IMHO, Panasonic Plasma TVs give you the most bang for your buck. In every review I have read, they are at or near the top in picture quality and the price is not much more than your "bargain" brands. You will not get a good 42" LCD in your price range, but you can get a great plasma.
I've done some pretty extensive research in looking for a new TV. Obviously you can get some idea of picture quality in the stores, but really, its nothing like they're going to perform in your home.
I've done research on both plasma and lcd technologies. frankly it seems that they are pretty much equal depending on what you're using them for. I haven't gotten a straight up arrow pointing to either one from what i've read at least.
I've read plenty of articles and forum threads about the difference between 720/768p, 1080i, and 1080p both the accepting of and reproduction of the various sources.
Everytime i decide on one thing, i come across an article or forum thread that spells doom for it. be it flickering from an auto contrast issue, to black bands, and even random light and dark spots.
I'm hoping i can find some help here because you seem to know what you're talking about.
i haven't paid much attention to each company's fancy processing name they give ( perfect magic picture III...etc) but i have looked into the contrast ratio's, the color capacity (don't know the term, how many colors it can reproduce), and obviously resolution.
However through all of this i'm still at a stand still. I respect all of the in depth knowledge on this board, sometimes its even scary the detail that is gone through in the discussions (confusing me even more) but it is an encouraging confusion.
If you've read this far, i'd appreciate some help.
-I'm looking for a HDTV in the 42" + range.
-I'll be sitting ~10' away from the screen, but have seating areas to the left and right that will be closer, so viewing angle is somewhat important, but not top priority.
-I'll be viewing mainly SD (standard cable) for about 6 months until i upgrade to HDTV, but i am willing to suffer through the incompatibility as i will be getting HDTV and am buying the set for that purpose.
- I'm leaning towards LCD at this point, but barely. I don't really mind plasma or rear projection because size isn't really an issue (though if rear projection i'd rather it not be unreasonable in depth) i'm surprised how much more screen for your buck you get w/ rear projection, what are the downfalls if any?
- I'm buying this set because i'd like to establish credit as im 22 and feel its time to get started, but i'm really in the 1300-1700 dollar range.
- lastly i'm in no hurry to buy, if there is something that is worth waiting for coming out this next year, then i will do so.
any information would be greatly appreciated. i know you can't give me an end all answer, but maybe with the information i've given, you all could tell me what aspects of the tv would be most important in my situation, or maybe even specifications that i haven't even listed/read about.