Before you click here to buy in preparation for the big football season, remember that there's no hard and fast rule for one TV being "better" than another at displaying sporting events. The same picture quality characteristics we use to evaluate HDTVs for movies--black-level performance, color accuracy, video processing--more or less apply to sporting events, too. You also want a set that's bigger rather than smaller. With those criteria in mind, here are our current favorite HDTVs for sports among the we've reviewed, ordered by size.
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Although the LN-T4661F isn't Samsung's highest-rated 46-inch LCD HDTV we've reviewed this year, it has one advantage over its higher-rated sibling, the LN-T4665F: a matte screen. Shiny screens collect and reflect more room lighting. Most broadcast sports lack the dark scenes when glare is most bothersome, but it also occurs in brightly lit rooms. Such as the typical, open-windowed living room during an afternoon football game.
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While we complained about its black-level performance, we like just about everything else we saw from Westinghouse's 47-inch TX-47F430S LCD--especially the price. A lighter shade of black is more difficult to discern in bright scenes and brightly lit rooms, and this set's solid color and processing help seal the deal.
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An effective glare-reducing screen, along with excellent video quality in general, separate the Panasonic TH-50PX77U from the rest of the 50-inch plasma pack. Sure, it could reproduce that green gridiron a bit more accurately, but you'll be too busy cheering to notice.
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As the top HDTV we've reviewed all year, the high-end Pioneer PDP-5080HD plasma TV has one big ace in the whole: black-level performance. True, those deep blacks are less visible in most sporting events, but they also increase perceived color saturation. It doesn't hurt that this plasma's 50-inch screen also cuts down on reflections.
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The first rear-projection HDTV on our list, the 56-inch Samsung HL-T5687S utilizes an LED light source that lasts longer than the bulbs on a typical DLP-based HDTV. Its green is excellent too, and at 56 inches, the benefits of 1080p resolution start to become apparent.
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If you must have perfectly straight yardage markers and goal lines, the 58-inch JVC HD-58S998, with its slightly bent geometry, might not be for you. But this mammoth rear-projection set produces a great picture otherwise, and its unique, extraslim size is a space-saving bonus.
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Did we mention that bigger is better? At 60 inches, the Sony KDS-60A2020 can fill a room with images, and its video quality--despite less-than-perfect greens--will satisfy ardent sports junkies and home theater heads alike.
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Let's get this out of the way now: the Vizio VM60PHDTV isn't the best-performing HDTV we've tested. But it's a plasma TV, it's 60 inches diagonal, and it costs just $2,500. As a bonus, the guys on far ends of the couch get a better picture than they would from a rear-projection set, thanks to plasma's superior range of viewing angles.
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We'd be remiss talking about "big" if we didn't throw in a projector, which typically are capable of displays as large as 8 feet or more. The BenQ W10000 offers excellent 1080p picture quality, and while it's more expensive than any TV on the list yet, it's guaranteed to give your (light-controlled) living room the home field advantage.
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