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What We Looked For in LCD TV Reviews

In LCD TV reviews, one performance criterion towers over the rest: The picture should look fantastic. In general, a $500 TV can't deliver the stunning image quality displayed by a $2,500 TV.

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High-end HDTVs can produce deeply saturated colors and have much faster refresh rates -- not to mention larger screens, more inputs, and more smart TV frills. However, this is not to say that the average consumer will be disappointed in the best cheap models. Although they tend to be slightly flawed in one way or another, our current crop hold their own in terms of image quality. We pored over LCD TV reviews by experts and consumers who have tested TVs in this price range to choose the models that perform best according to the following criteria.

Color Accuracy.

This is a critical part of a good-looking picture. The colors displayed on the screen should be vibrant and accurate and skin tones should look natural. Perfect color accuracy is hard to find even in pricier TVs, and many cheap models struggle on this front. Reviewers seem to adjust their expectations based on the cost of the TV, using phrases like "good for the price."

Deep Black Levels.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for inexpensive LCD TVs is displaying deep black levels and depicting shadowy areas without losing any detail. Oftentimes cheap models display more of a dark gray than a deep black. The best TVs create enough contrast for the viewer to make out forms even when the entire screen is dark.

Review continues below

Just be sure to follow the advice of experts: Don't settle for the pre-set, out-of-the-box settings. Take the time to calibrate black levels and white levels, sharpness, color saturation, and color tint to suit the viewing environment and your own visual preferences, rather than a brightly lit store.

Minimal Motion Blur.

Any movement on-screen should be fluid and free of lag. LED TVs with 60 Hz refresh rates suffer from motion blur occasionally. If you're watching a fast-paced football game, for example, you might notice a bit of "ghosting" as the players run around the field. LED TVs that advertise 120 Hz refresh rates are much less likely to suffer from motion blur. Again, though, many cheap models that make this claim are 60 Hz TVs that use processing tricks to emulate 120 Hz. Some of these do a pretty good job, but others do not. If you don't watch a lot of action films, sports, or other fast-paced content, you can get by just fine with a 60 Hz screen. There are plenty of cheap TVs that unapologetically declare their 60 Hz refresh rates.

by Michael Sweet (Google+ Profile)

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