It turns out that 2011 saw some of the most interesting developments in a long time in the TV category. Here are 10 reasons why.
Panasonic TC-PST30 series
What makes it important: With its excellent performance and feature set combined with an affordable price--around $900 for the 50-incher at the moment--the ST30 is the best value of any TV I've ever reviewed. Until next year, I'm guessing.
What makes it important: Hardly a good value by mortal standards, the ultra-expensive Elite LED from Sharp steals the picture quality crown from the best current plasmas by Panasonic and Samsung. It's the only TV since its 2008 Kuro namesake to earn a "10" in Performance.
What makes it important: The thinnest bezel ever leads to a TV that's almost all picture, enough to earn this Samsung the only "10" I awarded in the Design category all year. I smell a minimalist trend.
What makes it important: Who needs LEDs, the Internet, or fancy features? The LND630 is one of the best LCD values out there with very good picture quality and not much else. It's as close to the fabled "dumb monitor" as you can get among TVs I'd recommend this year.
What makes it important: My overall Editors' Choice, the PND7000 gets my vote for the best picture quality to price ratio. It's hundreds cheaper than the other TVs to score a "9" or higher in the Performance category.
What makes it important: If it wasn't for the ridiculously expensive Elite crashing the party late in the year, Panasonic's VT30 would remain the king of picture quality in 2011. It's still a superb performer overall, better than the Elite from far off-angle, and definitely a better value--albeit still spendy in its own right.
What makes it important: Elite notwithstanding, Sharp seems to offer more square inches of flat-panel screen for the buck than any manufacturer, and its 70-inch model was a surprisingly good performer. It's also surprisingly popular, perhaps because of its relatively affordable price tag. Bigger is better among HDTVs, and I expect even more extra-large-screen options from Sharp and others in 2012.