NEW YORK (Money Magazine) -
You just gotta have one of those big-screen TVs. We understand. As with sports cars and designer handbags, the lure of luxury can turn the most prudent shopper into a slobbering impulse buyer.
That said, there are many reasons to splurge on a wide-screen now. For one, cable and satellite providers are aggressively rolling out high-definition television channels.
HDTV is a life-altering experience -- like seeing the first color broadcasts after years of black and white -- and it works best on screens 30 inches or larger.
Sets capable of receiving HDTV signals (including all of our picks over the next few pages) offer mesmerizing images that seem more vivid than real life. Watching a sports broadcast in HDTV is in many ways better than having front-row seats; view your favorite prime-time show or movie, and you'll never want to go back to standard TV again.
Then there's the wide-screen appeal of the new sets. We're used to box-shaped TVs that display squarish images in what's known as a 4:3 aspect ratio. A wide-screen, which is shaped like a theater screen (16:9 aspect ratio), when coupled with a progressive-scan DVD player (see "Must-Have Accessories" on page 92), will give your local movie house a run for its money.
You get the picture. And now the price of all this eye candy is falling. Sets that recently cost $30,000 now go for $10,000, and those that went for $10,000 now sell for $2,500. (Of course, that's still pricey compared with the 27-inch standard sets that chains are hawking for $300 or less.)
As screens have grown, so have your options. Here are our favorites among glass-tube TVs and rear-projection sets (the best values). We also pick two flat-panel TVs slim enough to hang on a wall -- a liquid crystal display model (best for those who like their movie watching, game playing and Web surfing on one screen) and a plasma version (the ultimate in film viewing). So tune in and start clicking.