I'm also currently shopping for a TV in this same price range. I moved into a new place and no longer have a TV. My only point of reference is my previous roommate had a 5 year old Sharp 37" LCD. It worked fine but I was never totally happy with the PQ and black levels, although never actually ran an official calibration.
I would like to get an LED LCD, something in the 55" range. It looks like edge lit, no local dimming is the only option in this price range, but I'm ok with that. What I don't want is uneven backlighting as that is more noticeable than all out deep black levels. I really thought about Plasma too but decided I don't want to deal with a high maintenance TV. I don't need 3D or even Smart TV functions as I will have a computer connected to the TV to act as an HTPC. However, it seems like better quality units also tend to come with those features. I will also get a Bluray player, and while I won't watch BD discs too often I would like the TV to have proper 24p playback.
Right now I am looking at the Sony 55EX640 as I can't find too much bad about it. I like that Sony has only a few TV models instead of a dozen different series to pick from. I think I am ruling out Samsung and LG at this point due to super glossy screens, reliability issues, and reviews about uneven screen performance. I am also considering Sharp 640 series even though reviews aren't perfect, they are reasonably priced. The Panasonic ET5 is also an option too even though it has 3D.
Anyone have any more input on this? Thanks in advance.