When price is no object and you just want the best picture you can get, these TVs are just what the holiday doctor ordered.
Now that OLED TVs have been delayed, the VT50's place as the best-performing TV of 2012 is assured. And when they finally do arrive, OLED sets will cost thousands more than this awesome Panasonic plasma. Its black levels are the inkiest from plasma since the legendary Pioneer Kuro, its color accuracy is top-notch, and, like all plasmas, it benefits from essentially perfect screen uniformity and off-angle fidelity.
The Ferrari on this list, Sharp's Elite LED-based LCD, is designed in homage to the vaunted Kuro Elite plasmas from Pioneer, and like the Kuro Panasonic's excellent TC-PVT50, it earned a "10" in picture quality. As usual, it's all about black levels; the Pro-X5FD's are even deeper than the Kuro's and the VT50's, don't suffer noticeable blooming, and maintain excellent fidelity from off-angle -- for an LED. I'd even recommend the 70-inch Elite over the 65-inch VT50 for money's-no-object shoppers who crave those extra inches.
As we said in the review, the ST50 sets a lofty standard for HDTV picture quality this year, and if picture quality is your deciding factor yet money is still an object, we haven't reviewed anything better. Its black levels are deeper than those of any 2011 plasma, its color is extremely accurate, and its bright-room image superb. And its price is more than reasonable. In short, it's our Editors' Choice.
We compared the PNE6500 with the more-expensive PNE8000 and, while neither is the equal of any of the previous TVs, they're both still excellent. If we had to choose one based on picture quality alone, it would, surprisingly, be the less-expensive PNE6500. We saw better shadow detail and bright-room performance on that TV and, although the 8000 handled a noisy signal better, it's still a very slim notch less impressive.
You want a top-flight plasma with outstanding picture quality, you don't mind paying extra, you're somehow averse to Panasonic, and you want something bigger than 60 inches. Or maybe you just like the idea of voice and gesture control with all the features fixins. Then the Samsung PNE8000 series is for you.
Sony saved its 2012 "XBR" series until late in the year, but if you're a fan of full-array local dimming--the picture quality Holy Grail for LED/LCD TVs--it was worth it. The HX950 can get blacker than any of the TVs on this list, including the vaunted Sharp Elite, and for that you may be able to overlook its blooming and insanely high price.
Most of the TVs on this list have been plasmas. The lone LED-based exceptions, Sharp's Elite and Sony's own XBR, start at about $3,000. That's why the HX850 landed on here in the seventh and final slot. While not up to any of those often cheaper plasmas in terms of picture quality, it's still only one of two LED TVs we've tested this year to score an "8" in that category, and it's a much better deal than the other (again, Sony's XBR).