It's been a while since I've awarded CNET's Editors' Choice to a TV, but today that changes. Based on TV reviews this year, I'm giving the EC to the Panasonic TC-PVT20/25 and the Vizio XVT3SV. Here's why.
Panasonic TC-PVT20/25 series: It's Panasonic's best TV ever, and in terms of picture quality, it's the second-best HDTV of any brand or technology I've ever reviewed (the best still being the Pioneer Elite Kuro from 2008). The VT25 is the only TV to receive a "9" out of 10 score in our Performance subcategory in 2010, with the deepest black levels of any plasma this year and a superb showing in other performance areas, including 3D. At this point I don't expect any 2010 TV to equal or beat that score. The runner-up is Samsung's PNC8000, which came closer than any other, but overall didn't quite measure up. In my opinion the difference in price between the two--the 50-inch Panasonic is about $700 more expensive at Best Buy--is worth paying, but price does make a strong argument in the Samsung's favor.
The other factor working against Panasonic is black-level loss, which we confirmed in our long-term test of the VT25. The extent of that loss is still yet to be determined, although Panasonic's reps claim the sample we tested will stabilize soon. Even after the loss, the black levels of the VT25 are still significantly deeper than those of the Samsung and other 2010 plasmas. Perhaps Panasonic is lying and they'll fade more over time. And perhaps the Samsung's will, too--I just don't know. Even knowing about the loss, however, if I were shopping for a TV today I'd still buy a Panasonic TC-PVT25.
Vizio XVT3SV series: It's Vizio's best TV ever, with the most extensive 3D-free feature set on the market including a QWERTY Bluetooth remote, built-in Wi-Fi, and our favorite implementation of Apps-on-TV so far. But picture quality is what earned the XVT3SV our award. Highlights include color fidelity, the ability to handle bright rooms well, and black levels deep enough to stand among the best. Its LED local dimming technology didn't suffer the kind of uniformity issues we saw on edge-lit models like the Samsung UNC8000, and also avoided some of the problems we saw on its closest full-array competitors, including the LG LX9500 and runner-up LE8500, along with Sony's XBR-HX909. The Vizio scored an "8" in Performance, the same as many 2010 plasma TVs and LG's best LCD models, and manages to do so for less than any of its flagship competition. That said, if money were no object and I had to choose an LCD TV for myself, it would be the Vizio XVT3SV series.
I've always considered an Editors' Choice Award as the answer to the question "What would you buy?" in a given product category. Plasma-based HDTVs generally offer a few picture quality advantages over LCD/LED in my experience as a reviewer, which often manifest in higher scores. I understand many readers would prefer to buy an LCD, however, so this year I decided to give out two EC awards, one each for plasma and LCD.
As with any technology category, HDTV is packed with numerous excellent products, many of which are less expensive than these flagship models, and a few of which I haven't yet reviewed. If any of them appeal to my buying bug stronger than either of the above models this year, I'll swap out the award and update this post.
Now I'll shut up so you can comment. Agree? Disagree? Why? Let's hear it.