look at either sony' new wegas or rca 38 " w/ built in hdtv decoder. Either would suite your needs.
Thanks for the postings to this point, everyone...I've always LOVED Loewes (I even learned to pronounce it "Loo-vah"), but the TV I'm looking for right now would be a step between my regular old television and a true, top-flight Loewe. It would be the type of thing that I'd keep as my main set for a few years, then move it into the bedroom to make room for a Loewe in 2005 or so.
Basically, I saw a Toshiba 42H81 on sale for $1500, and I wanted to see what you guys thought of it before I just dove right in. I live in Washington, so I'll never have enough space for one those those 64" monsters, and it looks like you can get a nice deal on the 36-43 inchers right now. The 42H81 seems to have plenty of inputs and a great picture (even at Best Buy, where the sets are calibrated to about 78,000 degrees Kelvin or so!). Because I hadn't been able to comparison shop too much, I just thought I'd see what everyone thought of that model, especially at such a deep discount.
Again, thanks to everyone for their help so far, especially to CornFed, whose generosity is especially appreciated.
Make sure that you get a direct view tv since you will be using your x-box to play games. Otherwise you will burn the static images in the guns of a rear projection set. Plasma is out of your price range. HDTV would presume that the set have a progressive input. Widescreen would limit your choices as I think that all the big names (Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, etc.) have only one set (34") that is direct view. Even at that it is over your budget.
Your best option given your requirements (HDTV, widescreen and x-box friendly) is compromise the widescreen requirement and go with a direct view 4:3 set with HDTV in the 32" size. I think the Panasonic is less expensive than the Sony and every bit as good if not better in some areas. If you can spend a little bit more go for the 36".
These are experiences/opinions. They are confined to the more popular HD-capable RPTVs.
It depends on a few things. Whatever RPTV you buy, it needs an ISF calibration, preferably with a Sencore machine to get the best picture. This is not always timely or easy to find.
The Mits Platnium line is a good value, but like all Mits... it needs some tweaking and attenuaters to solve the red push problem. It doesn't have the best picture with NTSC feeds, although DVD and HD is very good. It is also upgradable with the purchase of a firewire input for another $1K. But since this is an interim TV for you, I wouldn't really worry about that.
The Toshibas have great out of the box pictures and DVD and HD is about the same as the Mits Platnium. Some say better, some say not as good. I think they're too close to call. Even after all the tweaking, the NTSC picture on the Toshiba is better due to the better line doubler.
The Pioneer Elite and Mits Diamond line are the best in this class (haven't seen Runco, Loewes, Fajorda). But they are pricy.
I think the Pioneer Non-Elite is the best TV for the money. It shares many of the parts of last year's Elite and is every bit as good as the Mits or Toshiba with all sources, if not better. I think the build quality is a little better also, and has a more attractive cabinet. It's flat black, not the piano gloss of the elite.
I have the Toshiba 57HX81 and although it's pretty good, if I had to do it over again I would buy the Pioneer non-Elite.
Also, Mits makes a 46" or 48" model that is a table top RPTV. This is nice because you can put the STB, DVD player, and HT receiver under it and not take up as much space as you would with an audio rack beside it. This would make speaker placement easier in my case.
I didn't really like Sony's RPTV last year when I was doing all my research and thought it was overpriced. I understand the new ones are better.
Never seriously looked at the Hitachi, Panasonic.
The burn-in issue is a result of the contrast being too high. Even so, I admit the stationary, bold icons on some channels makes me nervous sometimes.
As far as 16:9 or 4:3, It's 16:9 all the way for me. But don't think you will never get black bars on DVD with one. Some movies are shot 2.35:1 instead of the widescreen's 1.85:1 ratio and you still get them. Stretch modes can do away with them but can distrort the picture. Even so, it's better than watching a 2.35:1 movie on a 4:3 TV. The bars are huge then!
I think the Toshiba 42H81 for $1500 is a good deal. I've also seen the 50H81 for about $2K.
The previous 16.9 Toshiba's were somewhat unreliable (see the Audio Review RPTV notes on the 40" model)...though they have improved a great deal. The Mits table-top...I didn't know about that one...looks interesting. My pick for you would be the 40" Sony XBR, though it's 460lbs. and kinda ugly...though you can probable get a good deal on a 36" XBR...though these are both 4:3 direct-view sets. Otherwise the consensus turns toward the Pioneer Elite/non-Elite as the best bet. Also remember the Panasonic 47" RPTV (HDTV "ready") has a great price and they usually throw in a progressive scan DVD player...see the "Perfect Vision" review. Have fun!
Have you seen the Sampo 34" flat tube set (model SME-34WHD5)? It's got a rudimentary tuner, so you might consider it as more of a monitor than a full TV, but it looks good and is reasonably priced.
Also, Princeton Graphics, the computer monitor people, make a 16:9 monitor that will take pretty much any video format you can throw at it (model AF3.0HD). It uses a curved-screen tube but the picture looks really great. The only bad thing I've heard about it is that it goes black when switching video modes, so on some DVD players or VCRs, when you fast-scan through the DVD or tape the screen goes black for a few seconds, which makes skipping around difficult.
Just for your consideration.