First Plasma/LCD purchase ever - a few questions..

My budget is under $1k and considering 37" - 42" sizes.

Any issues buying from Best Buy?
Any issues buying open stock/demo to save $$?
BB salesman told me I need to have the TV professionally calibrated on a regular basis. Can I DIY this process instead?
Plasma and LCD - does one require more maintenance (calibration) than the other?
And of course, the salesman wants me to buy the top-of-the-line warranty service. I've never ever bought any extended warranty on anything in my life. But is this, or any costly service contract, necessary for these TVs (plasma/lcd)?

I'd be happy to hear about your experiences related to these questions.

Thank you (in advance).
best buy makes the lion share of its profits from warranties and services; consequently they're incentivized to sell you calibration, extended warranties, etc. if it were my money i'd go online to newegg, buydig or that ilk and buy a top brand (samsung, panasonic, toshiba) 42" model (easily attainable for <1000 incl. shipping)and spend 20 bucks on a self-calibrating dvd. plasma still probably has a marginally better picture, and definitely wider viewing angles; lcd is cheaper to run and better in bright rooms, but the differences are small. check dealmac for online bargains.
You can go to the home theater forums and AVS forums (audio visual forums) as well as some on-line reviews to get the proper settings for many plasma and LCD TV's. Or, as suggested above, you can get a calibration DVD. I would not spend the money on ISF calibrations and extended warranties. I still like the large plasma TVs (50" and over) better than LCDs but the differences are getting smaller all the time. Plasmas use more energy but have better blacks and LCDs are better in bright roooms. If you go 50" or larger try a panasonic plasma or pioneer kuro. If you are going for a 40'-46' try the samsung LCDs. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preferences. If you live in NJ/NY check the 6ave circulars as they are clearing out plasmas (58" panasonics for around $2500 and 50" sets for $1000 OR LESS DEPENDING UPON WHETHER THEY ARE 720 OR 1080 SETS) or check their website at
I recently purchased a Sony 37" XBR6 LCD (to fit a tight closet installation) from Best Buy, a 42" $745 RCA LCD from CostCo, and a 60" Pioneer Elite from Axxis Audio in Colorado.

BEST BUY: It's simply foolish to let a sales person or the displays at Best Buy sway your purchasing decision in any way other than an offer of a lower price. Best Buy's lowest price can easily be beat. It' important to know exactly what you want and what the lowest price that unit is being sold for nationally B&H Photo in NY is a good place to start but even their prices aren't the lowest. The idea is that you have a fairly good knowledge of what a product can be sold for and the seller is still making a profit.

The one positive aspect I received from my Best Buy purchase was a bundled certified (IFxxx?) calibration for $140. I shopped around locally and the best I could get a calibration done for was $345. Historically Sony CRT's were very well dialed in out of the box but this is a new era. My XBR was running at 8000 Kelvin (I believe 5600 is the norm). I'm not sure if there would be a situation were you would need to have a set recalibrated. Once calibrated the LCD's superior brightness is simply a result of a higher Kelvin setting. My Sony gained more depth and a more realistic picture quality as a result of calibration.

The Sony scans at 120Hz and there is defiantly motion artifacts as there are in the best Samsung's (my neighbors). The life span of an LCD is said to be much shorter compared to current plasmas.

COSTCO: The RCA was a purchased based on price and size. The picture quality is surprisingly good and I'd rather have a slightly lesser quality picture on a bigger display any day and this was my son's choice. CostCo offers a limited Concierge Service that can be upgraded for a reasonable price. It's basically very good phone support. If the phone support fails to remedy the problem the they will send a technician for the first 30 or 90 days.

AXXIS AUDIO: The positive experiences by people on the AVS forum lead me to Axxis. I still had trepidation over the shipping of such a fragile and expensive component. A call to Axxis relieved me. I was told to open the carton before the driver left. If the screen was cracked to put it right back on the truck, call and another would be shipped that day. The Pioneer comes very well packed and all was well. The other components I purchased from Axxis were shipped UPS. The display was delivered within 20 minutes of their ETA.

Axxis emailed the next day to confirm delivery. I save just over $1900 over the Best Buy/Magnolia price for this plasma so I splurged on a calibration. I couldn't see any difference after calibration except on the technicians laptop and those were very slight. In hind sight I could of easily lived without the calibration on this plasma. Any warranty concerns can be directed to Pioneer who will in turn direct you to their nearest service center.

This plasma is in a very brightly sunlit room and the picture is not affected. After calibration both the Sony and the Elite are similar in brightness with the edge going to the plasma as are most other aspects of picture quality. If the only display in your house is a 120Hz scanning LCD motion blur may not be an issue. Living with both the shortcoming becomes obvious. Even my neighbor felt somewhat shortchanged after comparing his top of the line Samsung to the plasma during the NFL playoffs.

Interesting info Vic. I hope to be TV shopping sometime this year too. I was always under the impression that a professional calibration is a lot more involved and the results are better than anything you can do with a DVD, but as Vic pointed out it would appear on the actual set you are dealing with. One thing I would NEVER buy is a floor model have no idea how long it's been sitting on the floor and running constantly every day during their operating hours. Most floor models have their settings so high to make them bright to the passerby and this can't be good over the long haul!
I understand that Pioneer is getting out of the plasma business and that there may be some bargains out there on their Kuro line.

Plasmas consume much more power than LCDs, which means higher electric bills.

You should be able to buy a 720p 42" plasma or comparable for less than $1,000 at Costco.

The Samsung plasma 1080p 50" has a great picture, from my personal experience. You won't get one for $1,000, however.

Best Buy rarely has the best buy.....
A Samsung LN37A550 would be an excellent choice which would fall well-within your budget. Entry level 1080P. I own the LN32A550. Do check out Tons of info. Plasma's run hot and consumer 3X the power. Definately compare prices. I would personally not buy the extended warranty. Professional ISF calibration? My set looks most exc. w/just a few simply picture adjusments. I'd wait on the ISF calibration till I lived w/the set for awhile. Good Luck!
LCD and plasma technologies from the better manufacturers have been fairly reliable according to Consumer Reports, and I would think if anything is going to go wrong with them it will probably surface in the first few months. I know my Panasonic plasma gives 1 year parts and labor, so I'm not sure an extended warranty is really worth it in this instance.

As far as calibration, I think it depends largely on the TV itself and how comprehensive their user operated and service menu controls are along with how the TV is set up at the factory. The best thing to do is read the reviews from the better magazines/webzines and see what they had to do to get the TV optimally set up. For an example, with the newer higher-end Panasonics running their auto-calibration settings seems to get pretty close to optimal and makes professional calibration less or unnecessary. My slightly older Panasonic on the other hand needs to be adjusted through the service menu to get the best results.

I wouldn't buy an open stock item for reasons mentioned previously, and I wouldn't take the advice of any salesman unless it completely agreed with what you read in places like this. They're for the most part worse than useless.

Best of luck.
>04-09-09: Pcking
I understand that Pioneer is getting out of the plasma business and that there may be some bargains out there on their Kuro line.<

Pc, excellent point. I believe they're simply going out of the plasma production and sourcing to Panasonic. They showed a 10G prototype at a show somewhere. The folks over at the AVS are all over this stuff.

I just got of the phone with a friend who was shopping for the 50" Kuro (not the Elite) and he noticed that prices fell to $1800 two weeks ago here in the San Francisco Bay Area. A week later he pulled it together to get one and they had sold out. A week later he could only find them for $2500. Two days latter he found a used Elite on Craig's List for $2500.
Costco has a panasonic 46 inch 1080p plasma for about 989dollars--if you use the amex -costco credit card you get an additional year warranty above the 2yrs you get with them plus a 90 day return policy--hard to beat so I just bought one also have a 50inch plasma --vizio monitor that is 2yrs old from them with no problems picture is excellent and no calibration--good luck
Dont buy open box, dont buy warranty and dont buy the BS about calibration, the amount spent doesnt justify it and as long as you like how it looks who cares. Next and last is never NEVER listen to anyone at BestBuy..........too many of them are idiots to gamble with common sense.
>04-09-09: Chadnliz
Dont buy open box, dont buy warranty and dont buy the BS about calibration, the amount spent doesnt justify it and as long as you like how it looks who cares.<

In a showroom environment the brightest picture equates the best choice to the average consumer which is why most LCD's are shipped with the Kelvin or brightness set very high if not all the way up. Leaving the display set at this high level greatly shortens the life span of the display.

Lowering the Kelvin doesn't necessarily require professional adjustment. Accessing the diagnostic menu and adjusting all the parameters to their optimum using the appropriate software does. The custom settings can also be correctly set for day or night time viewing. As I mentioned above my LCD's benefited greatly from calibration with much better shadow detail, color rendition, and less fatiguing brightness, just to name a few.

Any adjustment should be done after a few months of use. As 55dok mentioned a search at the AVS forum may provide you with basic settings that could also greatly improve a displays picture quality over the factory settings.

Do you have any specialty audio/video dealers in your area???

If so, why don't you pay a visit to one of them and get a second opinion.

Surely, I have nothing against Best Buy, as it is one of my favorite stores. I would buy a lot of things out of Best Buy. But rest assure you, a TV will not be one of them. And I may have to slightly disagree with "Chadnliz" as far as a warranty is concerned. Being that Plasma and LCD Television are relatively new technologies, I may be inclined to buy a warranty as well (for your piece of mind if for nothing else..... that way if you have any issues with your expensive set during the warranty period long after your one year manufacturer's warranty expires, you'll be covered as well).

And lastly, like others have stated, don't buy none of that bullshit that Best Buy may feed you in reference of calibration. The calibration of your TV set is something you can do on your own. You can get an Aria Digital TV Calibration Disc for less than $40.00 and do the calibration yourself. Just put the disc in your DVD Player and follow the instructions as you go along.

To start out on getting your first Plasma set, you can get a 720p Panasonic Plasma for as little as $900.00. If you get it from a specialty dealer, they'll cut you a deal that will compete with anything you'll get from Best Buy. If you bargain hard enough, a specialty dealer will take about $100.00 off of the price of the set if you opt for other things like installation and delivery. Including an extended warranty (if your choose to go with one) and taxes, a high-end dealer in my area will sell you Panasonic TC--P42X1 for about $1,300.00 (delivered, installed and with an extended warranty). I am thinking about getting one for my bedroom (I have a 2007 Panasonic TH-42PZ77U 1080p 42" Plasma Set in my living room.... and it was about $1,500.00 for the set only back in 2007 and about $1,900.00 delivered and installed).

Good Luck and Happy Shopping.

Let us know what you end up with.

"Don't buy warranty"?

I had extended warranty on a Sony 30" CRT hi-def that blew its tuner card three months before warranty expired.

Saved me $850 in repairs.

Pass at your own risk...
Find what you like at BB but shop on line for the best deals. Best buy prices are very high! has a clearance center on their website.
They ship for free and don't charge sales tax. I bought a Panasonic hdtv from them/open box with no problems. Also bought other stuff (dvd players, speakers etc) Aside from Vanns you can shop via google and find plenty of on line merchants. Look for the ones that offer free shipping and/or no sales tax. Also consider the Sony outlet store on line unless you live nearby one of their outlet centers. I live close to one in NY and got a great deal on a 46" LCD. Don't be afraid to buy an Sony refurb from the Sony outlet. They are covered by warranty and you can buy an extended warranty for cheap from Sony. I got my TV (refurb) with 3 year warranty out the door for under $1100. at the Sony outlet.
Good hunting!
Like I said "Dont buy warranty" its a fluke that soemthing goes bad just before warranty expires, 99% of the time a failure will happen very soon after purchase or not at all and I am far from the only one to believe this. If things indeed failed often they wouldnt offer the service at all as the idea is TO MAKE MONEY and if it was common to axchange $150 for $800 then it would never be offered, you cant argue the logic.
Regarding extended warranty: I tend to agree somewhat with Chadnliz BUT I was recently faced with the reality of getting a quote on a big screen tv repair and it was bone chilling! I considered the extended warranty cost of $100 for three years on my new Sony big screen and decided it was worth it. That's only $33 a year for in home service and peace of mind. A service tech charges anywhere from $90 to $150 just to walk into your house and then parts are over and above the service call. Bottom line it's an insurance policy, or as Chris Rock would say "in case shit happens"
Bought my Panasonic 46" Plasma at BB for under $900. It was the demo and the last one in the store. I believe there was an updated verion just out with THX but I can live without it. They tried to talk me into a warranty I said no thanks. It's been a couple of months and I very happy with it. Went with their Blu Ray as well.
Wait on new Samsung OLED soon to be released. Better resolution, thinner, and uses less energy. May be the new standard making plasma and lcd old tech.
Thank you all for your ideas. Unfortunately, an unexpected cash crunch has postponed buying anything right now. I'm even considering down grading my awesome sounding 2-channel rig just to generate some cash for paying bills. A great amount of effort was invested building this system - the thought of dismantling it makes me sick. Anyway, it will be quite some time before I replace the old tube. Bright side: by then maybe OLEDs will be affordable. ;^)