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What's the best TV of 2011 (so far)?

The year is more than half over. So far, the best TV of the year crown is a battle between Samsung and Panasonic plasmas.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I first published this post in June as a comparison between the two most high-end plasma TVs from Panasonic and Samsung, and now it includes a third, the Samsung PND7000. All three are superb examples of everything good about TV technology (except maybe energy efficiency), but if you have money to burn and want the best 2011 TV available today, you might be wondering which one wins.

First it's worth reiterating a couple of oft-made points. The best plasma TVs have generally performed better in CNET reviews than the best LED and LCD TVs (like Sony's XBR-HX929), mainly because of superior picture uniformity, which includes off-angle viewing. I honestly don't expect any forthcoming 2011 LCD to match or exceed the picture quality of either of these plasmas, although the Vizio XVT3D6 series and LG's eventual "Nano" LCDs have an outside chance of doing so. LG's best plasma, the flagship 50PZ950 (which we have in-house, review coming soon), doesn't have the black-level chops to keep up with these three.

I expect to review all of the remaining TVs mentioned above as soon as they become available, so if you can wait until later in the year for the final verdict--and for prices to fall, as they inevitably will--then hold tight.

In the meantime, here's how the Panasonic PVT30 and the Samsung PND7000 and PND8000 compare in each of the subcategories I use for TV reviews. I've also included a separate value comparison and crowned the overall winner (so far).

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