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The AVForums Budget Televisions of 2013

We scour the bargain bin and pick out our top buys for 2013

by Mark Hodgkinson Dec 20, 2013

  • Home AV Article


    The AVForums Budget Televisions of 2013
    We have to admit that the year 2013 hasn’t exactly seen us deluged with budget TV review samples.
    The manufacturers are embracing the idea of premiumisation and would rather push their higher-end models into the spotlight. There’s also the small matter of higher resolutions and whole new technologies to promote. That’s fair enough, business is business, but it means we’ve had to scour the annals that little bit harder in order to bring your our guide to what we consider the value choices of 2013.

    Plasma may be on its way out but, bang for buck, still offers picture quality a lot of the high-end LED/LCD TVs can’t match. Viewing angles, native black levels and better motion handling are some of the factors we can call to evidence so it’s a shame 2013 is looking like it will be the swansong for the technology.

    If LG and Samsung follows Panasonic’s lead, and depart plasma production altogether, then indeed it will be the end but should that prove the case, at least it went out with head held high. All of that pre-amble should have meant you guessed we were kicking off with a plasma TV and where better to start than with the (past) masters of the craft?
    Plasma is still the bang for buck choice but for how long?
    Panasonic TX-P42X60B

    The Panasonic TX-P42X60B probably isn’t high up on many wish lists. It’s plain looking, bordering on ugly, and features a lowly 720p panel. It’s not what you’d call a ‘Smart TV’ either, it can play some media files from USB but that’s about all, so it’s the very antithesis of the kinds of product the manufacturers will overtly endorse.
    It's no-frills but provides plenty of thrills

    But, you know what? With what most people are watching and the distances they are doing it from, this is a great option. Forty two inches, believe it or not, is still a relatively big TV for a UK living room but at 10 feet distance, or so, most can't see the difference between 720p and 1080p. So, with the X60 priced currently around, an almost insane, £300 this is a true bargain, in every sense of the word.

    Samsung UE32F6400

    We’ve found the Samsung UE32F6400 popping up on the interwebs priced at less than £400. You could argue that doesn’t quite fit the bill as cheap but it’s certainly not expensive and for all that you get, it still represents a good slice of value.

    For your money, you will receive a very stylish and slender TV packed to the gills with industry leading Smart TV features and a super little picture to boot. Blacks are impressive and so is the dynamic range, whilst colours are very pleasing and video processing top-notch.

    There’s also a bevy of connectivity options and the ability to indulge in a spot of in-home 3D, with a couple of pairs of glasses thrown in to the box. It gets all the basics pretty much right whilst having more than enough diversions but if you’re not fussed by having an ultra-slim TV, then Samsung’s own 5 series often provides a great – and slightly less costly – choice. Perhaps that’s why they didn’t send us one to look at?
    The Samsung F6400 packs it all in there!
    Toshiba 58L7365

    For something just a ‘little’ larger and therefore much more well suited to 3D, you could do worse than Toshiba’s 58-inch L7365. It’s simple and elegant in looks but although the new menu systems are attractive, they can be a tad sluggish to navigate.

    The Smart TV portal has also been jazzed up and packs in a decent amount of Video on Demand services and has a very impressive accompanying app for your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. If we’re honest, there’s a certain amount of improvements needed under the hood to make the connected experience as slick as some of the others but there’s a good degree of promise already.
    Good blacks and solid colour makes the Toshiba L7365 a candidate

    The L7365 produced some great pictures. Colours were natural and black levels unusually deep for one of Toshiba’s recent TVs. There were one or two screen uniformity issues - that’s pretty much par for the course with LED technology but it was rarely enough to detract from the generally solid performance.

    When reviewed, the Toshiba 58L7365 would have set you back in the region of £1,300 but is available pre-Christmas 2013 at under a grand. That’s quite a bit of screen for not an enormous sum of cash so it’s worth putting on your go-see list if you’re planning to brave the festive sales.

    Samsung PS51F5500 & PS60F5500

    But if you’re looking for an even bigger slice of value and the very epitome of a ‘best buy’, look no further than Samsung’s price-defying F5500 plasma TV. We saw it in 51-inch and then 60-inch versions and it was actually even better, second time around, thanks to Samsung ironing out some issues we’d pointed out with software updates.

    Regardless of which screen-size you plump for, the F5500 is almost too good to be true:

    Deep Blacks: Check
    Smooth Motion Handling: Check
    Accurate Colours: Check
    Good Video Processing: Check
    Excellent Smart TV Features: Check
    3D with Glasses included: Why, yes.
    The Samsung F5500 plasma is ridiculously good value!

    So what are its weaknesses? To be fair there aren’t many, although the screen is highly reflective so you’d probably not want to position it opposite a window. The screen filter is also pretty weak meaning that impressive contrast performance will wash out in the daytime and it’s not that prettiest looking unit either. Some of those points might not matter to a lot of people and if you’re an evening watcher who’s not big on overhead lighting, these TVs are a steal.
    So, what’s the damage we hear you ask? At the time of writing, the 51-inch F5500 can be had for considerably under £700, whilst the big bruiser is available at just over £900. That, quite simply, is outrageous value for such quality and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this TV over many costing multiple sums more, with those caveats considered.

    It may seem a little unbalanced, given the relative availabilities of the technologies, to have the same number of plasmas as LED/LCD TVs in the line-up but it’s indicative of the value that plasma TVs can offer. Or should that be, ‘…used to offer?’ Grab one while you can.

    Did you manage to snare yourself a TV bargain in 2013?

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