If you're looking for a cheap TV 42 inches or larger, there are a lot of advantages to buying a plasma instead of an LCD.
The biggest is picture quality: an LCD is typically not able to reproduce the black levels and contrast of an equivalently priced plasma, and plasma always trounces LCD for viewing angle and uniformity. Entry-level 720p plasmas are also more energy-efficient than more expensive 1080p plasmas, and while they use a lot more power than LCDs, they still only cost about $20 to $30 per year to run.
We recently reviewed a bunch of entry- and midlevel plasma TVs, and our favorites are collected below. There were a few that didn't make the cut, including the LG PA6500 and PA4500 as well as the Panasonic X5. The latter was a surprise as every other plasma in the Panasonic range is superb for the price, and the X5 is simply...well...poor. Its picture quality was very disappointing even for the money, especially compared with that of our new budget star, the Samsung E450.
Best cheap 720p plasma: Samsung E450 series
If you want the best picture quality you can get for around $500, then the Samsung E450, available in 43 and 51-inch sizes, is the set you should go for. Read the full review.
Best cheap 1080p plasma: Panasonic U50 series
The U50 is simply a phenomenal value considering its excellent picture quality, which blows away anything on this list except the UT50. It comes in 50- and 60-inch sizes. Read the full review.
Best cheap 1080p plasma with 3D, Smart TV: Samsung E550 series
The Samsung E550 is a decent plasma if you want something with extras like Smart TV and 3D for a price under $1,000. Read the full review.
Best overall value: Panasonic UT50 series
Yes, it's the most expensive TV on this list and not exactly "cheap," but it's worth it. If your budget can't quite stretch to the Editors' Choice Panasonic ST50, the UT50 is almost as good, with a great feature set and superb theater-room performance. Read the full review.
For a walk-through of our top pick, check out the First Look video.
Samsung E450 series plasma TV is a well-rounded performer
Looking for specs and pricing? Compare these TVs head-to-head. Click through to the reviews for additional screen sizes.