Kevin Hunt: A guide to the best HDTVs of 2013

Welcome to the HDTV New Year. It started in March, but the last of the 2013 models won't arrive in stores until sometime this month.

So which one to buy?

That's a question we've left for Gary Merson, resident watchdog at HDguru.com, a consumer site devoted to testing HDTVs, explaining HD technology and, sometimes, challenging the HD industry.

Plasmas are the year's best values (again), Merson says, with models from three Panasonic series and one Samsung series worth buying. The models within each series differ by screen size.

"These four series are the best the companies offer," he says, "and will outperform any 2013 LED LCD (an LCD television that uses LED backlighting) or LCD. Plasma TV provide superb motion resolution for viewing sports and action, the widest viewing angles, dark detail and deeper blacks."

Those who still believe plasma HDTVs are inferior should know that Merson also recommends some LED LCD sets from Samsung and LG.

The details:

Panasonic Plasma

Series: TC-P(screen size)ST60

Models: TC-P50ST60 ($1,150), TC-P55ST60 ($1,500), TC-P60ST60 ($1,700), TC-P65ST60 ($2,600).

Merson: "Panasonic's TC-PxxST60 is the best performance-for-the-money of any 2013 HDTV. … Top rated by HD Guru. … Features include Smart TV with Internet movie streaming, games and browser, 3-D and just a 2-inch depth."

Series: TC-P(screen size)T60

Models: TC-P55VT60 ($2,600), TC-P60VT60 ($3,000), TC-P65VT60 ($3,600).

Merson: "Adds HD video camera for Skype and face recognition for custom Internet functions, voice/track pad remote control, better built-in speakers and better anti-reflective filter."

Series: TC-P(screen size)ZT60

Models: TC-P60ZT60 ($3,500), TC-P65ZT60 ($4,100).

Merson: "The top of Panasonic's line, with the most advanced performance, best filter and darkest, deepest blacks of any HDTV available. … The filter glass is bonded to the plasma panel to eliminate internal reflections and acts like an ambient-light roach motel — the room light goes in but doesn't come back out, making deep, inky blacks even with moderate to high room lighting. … Includes voice/track pad remote, Smart TV functions (but no built-in camera or face recognition), 3-D, thinnest bezel of any Panasonic plasma and 1.9-inch depth. … Earns top HD Guru rating."

Samsung Plasma

Series: PN(screen size)F8500

Models: PN51F8500 ($2,200), PN60F8500, PN64F8500 ($3,700).

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