Which 42 inch TV Should I Get?

If you're looking to buy a 42 inch TV then you've come to the right place! We've done the leg work for you and researched the market to find what we believe are the best 42 inch TVs that you can get for your money.

42 inches is the perfect size at the moment, any bigger and it starts to look silly and cost a lot more, and any smaller and it just doesn't give the impact you want (if this is the main TV of the house), but should you get LCD or plasma...? Plasma TVs give better motion response times and people say they have deeper and richer colors, but you also have to cope with them running hotter and worry about screen burn and them fading over time, so in the interests of fairness we have researched and chosen the top 42 inch LCD TV and the top 42 inch plasma TV, you can see both side by side and decide which you would prefer.

One type we did avoid is the so-called LED TVs, which in reality are LCD TVs but they use LEDs as a backlight. Yes they are thinner than normal, but the stand is the same size so unless you mount them on the wall you won't gain any benefit from that, and the edge-lit ones which are the most popular at the moment (unless you pay through the nose for a full matrix) seem to have an issue with light bleeding into the screen from around the edges.

Here are our top 2 picks and why:

Best LCD 42 inch TV - LG 42LD520

The LG 42LD520 is one of the best value LCD screens that LG do. The reason we chose this as the best overall is because you get everything that you need from your TV, without a load of unnecessary extras that don't work properly (like LED backlighting and internet capabilities) but are going to bump the price up and never get used (this is only about $629 at the time of writing).

So you get a blistering fast 2.4ms motion response time (which is how well the TV can cope with fast moving action), plus you get the TruMotion 120Hz technology to upscale the 60Hz signal and reduce blur and juddering. Now be warned that not everyone likes anti-juddering technology as sometimes parts of films are meant to be blurred, like when they pan the camera really fast, but you can turn it off if you don't want it.

It is 1080p naturally, so you get the best resolution possible for watching the latest HD content, and you get a nice 100,000:1 contrast ratio which means dark scenes in films will render nicely and not be all murky.

You get 20 watts of power from the speakers so you won't have any trouble hearing your favourite shows, and they have tweaked the sound using technology to help it pick out and amplify voices so when the background noise tries to drown it out then you should still be able to hear people talking.

You get 3 HDMI ports (v1.3 to give you deeper colors and future-proof your TV) and a USB 2.0 connection so you can display any photos you have or even hook up an mp3 player to play through a home theater system.

Finally you get the ability to tweak the picture endlessly, and cnet.com have been praising this for awhile now, there is a picture wizard to help you quickly and easily tweak the picture to your satisfaction, then if you want to get geeky you can get down and dirty in the menus to tweak things to your heart's content!

So altogether it delivers the goods, it is fantastic value, and it has excellent reviews with an overall rating of 4.5 stars on Amazon.com, so that is why this is our top pick.

42LD520 tech spec:

Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Motion response time: 2.4ms
Contrast ratio: 100,000:1 (dynamic)
Audio: 2 x 10W
HDMI ports:
3 (v1.3)
ENERGY STAR® compliant: No (but does have smart energy saving feature)
Online reviews: Excellent
Helpful tech: Has a USB 2.0 port to connect devices into an display images or play mp3 files from. Clear Voice II technology isolates and enhances speech so you can hear it over background noice, picture wizard makes fine tuning the picture easy. TruMotion 120Hz technology converts your 60Hz signal into 120Hz to reduce motion blur and improve image quality. Intelligent Sensor technology adjusts the picture to match your lighting conditions. This is ISFccc calibration ready, giving you even more control over your picture, and finally Infinite Sound technology enhances the sound to give you deeper, richer bass.

 

Best Plasma 42 inch TV - Panasonic VIERA TC-P42G25

The Panasonic VIERA TC-P42G25 is one of the top plasma TVs that Panasonic make, and they have crammed it full of technology. It does cost a lot more than the LG we discussed above though, coming in at around $779.95 at the time of writing.

As this is a plasma then you get two advantages, the first is the contrast ratio which is 5 million to one compared to the 100,000 to one for the LG. That means you are going to get deeper blacks in dark scenes, and that has been further enhanced with Infinite Black technology too.

The second advantage is the motion response time, now we couldn't find a time for this TV anywhere, not even on the main Panasonic site, but in general a plasma will have a 0.001ms response time, which is a lot faster than the 2.4ms time of the LG (and 2.4ms is fast for an LCD TV!). This means you don't have to worry about any lag when playing video games or watching sports etc, and it even has a 'game mode' which further enhances the contrast ratio and motion response time specifically for fast-paced games.

Then there is the 600Hz Sub-field Drive that uses software to add in extra frames so that you don't get any blurring when things are moving fast, the standard refresh rate is 50Hz or 60Hz, the LG is 120Hz but this Panasonic blows those figures out of the water. The same warning applies that I mentioned for the LG though, some people don't like having the motion of a football etc being completely crisp and visible, when things move fast they are supposed to blur and that helps give the impression of speed, so don't base your purchasing decision on this alone as you may end up turning the technology off in the end.

You get VIERA Cast with this TV too which gives you access to online services either through a cable connection or you have to buy a Panasonic wireless dongle to use it wirelessly. Now these online features are still in their infancy and they don't tend to work that well on any TV that has them, but try it out and see what you think to it as access to places like Netflix can give you some handy features.

The reviews for this are excellent and it will give you crisper blacks than the LG, but it came in second place because it costs more, it doesn't have some of the features of the LG like the audio enhancements and the calibration system, plus it is a plasma which is going to be less reliable in the long run.

So if you fancy a plasma TV and you don't mind paying a bit more, then this is a great choice, otherwise we'd recommend the LG instead.

TC-P42G25 tech spec:

Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Motion response time: unknown (not even mentioned on Panasonic website, but a plasma TV usually has around a 0.001ms response time)
Contrast ratio: 5,000,000:1
Audio: 2 x 10W speakers
HDMI ports: 3
ENERGY STAR® compliant: Yes
Online reviews: Excellent
Helpful tech: Has a 'Game Mode' which temporarily enhances the contrast ratio and speeds up image processing to keep up with the fast paced action. USB port which can accept videos as well as pictures. 600Hz subfield motion technology to eliminate blurring with fast action scenes. VIERA image viewer allows you to look at your photos straight from your SD card, VIERA link allows you to control other compliant devices like DVD players or home theater systems through your main remote control and VIERA Cast allows you access to some online features. It also has Infinite Black and NeoPDP technology in the panel to give deeper blacks and greater luminousity, plus the screen is THX certified.

 

So depending on your budget and your needs, then you have two great TVs to choose from there, the LG is great value for such a large TV with so much technology in, but if you are a plasma fan then for a bit more money you can get a stunning picture from the Panasonic. There are other LCD TVs now that have internet capabilities built in which we could have picked, but at the moment those features tend to be clunky and not very useful, so it is hard to justify the extra cost, once there is a genuinely good internet capable 42 inch LCD TV on the market then we'll add it to the list.

 

Other pages:

What is the future of TV looking like?

What to look out for when buying a new TV

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Useful resources:

DigitalTrends.com on the future of TVs

Wikipedia article on Plasma TVs

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