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Shopping for a new TV is a daunting process: There are literally dozens of different manufacturers, and hundreds of different models to choose from. That said, it's still possible to find the best TVs -- a few models in particular stand out.
The Panasonic ZT60 is the greatest plasma TV ever made. CNet said the ZT60, available in a 60- or 65-inch configuration, was the best-looking TV it had ever seen when it reviewed the television last year. It has everything you'd expect from a high-end TV: 3-D capabilities, a smart TV interface, and touch-based remote. But where it really shines is the picture quality: The ZT60 has the deepest black levels ever seen on a plasma TV, making images truly pop.
Unfortunately, plasma TVs have fallen out of favor, and Panasonic ceased plasma TV production late last year. This set has been discontinued, but a few retailers still have it in stock. The 60-inch usually retails for around $3,000.
Sony XBR 850A
Sony (NYSE: SNE ) is attempting to spearhead the next great TV revolution: As standard-definition gave way to high-definition television, so Sony wishes to see 4K resolution TVs replace current high-definition sets. Sony's XBR 850A is really the highest quality, affordable 4K TV, running about $3,000 for the 55-inch set. There's also a 65-inch version, but it costs nearly twice as much.
Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of 4K content currently out there, meaning that this TV's greatest selling point is hard to take advantage of. If you're thinking of buying it, you'll probably want to pair it with Sony's Ultra HD media player -- a set-top box that connects to the Internet and allows you to download 4K movies.
In terms of raw picture quality, it's a step down from the ZT60, but if 4K really takes off, this TV could be the most future-proof on this list.
Samsung 8500 series
Samsung's 8500 series encompasses its high-end plasma sets. Available in 51-, 60- and 64-inch varieties (running from about $1,700 to $,3000), TVs in this series have outstanding picture quality, with excellent black levels and very accurate colors. But what helps Samsung's set stand apart from rival high-end TVs is its numerous features.
Samsung's smart TV platform is excellent, perhaps the best in its class, with access to a bevy of apps rival manufacturers lack, notably HBO Go, among others. The 8500 series also features voice and gesture controls, and the ability to link your TV directly to the cable box. If you own a Samsung tablet or smartphone, it's easy to beam your mobile device's picture directly to your TV's screen. It's also "evolution compatible" -- meaning that as Samsung's technology improves, you'll be able to upgrade your TV's features.
Perhaps you aren't looking for a top-of-the-line TV to put in your den. Maybe you're on a budget or need a smaller TV for the bedroom. In that case, the Vizio E-Series is your best bet. TVs in Vizio's E-Series range from 24 to 50 inches, with five other sizes in between.
Obviously, the picture quality isn't as fantastic as the other TVs on this list, but for the money, it's considered quite good. Like Samsung, Vizio has its own extensive smart TV platform, with access to apps such as Netflix and Amazon.com's Instant Video. Arguably, having those apps built-in is somewhat unimportant on a high-end TV -- when you're shelling out $2,000 to $3,000, purchasing a Roku or an Apple TV set-top box for $99 isn't much.
But if you're spending $270 on the 32-inch set, not having to buy that extra Apple TV can make quite a difference in your overall entertainment budget.
Digital Trends said Samsung's KN55S9C was the best-looking TV they've ever seen. It had better be -- at $9,000 it's a very expensive piece of equipment. Rather than use plasma or LED, the KN955S9C is an OLED TV -- a radical new technology that's expected to emerge as the dominant TV type in the coming years.
For $9,000, this TV is relatively small (just 55 inches), and oddly enough, it's curved. But it comes with some crazy features -- for example, using what Samsung dubs "Multi View," two people can watch different shows at the same time using 3-D glasses and wireless earbuds.
There are very few people who can afford to spend so much on a TV, but if one truly wants the ultimate television on the market, there is no better buy.
The war for the living room begins right now ...
You know cable's going away. But do you know how to profit? There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, three companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple.