After reviewing many of the best TVs of 2011, I've decided to give this year's Editors' Choice to the Samsung PND7000 plasma and the Sony KDL-NX720 LED-based LCD TV. Here's why.
Samsung PND7000 series: For the last couple of years our Editors' Choice TVs have been Panasonic plasmas, which have managed to eke out a win against TVs from archrival Samsung. In 2011, the PND8000 and PND7000 plasmas from Samsung showed significant improvement, delivering better black levels than ever before, along with reference color.
When I compared them directly with Panasonic's best plasma, the TC-PVT30 series, I again liked the Panasonic's picture just a bit better, saying, "The PVT30 has superior black-level performance and shadow detail, as well as arguably better video processing. The Samsungs win for color accuracy, 3D performance, and bright-room picture. All three TVs were quite close in nearly every picture quality characteristic I test, and all three rightly earn performance scores of 9."
That said, there's more to my Editors' Choice than just picture quality, and with a virtual tie like this I'll turn to the other category I consider most important: value.
Simply put, the PND7000 costs significantly less than the VT30. I don't consider that price difference worth it for the small gains in image quality the VT30 brings.
And speaking of small gains, I picked the PND7000 over the flagship PND8000 because they have essentially the same picture quality. The only substantial differences between the two are the 8000's fancy remote and Web browser, both of which, again, aren't worth the extra money in my book, especially since Samsung's remote control app for iOS and Android works so well.
Sony KDL-NX720 series: This was a tough call, but if I had to buy any non-plasma TV among the ones I've reviewed this year, it would be the Sony KDL-NX720 series. It's the second-best-performing 2011 LCD TV I've tested, with deep black levels and accurate color. It's not perfect by any means, however, and in fact it's not even good enough to make our "Best 5 HDTVs" list.
You might think I'd award the second EC to the Sony XBR-HX929 series, the only LCD TV on that list. It actually scored higher in Performance--an 8 versus the NX720's 7--thanks to its superior black levels and shadow detail. But comparing the prices of the two, those differences are just not worth the extra money; the 55-inch HX929 retails for at least $1,000 more than the 55-inch NX720. The less expensive edge-lit local dimming on the NX720 is extremely effective, and good enough to beat that of any other edge-lit LCD TV I've tested.
That same logic explains why I've decided to give out this award without having reviewed the Sharp Elite models. No matter how good they are--and word is they're very good indeed--I highly doubt I'd consider them worth the high price. The least-expensive Elite retails for $6,000.
About CNET's Editors' Choice Award (as I see it)
I've always considered an Editors' Choice Award the answer to the question, "What would you buy?" in a given product category. Plasma-based HDTVs generally offer a few picture quality advantages over LCD/LED in my experience as a reviewer, advantages that often manifest in higher scores. I understand many readers would prefer to buy an LCD, however, so I decided to give out two EC awards, one for plasma and one for LCD.
Of course, the HDTV category is packed with numerous excellent products, many of which are less expensive than these flagship models, and a few of which I haven't yet reviewed. If any of them appeal to my buying bug stronger than either of the above models this year, I'll swap out the award and update this post.
Now I'll shut up so you can comment. Agree? Disagree? Why? Let's hear it.