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Took the wife to circuit city last night to view HDTVs. I went intent on the RCA38" 16:9 with the built in OTA tuner at $2200, but after an hour of fiddling with the controls, I could not get it to look as good as a Zenith 32" 4:3 (non-progressive, no tuner) that was selling for $1400. (RCA was not as sharp, poor blacks, dim whites, weak saturation)


Next we compared the Phillips 34PW9817 16:9 at $3200. Nice but that price opened up the Sony 40XBR2 at $3500 which blew away everything in the store.


I was able to stand halfway between a Sony 36XBR450 and the 40XBR2 to compare the two. I *think* the 40 was a touch better than the 36, but both sets were so good, and so much better than anything else in the store. The Sony 36 was priced at $2500 (but no OTA tuner).


Next we compared a Panasonic 36HX41 that was sitting right next to the Sony 36. The Panasonic was good, (really good compared to the RCA38), but not as bright, and just a touch softer focus than the Sony. This set was priced at $1999 and is really nice for the price.


The salesman claimed that the Sony 36" was "too sharp" to watch standard video/cable signals - that they were getting that set back from people that did not have satellite. Interesting, but who knows if it isn't just the price point, rather than that set doing worse with cable video than other HDTV sets.


I went in wanting a 16:9 with built in tuner, and came away thinking that 4:3 progressive with no tuner was probably my price point and probably the Panasonic, since HDTV is nice but if I buy a $2000 set, I'll probably be ready to move that to the bedroom in two years and buy a new one for the family room. If I put out the $3500 for the 40", I don't see it going into the bedroom - and since I would have the phenomenal Sony picture to compare to everyday, I couldn't buy anything less for the bedroom - that means a lot more money now and in the future. It just hurts to admit I am not willing to pay for the better picture.


Decisions, decisions!
 

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As an owner of an F38310, I'll agree with you about so-so black levels and color saturation. For me, the color issue doesn't matter as much when the set is not side-by-side with another HD set. The black levels bother me more, but I'll live with it.


That begin said, I'm glad RCA introduced cheaper HDTV equipment last year. I think in the end, RCA's push will help advance HD in this country.


Dave
 

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They finally unboxed the Toshiba 34HF81 at our local Best Buy. They had it set up near the RCA 38" 16:9 set and the Sony 36XBR450. All were showing the Best Buy HD demo loop. I was very much impressed with the Toshiba, especially since here is a 34" 16:9 set being sold at $2499. See if your local BB has it and take a look.
 

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I have a 34HF81 and I love it. Very sharp. VSM is not noticeable. Red push manageable via controls. Not yet calibrated. Waiting for 100-hour burn in.
 

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Thanks to this message board, I am now strongly leaning to the Tosh 34HF81 versus the Panie CT-34WX50. BB has a 10% off deal through 11/3, so that will bring the cost down to $2,250 with a 16 month interest free financing.


Although the Panie has a super HD picture, it's a two year old technology and still cost $300 more than the Tosh.
 
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