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Cheapism: Top high-def TVs for low budgets

By Kara Reinhardt, Cheapism.comMuch of the buzz coming out of the recent Consumer Electronics Show surrounded 4K, or ultra-high-definition television. It seems fitting that the term echoes the Y2K shorthand for the new millennium: Manufacturers are betting that it represents a new era in HDTV. Granted, the Super Bowl would probably look pretty sweet on an 84-inch screen with four times the resolut
Even 3-D capability can be had for less than $600 -- if you're willing to sacrifice screen size.
Even 3-D capability can be had for less than $600 -- if you're willing to sacrifice screen size.Today

By Kara Reinhardt, Cheapism.com

Much of the buzz coming out of the recent Consumer Electronics Show surrounded 4K, or ultra-high-definition television. It seems fitting that the term echoes the Y2K shorthand for the new millennium: Manufacturers are betting that it represents a new era in HDTV. Granted, the Super Bowl would probably look pretty sweet on an 84-inch screen with four times the resolution of an ordinary HDTV. Too bad it would cost about $20,000.

For sports fans with more modest budgets, here are Cheapism’s top LCD TVs under $600.

  • The 32-inch LG 32LM6200 (starting at $550) amazes reviewers with its myriad features, which include 3-D capability and a motion-sensing remote. This is a so-called Smart TV that can wirelessly connect to an array of apps and other online content from Netflix and the like. It also outdoes the other models on this list with four HDMI inputs for plugging in game consoles and other devices. (Where to buy)
  • The 32-inch Vizio E320i-A0 (starting at $258) is an excellent value, experts say, with Smart TV features and admirable picture quality. It's not often you find a TV this cheap with LED backlighting, as opposed to fluorescent backlights. LED TVs generally deliver deeper black levels and greater energy efficiency, and this one is no exception. (Where to buy)
  • The 40-inch Toshiba 40L5200U (starting at $490) makes up for a lack of fancy features with a larger screen. In online reviews, experts and users report that this TV displays vibrant, accurate colors and crisp images. They appreciate that it includes enough HDMI inputs to connect three devices at a time. (Where to buy)
  • The 40-inch Samsung UN40EH6000 (starting at $563) likewise appeals to consumers who are happy to trade frills such as Internet connectivity for a bigger screen. Experts commend the sharp detail and color accuracy. (Where to buy)

While a 32- or 40-inch TV may not be man-cave-worthy, it’s just the ticket for a small living room, den, or bedroom. There’s no point in springing for a giant HD screen if you don’t have room to sit far enough away; the picture will appear grainy. The Consumer Electronics Association provides one method for calculating the ideal screen size for your space.

The resolution on most of the TVs on this list is 1080p, or 1920x1080 pixels (compared with 3840x2160 on a 4K TV). The super-cheap Vizio comes in at 720p, or 1366x768. That still qualifies as high-definition, and on a 32-inch TV, most viewers likely won’t notice a difference.

One knock against LCD technology is that fast-moving images -- say, a running back sprinting into the end zone -- have a tendency to blur. Manufacturers combat this “motion blur” with higher refresh rates. The LG, Toshiba, and Samsung models listed above boast refresh rates of 120Hz, compared with 60Hz on the Vizio.

Before you buy, take inventory of all the devices you want to connect to a new TV -- Blu-ray player, DVR, etc. Lower-end TVs typically have fewer inputs than pricey models, and you want to make sure you have all you need.

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