First, I shout sometimes, because it seems some people are "deaf" on the Internet. There are those who assume (wrongly) that just because they have the larger audience, that theirs is the only opinion that matters.
Be that as it may, my other reason for shouting is to get CNET off its butt to review (formally!) the Quattron technology. I say it's superior to ordinary LCD, and is darned near as good as Plasma. Sharp has "kept up" and introduced 2011 models that are much improved over the set I bought. I also followed your advice and looked at some of those modern Plasmas and it does indeed show that power consumption is coming down (there's been tremendous improvement in fact). Power is a secondary concern though I assure you. Of primary concern for all of us is color reproduction, color accuracy, contrast, video quality when there is motion in the picture and so forth.
I've been around long enough to remember "green" screens on CRT's, I started with IBM PC XT's in the tech business. I've seen the progression through the various levels of improvements. I know enough to say that there are limits to what the human eye can perceive in terms of refresh. For instance, when Macintosh first came out, the screen was fine when you viewed it up close (as normally sitting in front of the unit), but if you were across the room and walked a couple of steps the screen would appear to "jerk" or flicker. That was a refresh issue that the human eye could perceive, but only under certain circumstances.
When it all comes down to it, the human eye can really only perceive about 1/100th of a second (depends on the person) - any more and it becomes very subjective. There are those who argue that video motion "appears" much smoother at higher refresh rates, but again, this is subject to interpretation. Much depends on the actual speed of the video processor and whether it's actually keeping up and truly providing a new image for the screen / monitor at a 120hz (or higher) refresh rate. The newer TV's out there with 600hz refresh rates are pulling people's legs - I mean really, you expect me to believe that a TV video processor is really producing 600 different images per second? That's silly and completely ridiculous. The very fastest processors on PC's are only capable of producing about 60 different frames per second (what is referred to as the "frames per second" or fps for short or just "frame rate").
There may be some (video processors) out there that are faster, but it becomes very fuzzy in reality. A TV may be capable of producing 600hz refresh in a 1080p picture (probably not at 1080p, but at 720p or 720i in reality), but does that mean that it really refreshes the screen that often (10x per second)? No - in fact, it only theoretically (in most cases) can.
What really matters is response time, and manufacturers (again as is typical) don't always give you true numbers on that measure. They're apt to give you the best possible times for black - white - black of individual crystals on the screen, or they'll give you the gray - white - gray numbers instead. Those can be very misleading. The best measure is still your own eyes. Accordingly, I'm reporting that I see no pixelation on my Sharp at 120hz, and I see no ghosting at all. That is, the processor in the Sharp is keeping ahead of what my eye would perceive as "blurring" and it works well enough that I can detect no problems with it whatsoever. Of course, it probably helps that I have a decent Blu-ray player from Pioneer, and we have HDTV via cable that we watch most of the rest of the time.
Now, I will grant that Plasma screen TV's have always looked better (and in fact performed better) than most LCD screens out there. I think that with this innovation from Sharp (again, my subjective analysis) that LCD (Backlit LED LCD HDTV's if you want) are getting very close to the performance of those Plasma TV's.
As I said, one of the reasons I have shouted is that it appears there is some bias at CNET towards other technologies and they have not done a comprehensive review or study of this new Quattron technology from Sharp. I expected more from an organization that prides itself on technological prowess. I expected they wouldn't turn their noses up at a new innovation just because they already had their "favorites" in the industry.
In reality, what Sharp has done in my mind is to open up the middle ground of the HDTV market. There's plenty of low-end fodder out there, cheap sets with very marginal performance (at best, as you said, most of the junk pedaled by Best Buy, and others) and there have been high end sets, but not much in between. I think this new technology from Sharp has found itself a niche in the market and is a very good solution for folks like myself who want quality and performance, but cannot afford to pay for "the best."