Panasonic TC-PZT60 series

This is the ultimate Panasonic plasma TV in more ways than one. Until we got a gander at OLED ($9000), it produced the best picture quality we'd ever seen. Both it and the less-expensive VT60 have finally surpassed the overall performance of the Pioneer Kuro, a legendary and long-extinct television that held the "best ever" mantle since 2008. And the ZT60 is just a bit better than the VT60, by virtue of its better performance in bright rooms. And that's it. Turn down the lights, and the two Panasonics at the top of this list are virtually indistinguishable.

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Panasonic TC-PVT60 series

The dominance of Panasonic on this list is due primarily to its extremely deep black levels, which contribute to better contrast, pop, saturation and pretty much everything else that makes home-theater image quality shine. The VT60 matches the black levels of the step-up ZT60 in a dark room, and exceeds the image quality of every other TV we've ever tested. Yes, those inky blacks can't stand up to those of the ZT60 when the lights come up, but if you have a really bright room, and want to get a plasma, neither Panasonic is as good as the next option.

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Samsung PNF8500 series

The best TV Samsung has ever produced, the F8500 plasma offers something the Panasonics on this list lack: the ability to get much brighter. That light output capability means the F8500 performs great not only in a dark room -- where it's worse than only the ZT60 and VT60 anyway -- but also in extremely bright rooms where other plasmas fear to tread. If you have such a room but have avoided plasma in the past, the F8500 might be just the ticket.

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Panasonic TC-PST60 series

With a picture to rival the top three for half the price, the ST60 sets the new standard for value in a videophile-grade TV. That's why it's our favorite TV overall, and the first ever to earn a five-star rating from CNET.

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Sony KDL-55W900A

Maybe you have something against plasma. Maybe you're a gamer who wants the lowest input lag available. Or maybe you just love the idea of Quantum Dots. For any of these reasons or another, the Sony KDL-55W900A is a great alternative. It boasts slightly better black levels and color, and thus overall picture quality, than the Samsung F8000 (see the next slide). It can also overcome even brighter rooms than the Samsung F8500 plasma.

This TV is only available in a 55-inch size, but judging from the specifications, the 65-inch KDL-65W850A should provide similar picture quality. We can't be sure however, which is why, if you don't want to go with a 55-incher, the Samsung F8000 series is a stronger recommendation.

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Samsung UNF8000 series

For plasma-phobic videophiles who want a TV in a size other than 55 inches, the Samsung F8000 remains our top pick. It's close enough to the Sony that both earned identical picture quality scores, and both sets' local-dimming schemes do a great job of pushing edge-lit LED as high up this list as it can go. Video processing and 3D actually surpass the Sony, but in other areas F8000 is a tiny step behind. No matter -- if you "settle" for this amazing TV you can console yourself with the best design and features on the market.

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Samsung KN55S9C

I haven't actually reviewed this OLED TV, one of two currently available for sale, but I've had enough hands-on time to know it's the real deal--yes, even better than the best plasmas. There's a long list of reasons not to buy it or its rival from LG, but for rich videophiles who don't care about all of that, it makes a pretty nice stocking stuffer.

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