Now that you know what to ignore on TV spec sheets, let's take a look at what bullet points are important. We'll start with the basic features that almost every TV has, then tackle the "step-up" features that cost extra. Many of these evaluations are best done in person, so it's worthwhile to trek to you local TV dealer for a hands-on look at the TVs you're interested in.
Inputs: The most important thing here is to have enough HDMI inputs to connect to all your gear. Three is the minimum number of ports in our view for a main, living-room TV, because it lets you connect your HD cable or satellite box, video game console, and Blu-ray/DVD player. If you have older gear with component-video or standard yellow video connections, or if you want to connect a computer, be sure those inputs are available on the TV, too.
Screen finish: Your basic choices are matte or glossy, and their effects can be seen on the showroom floor, especially when the TV is displaying darker material. If you do most of your watching in a bright room, a screen that cuts down on reflections is a good thing. Unfortunately, most higher-end LCD and LED TVs have glossy screens, so your choice in this category is limited.
Remote control: If you aren't planning to use a universal model or the remote that came with your cable box, pay attention to the TV's included clicker. It's nice when it can command other gear directly via infrared, as opposed to simply controlling gear via HDMI, and we prefer TVs to include medium-size remotes with well-differentiated, backlit buttons.
Picture controls: If you like to adjust the picture settings yourself or are interested in trying some of the user calibrations available online, having the right picture controls available is necessary. Look for TVs with enough picture presets, as well as the ability to tweak those presets and apply the tweaks to different inputs. Advanced or curious tweakers will also appreciate detailed color temperature controls (as opposed to just presets), gamma options, and presets for the various video-processing modes.
Ease of use and support: You want to look for menu systems that embed explanations of various onscreen selections. We're fans of onscreen manuals, as well as product support sections that provide phone numbers, troubleshooting, and setup guides to make complex TVs easier to use.
Energy efficiency: As we mentioned, Energy Star is worthless for comparing the real efficiency of different TVs. Also, it's true that a more-efficient TV usually won't save you much money on your electricity bills during the course of a year. However, there are still some significant power use differences between otherwise similar TVs--a typical plasma TV consumes twice as much power as a typical LCD--and many TVs have power-saving extras (like sound-only modes) that appeal to green-conscious shoppers. If you're interested in finding out more, check out our TV power consumption guide.
- Panasonic TC-P60ST60
- Panasonic TC-P65ST60
- Panasonic TC-P50ST60
- Panasonic TC-P55ST60
- Panasonic TC-P65ST50