With 2010 FIFA World Cup fever about to overtake the globe, there are plenty of options out there for anyone looking to upgrade to a sizeable flat-screen LCD or plasma television. We run you through a few tips for choosing a television that's suited to watching football (or soccer, if you prefer).
LCD versus plasma
The LCD versus plasma debate still rages, with each camp claiming advantages in colour representation, contrast, off-axis viewing and refresh rate abilities. Personally, we think the debate is now largely academic — both LCD and plasma panels have evolved to the point that whichever you choose, it’s going to look fantastic when supplied with good quality content.
If you do decide to go for an LCD panel though, ensure it has a 100Hz frame interpolation mode — and 200Hz would be even better. These modes smooth out the display of video frames, reducing choppiness and allowing TVs to better display fast movement (the ball in a football match, for example). A 200Hz LCD panel like the LG LH50 series or the Sony Bravia Z5500 series will be able to display broadcast television video smoothly and with no quality issues. If we were pressed to pick an LCD panel, these two would be at the top of our list along with Toshiba's 200Hz ZV600A panels. Plasma TVs have inherently smoother motion reproduction due to their panel design, so there is no need for frame interpolation.
With the 2010 FIFA World Cup being captured in 3D with Sony equipment — though we won’t be seeing 3D broadcasts of the matches, unfortunately — now might be the right time to think about upgrading to a brand new 3D TV. Information on specific models from the major brands is still sketchy, with most brands planning big launches during April. We’ve had a quick look at the Panasonic TH-P50VT20a and the Sony Bravia HX900 3D televisions and we're certainly optimistic. If your main concern is watching the World Cup football matches live, a competent 2D-capable screen is all you need. If you plan on getting hold of the 3D recordings, you'll have to hold off at least until the end of April.
Our top picks
If you want a big, bright screen to watch early-morning World Cup broadcasts on, you'd be hard pressed to go past the Panasonic TH-P58V10A. It's a 58in screen with a 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio. Start measuring your walls and running imaginary cables in your head — it may be an impressive size, but you can find the Panasonic TH-P58V10A for under $4000 if you shop around. If we had our pick of consumer panels and plenty of room to set it up, this would top our list.
The Panasonic TH-P58V10A has some stiff competition from LCD TVs. Sony’s 200Hz, 52in KDL-52Z5500 LCD television is one of the best of the current crop of non-LED LCD panels, and with a model refresh just around the corner you might be able to find it for less than you expect. It's the cheapest of our top three and will be large enough to keep a full room of football fans happy — in a pinch the internal stereo speakers are surprisingly capable. Alternatively, Sony's shiny new HX700 series LCD televisions features MotionFlow 200Hz plus BRAVIA Internet Video to catch up on missed games via the on-demand SBS channel.
The Samsung UA46B8000 may not be as large as the 58in Panasonic and 52in Sony, but with an inch-thick body it will make a serious impression when you mount it in the pool room. Its picture is vibrant, sharp and it has some nifty multimedia features to keep you occupied during half time. Its light weight is an added bonus — you can easily transport it to a mate's place or move it to a larger room if you've got friends around. Viewing angles are good, especially if you're watching from the dinner table across the room.
Our top three panels are definitely large, as we're fans of kicking back in front of a big screen and watching the action unfold. For a complete list of product reviews from large to small, check out our TV reviews section.