Thinking about upgrading my 32" samsung to a 40", and having been looking at the Samsungs again, as I have a couple and have been very happy. But I went to local Sears today, and after looking at the 42" Plasmas, and the 40" LCD's,it was very apparent that the Sony KDL-40w3000 picture was far far better than any other including the other 1080p sets. It was much brighter with more vivid colors, and images on the other sets looked blurry in comparison. I'm not talking nit picking maybe better, but far better. Did not care for the styling ,though.

So my question is: Is this set(and another Sony model with a comparable picture) really that much better than a Samsung 4061 and 4053 and other brands, or is the stores tv loop feed something that favors the Sony's? Or could those 2 Sony's menus have been tweaked? I asked the salesman,but he wasn't much help.

Any thoughts from anyone? I really don't care for the Sony brand ( alot of issues with Sony products in the past) but that picture quality was amazing.

Are Sony's reliable?
In general, LCDs are much brighter than plasmas - that's why you pick LCD for well lit rooms. Unfortunately, they still don't do blacks very well - that's why they are not the best choice for movies. The vivid colors are not natural and will grow old over time. There was a recent review at Home Theater mag on a Samsung plasma in which that point was mentioned.

Besides, you can't judge picture quality between sets that are all calibrated differently.
It's very hard to tell what the set really capable of doing inside a showroom. Ask the salesman to check the menu for brightness,contrast,and sharpness. The sets are usually shipped with the contrast full blast and never adjusted in the store. Just becouse it has a bright picture does not mean it looks the best.

Most sets have "showroom" modes that burn much hotter/brighter. I know that my Samsung set to this mode is too much for everyday use. I felt that overall, Sony and Samsung were the best followed by a few panasonics, pioneers and even some nice LG & JVC.

What I've learned: For a bright room, LCD is usually better than plasma. The blacks are better on plasmas. Sears is not necessarily the best choice to buy from but ok-they will beat any competitors price by up to 10% if you can find that same model. I liked Boscov's. They actually went on line, found the comparable set at other retailers and beat the best price by $100. Then, they took off more for opening a charge!

$1250 should get you a nice 40" with high def, decent sound and lots of inputs.
In terms of bleeding edge technology, Samsung has 40, 46 & 52 inch LCDs that have:

LED light source - bulbs last many years (most LCDs use bulbs that must be replaced every 2-3 years and cost hundreds).
These Samsung sets actually dim the LEDs by zone depending on which part of the movie picture needs it.
A current review (The PerfectVision, December) says this process is promising but needs a little work (bleeding edge, remember?).
The blacks are actually TOO black and obscure gray shading thus robbing detail.

25,000:1 contrast ratio (most sets are lucky if the have 10,000:1),

120 hz refresh rate - stops sports scenes from disintegrating if the action gets too fast,

1.3 HDMI - most sets now have this but it's still worth mentioning. 1.3 allows "Deep Color" for more faithful color rendering (assuming your DVD player has 1.3).