Wander the television aisles at any consumer electronics store, and you'll see far more LCD sets than plasma sets. While the TV industry has pretty much standardized on LCD displays, which have a brighter picture and use less energy than plasmas, that doesn't mean that plasma is suddenly unpopular among its fans.
Panasonic, one of the last plasma TV holdouts, topped a tightly packed group of HDTV manufacturers in our survey, edging out LG and Sony. While Panasonic's support is average, its plasma sets are very reliable and have few serious problems, readers say.
In general, HDTV sets have a high level of reliability. For instance, just 8.5 percent of HDTV users report a significant problem with their sets, compared with 30.7 percent of desktop and 25.9 percent of laptop users. However, not all HDTV brands are equally reliable. Although just 1 in 20 Panasonic users report encountering a major glitch with their TVs, 1 in 4 Viewsonic TV owners in our survey report having such an issue.
Russ Rizzuto owns a 50-inch Panasonic plasma and says he would "definitely" buy another. Since he hasn't had a single problem with the set, he hasn't had to contact the company's tech support. "I watch a lot of sports, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to go with the plasma," says Rizzuto, a sales executive in San Clemente, California.
Mitsubishi users have few out-of-the-box issues; only 1.8 percent of them report a problem on arrival, on a par with the industry average. However, a surprisingly high 21.2 percent--more than twice the average--report at least one significant problem with their sets. Many of these gripes, though, pertain to the high cost ($90 to $300) of the replacement bulbs that Mitsubishi uses in rear-projection TVs.
JVC, meanwhile, after rising to the middle of the pack a year ago, has slipped back toward the bottom, its users reporting a higher-than-average number of severe problems this year.
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The chart below summarizes our survey's findings on HDTV reliability, by brand. For more on the measures used in the chart and the survey methodology, see "The Tech Brands You Can Trust."