talk to contend with, so it’s not the world’s most amazing 3D, but it’ll certainly do. Basically, if you’ve got the cash, this is probably where you should be splashing it. Just a shame about the slightly dodgy touchscreen remote.
The only plasma on our short list, the Panasonic TX-P50S20 is more about buck bang than performance. It’s not going to give you quite the same abyssal blacks as the higher-end models but, at £800 and 50-inches, it offers a serious amount of screen real estate compared to the outlay. There’s no 3D and it’s certainly no size zero at 93mm depth, but what you do get over the LEDs is that lightening speed that plasmas offer - thousandths of a millisecond response times rather than the integers you get with LCD technology. Combine all that with really strong handling of standard definition images and the ability to play back digital files via SD card and you’ve got an excellent platform for people wanting to get involved with plasma at an affordable price.