Imperfect 10s: Best TVs for design, features, picture quality, and value

Check out the four 2012 TVs so far to score a "10" in each of our four review subratings: Design, Features, Picture quality, and Value.

Maybe you don't care how many features a TV has. Maybe you just want to see the coolest design going. Maybe all you want is the best bang for your buck, or the best picture regardless of cost.

Lucky for you, CNET's reviews have subratings. All of our TV reviews are rated according to four criteria -- Design, Features, Picture quality, and Value -- that are weighted, sifted, and centrifuged into the overall star rating.

Unfortunately you can't sort CNET's TV reviews by subrating on the Web site yet, so in the meantime I present the four TVs that would be perched at the top of those sorted lists. Each scored the only "10" we've awarded so far this year in the subratings mentioned above; they're not perfect, but a "10" is as good as it gets. I also list runners-up and potential challengers in each subcategory.

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Best design: LG LM9600 series
This high-end TV is simply an incredibly striking piece of furniture. The panel is trimmed with a thin aluminum strip, which is the only thing separating the screen from your room, and the border is ravishingly thin at 5 millimeters. The ribbon stand is original and adds even more class -- we slightly prefer it to the "U" stand on Samsung's rival UNES8000 below. Read the full review.

Runners up/challengers: The Samsung UNES8000 is the only other set to score a "10" in Design so far this year, and I wouldn't argue with anyone who preferred its looks to this LG. Four TVs, the Panasonic VT50 and GT50, and the Samsung PNE6500 and PNE8000, scored a "9." I wouldn't be surprised if the OLED TVs from LG and Samsung equal that "10."


Best features: Samsung UNES8000 series
The Kitchen Sink award for 2012 goes to Samsung's UNES8000 LED and PNE8000 plasma TVs. The LED nudges out the plasma for this list since it includes two extra pairs of 3D glasses. They both earned "10"s however, by virtue of voice and gesture control, touch-pad remotes, a Bluetooth-to-IR blaster, those included 3D glasses, a wealth of Smart TV content , oodles of picture settings, and more. I doubt any TVs that are more feature-festooned will appear this year. Read the full review.

Runners up/challengers: Both the Panasonic VT50 and LG LM9600 above scored a "9" in Features. In addition to those OLED TVs, the Vizio XVT3D580CM and Samsung UNES7500 also pack a features punch.


Best picture quality: Panasonic TC-PVT50 series
In a year when the first two big-screen OLED TVs are hitting the market and the best LCD to date will likely have an even better successor, Panasonic's VT50 plasma still has the best flat-panel picture you can buy -- for now. Its black-level performance, shadow detail, color accuracy, and bright-room picture quality outdo the competition. Read the full review.

Runners up/challengers: The only other TVs to ever score a "10" in this category are the Sharp Elite LCD and, yes, that hoary veteran, the Pioneer Kuro ( circa 2008 ). Four 2012 TVs, the Panasonic GT50 and ST50, as well as the Samsung PNE6500 and PNE8000 earned a "9." All are plasmas; the highest score from an LCD so far is the "8" from Sony's HX850. Those oft-mentioned OLED TVs are again potential "10"s, as is the next (as yet unannounced) Sharp Elite.


Best value: Panasonic TC-PST50 series
I recently awarded the ST50 CNET's first 2012 TV Editors' Choice based on its excellent bang for the buck. It delivers one of the best pictures you can buy for a midrange price that is, frankly, a steal. Yes, you can pay less for a very good picture, but in my book this TV is worth every penny, and then some. Read the full review.

Runners up/challengers: Only two other TVs in 2012, the Samsung PNE6500 and Panasonic TC-PUT50, have earned a "9" in Value, and I've only awarded one "8" so far, to the Sharp LC-LE640U series. I'd be surprised if any other TVs earn a "10" this year, but hey, you never know.


Looking for specs and pricing? Compare these TVs head-to-head. Click through to the reviews for additional screen sizes.

 

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