15 best TVs for your holiday gift list

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High-def TVs just keep getting bigger, better, and more versatile. There are more HDTVs 60 inches and larger. And TVs of all sizes have built-in Wi-Fi and smart TV platforms with access to streaming movies and TV programs, apps, and even full Web browsing. Many can wirelessly connect to a phone or tablet to display videos and photos. Plasma TVs continue to advance, and most new LCD sets use energy-efficient LED backlights. New developments: Ultra HDTVs, with the highest TV resolution so far, and OLED TVs, which use new technology to produce the best images we’ve seen.

That supergeek in your life would love a smart TV with built-in Wi-Fi and access to streaming TV shows and movies from Netflix and its rivals, online music services such as Pandora, and social-media sites such as Facebook. Some sets have full Web browsing and access to apps. The 55-inch Sony Bravia KDL-55W900A LCD TV, $2,300, adds a special feature: NFC technology for sharing content from a compatible Sony tablet or smart phone by tapping it on the TV remote.

The 47-inch Panasonic Viera TC-L47WT60 LCD TV, $2,500, can exchange content with mobile devices using a free app. And the Samsung PN51F8500 51-inch plasma, $1,600, can display whatever is on compatible Galaxy phones or tablets.

Big games and blockbuster movies deserve a big screen. Plasma TVs such as the 65-inch Panasonic Viera TC-P65VT60, $3,100, are great for watching play-offs with the gang, thanks to wide viewing angles and the ability to handle fast motion without blurring. A movie lover will appreciate its filmlike images, deep blacks, and detail in shadows.

The 60-inch LG 60LA8600 flagship LCD TV, $2,300 —which has LED backlighting—has a wide viewing angle for an LCD set, and it handles fast motion better than many TVs of this type. It’s also one of the few tested TVs that has very good sound quality. The 70-inch Sharp Aquos LC-70C7500U LCD/LED TV, $2,200, has the biggest screen in our Ratings.

Find the best set for your needs and budget with our TV buying guide and Ratings.

Many new TVs can display 3D, and some movie fans find the effect thrilling. Two plasma TVs, the 64-inch Samsung PN64F5500, $1,800, and its 60-inch sibling, the PN60F5500, $1,200, a CR Best Buy, were the only TVs tested this year to earn excellent 3D scores, in part due to minimal ghosting. Each includes two pairs of 3D glasses.

If your 20-something spends the wee hours watching TV while sprawled on the bed, a set that will fit on a nightstand is the way to go. The 32-inch Samsung UN32F6300 LCD/LED TV, $600, has an excellent picture and lots of features, including Samsung’s full smart TV platform.

Want a smaller or cheaper set? The Vizio E291i-A1, $250, LG 29LN4510, $250, and Toshiba 29L1350U, $200, are 29-inch LCD/LED sets with very good picture quality. The Vizio has Internet capability.

The sound on many TVs is as thin as their profiles. That may be fine for watching a news or talk show, but it falls flat for movies and music. For a demanding listener, consider the 55-inch Bose VideoWave II Entertainment System, $5,000, an LCD TV with a sonic wallop as big as its price. (It’s in our next TV Ratings.) We were also impressed by the sound on the 60-inch Sharp Aquos LC-60LE857U, $2,000, and the 47-inch LG 47LA6900, $1,050, both LCDs.

This article appeared in the December 2013 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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