We've been to a bunch of stores and done a ton of research online.
There are damn few TVs worth having, from what I can tell, but strong
in the running after our first night were a 32" Sony widescreen plasma
TV ($4500), a 27" and 24" Sony tube TV ($400-600), a Samsung 30"
widescreen ($1000), and a couple of others.
We live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment, which was all we could find
when we first came down here from Vancouver to find a place to live in
a week. It's not ideal, but we don't spend a huge amount of time
there, and we haven't, so far, been bothered enough to actually leap
into the void and do the house thing.
Anyway, with the size of our place we can't really have a big 4:3 TV.
Not so much because of the screen size, although we would have to
rearrange our furniture to get further away from a larger screen, but
because of the depth of the set, which would put the front of the set
even closer to where we sit. Even if we could, I don't think we'd
want one. But a widescreen TV might be doable, as I don't think that
it's quite as overwhelming as a huge 4:3 TV would be.
So I was really excited about getting a widescreen HDTV TV of some
sort. We looked at a bunch of sets, and by the end of the night I was
surprised to find that M was even seriously considering a plasma TV.
The problem, though, as we found after a bunch of tinkering with
various sets, is that watching regular television on a widescreen TV
is pretty lame—you've got huge black bars on either side and a
pretty small picture (with a 30" 16:9 display, I think the effective
size of a regular 4:3 image is equivalent to a much smaller regular
TV). If you want to use the whole screen, you can zoom in on the
image and lose the top and bottom, or you can stretch the image
horizontally, and all the people look like they're four feet wide and
weigh 2 tons.
Not only that, but it turns out that plasma TVs actually suck, anyway.
They have a very noticeable grid effect that you can easily see from
regular viewing distances, even with HDTV signals. (There was a
hockey game playing with a lot of white ice and a lot of moving
stuff.) So they don't really look much better than a tube TV, but
cost four to eight times as much. (Their big advantage is that
they're only a few inches deep, which would allow us to fit one into
our apartment easily.)
The next best thing would be a large LCD, but those have their own
problems, mostly to do with fast motion causing blurry images—the
same things that people complain about when they talk about LCDs not
being good enough for games. (My general impression from the LCD
computer monitors I've been working with lately is that they're way
better than they were. The LCD TVs, though, don't seem to have kept
up as well.)
So back to tubes. There aren't very many widescreen tube TVs that are
smaller than 32", which is too huge. In fact, I think there's one: a
30" Samsung. Unfortunately, that set turns out to only have one
S-video input, cleverly located on the side near the front so that you
can connect your camcorder or video games or something. Since we
currently have three things we might want to drive the TV at their
best possible output options—the Tivo, which has S-video; the DVD
player, which has component video; and the VCR, which has composite
video, the Samsungs are out.
So we started looking at 4:3 TVs again. After much web searching, M
was pretty excited about a 27" HDTV-capable Philips set ($800), with
lots of inputs and capable of doing something with the DVD player's
progressive scan output. After a bit of poking around and discussion,
she even managed to convince me that it was a pretty good choice, but
after we got home she started backpedalling and talking about getting
an ordinary 24" TV, which led to an argument and, finally, our just
dropping the whole discussion for the last couple of days.
So at the moment my new computer is headless (and therefore fairly
useless), and we're using my monitor for video and the stereo for
sound. I don't know what we'll end up doing in the end.