Because of space restrictions, I'm looking to buy a 26 inch LCD HDTV. I'll be watching regular TV programming and movie DVDs. I've seen a lot of reviews, and I'm more confused than anything else.
I've gone to a few stores to compare models. The Sony XBR1 26" looks pretty good (although pricey—also, the sound is difficult to jufge in the big box stores). It's been around for awhile; does anyone know if Sony's go anything new in the pipeline?
Can anyone recommend other HDTV's (models) to look at? I don't mind price, just want the best for the size.
Samsung LN-S2651D would be my first pick, only $900 on Amazon. Features an ATSC Tuner, 2 HDMI inputs, high contrast ratio, PC input, and enhanced game mode. Ideal viewing distance for this set is 5 feet. The glass for this panel is made in the same plant in South Korea as the Sony Bravia you were looking at. Enjoy!
One point in your favor is that the smaller the TV is, the less evident are any flaws in the picture elements and processing. I think that most of the major players make flat-panel LCDs that are pleasant to watch. I'm going to assume that you're not looking for the LCD that holds most closely to SMPTE color points or other standards but for a display that looks good and doesn't suffer from too many obvious defects. I must say at the outset that few people are going to base their decision on how this sort of TV sounds. I, for one, have never paid much attention to that criterion.
That said, Sony and Sharp are the two flat LCDs that tend to get the most praise. I wouldn't think that you can go wrong with either one, but others may be worthy, too. Here are some things to look for, if viewing in a store provides the opportunity: Green is often a problem for these TVs, tending toward an icky lime color. Can you live with the color of grass on a particular set? Check skin tones as well. Does everyone have a sunburn, emphasizing red tones? Or does the color of blue stand out? Sometimes irritations like these can be corrected by a calibration in the user menu, but sometimes not. Watch the TV from different angles and different heights. At what point do contrast and color begin to fade? Can you live with the viewing area?
LCDs showing dark colors or black may look convincing in a bright store, but when the lights are low or out, deep space or dark suits can turn into a murky grey or purple blob. If you intend to watch in a dim room, you might want an LCD that maximizes its black level and allows detail in dark scenes--not generally strong suits for LCDs. Sharp and Sony should be among the best in that regard. Look also for how well a display is able to show gradual shifts in color depth and shade; false contouring and banding can be really distracting in a movie with a lot of subtle backgrounds.
One more major consideration is how well a panel copes with the dreaded motion blur--the tendency for moving objects and people to leave visible trails. Some people are more sensitive to seeing them than others. Sharp supposedly has minimized the problem with fast refresh times. See if you can compare a Sharp with another panel for any visible difference.
That's about it for a quick survey. At 26" you shouldn't have much problem with the screen door effect--that is, being able to see the gaps between pixels--unless you press your nose against the glass. You might decide in the end that extra money for a "premium" LCD wouldn't be well spent, but you might. Make sure that you distinguish your short list by features that appeal to you. Good luck.