From the June 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

You don't have to look too hard to find a business reason to invest in a flat-panel plasma or LCD TV. There are plenty of good-looking flat screens out there that can double as large computer displays and become the centerpiece of your converged home office and entertainment system. As the lines between business and personal life blur, plasma and LCD TVs are finding a place in work life. Businesses and public meeting spots looking to upgrade their meeting room technology should be able to justify going with one of these large displays.

The big question is: LCD or plasma? Each has its pros and cons, and this is one product category where beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. But there are some generalizations that can be made. Plasma TVs are reputed to provide better viewing when screen sizes exceed 40 inches. They also have wider viewing angles and good color reproduction. LCDs, on the other hand, tend to live longer and be available with higher screen resolutions that make for good high-definition viewing of graphics when hooked up to a PC. If you're in the market for a sub-40-inch screen, you'll probably find LCD prices more to your liking. Whichever way you go, you'll get a lot of viewing space in a very slim package--and most flat screens are wall-mountable, too.

One knock against plasma TVs: They can be subject to image burn-in (something that isn't a problem with LCDs). This occurs when a stationary image becomes etched into the screen. Models like the $7,200 (all prices street) 50-inch LG 50PY2DR with built-in DVR are working to overcome this issue by using Image Sticking Prevention technology that can keep burn-in from occurring. Look for your new plasma to have about a 60,000-hour life span. That should get you through the next decade, at least. When it comes to warranty options, Dell's $2,800 42-inch W4201C plasma comes with a one-year warranty that can be upgraded to a three-year warranty. Add the optional wall mount and a surge protector, and the package comes to $3,008.

Both of these technologies include so many novel and not-quite-comparable technical specifications that it can be difficult to wade through them all. The one that jumps out at you, of course, is screen size. Less-than-stellar black levels have been an issue with larger LCDs, but LCD image quality is improving in leaps and bounds. Although plasmas may still provide more pleasing images in jumbo sizes, LCDs are catching up and providing comparable pictures on ever-larger displays. Check out the 37-inch Sharp AQUOS LC-37D90U that comes with 1080p HD resolution--this translates to top-of-the-line HD resolution. Early adopters and those who plan to jump into new 1080p video sources like Bluray DVD players will find this feature appealing.

You generally get more display for the buck with LCDs. The Westinghouse LVM-42w2 delivers a substantial 42-inch viewing area with 1080p technology for less than $3,000. The built-in PC inputs and front-side USB port on the $3,500 Sony 40-inch BRAVIA XBR make it a very versatile set to consider. The USB port is handy for hooking up a digital camera for picture viewing on the big screen.

TV manufacturers have various proprietary technologies designed to enhance their products' picture quality, brightness and color. You'll probably want to visit your local retailer to see and compare for yourself (and check for PC inputs if you plan to hook it up to your PC).

We couldn't include every TV manu-facturer in this list, of course. Other top brand names include Hitachi, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneerand Sanyo. And quite a few off-brands are trying to break into the budget arena. Many manufacturers offer both LCDs and plasmas, so you have plenty of options to consider.

Shopping List they're not just for watching tv-these flat screens are perfect for viewing graphics and spreadsheets, too.
MANUFACTURER/
MODEL
CONTACT TYPE SIZE FEATURES STREET PRICE
Dell
W4201C
(800) 915-3355,
www.dell.com
Plasma 42 inches Integrated digital/analog tuner,
detachable speakers, one-year warranty
$2,800
LG
50PY2DR
(800) 243-0000,
www.lgusa.com
Plasma 50 inches 160GB, built-in DVR, ATSC/NTSC tuner $7,200
NEC
MultiSync LCD3735WXM
(800) NEC-MORE,
www.necdisplay.com
LCD 37 inches PC inputs, IPS panel, HD-tuner $2,900
SAMSUNG
HP-R5072
(800) SAMSUNG,
www.samsung.com
Plasma 50 inches PC input, ATSC tuner,
two-year warranty
$3,500
SHARP
AQUOS LC-37D90U
(800) BE-SHARP,
www.sharpusa.com
LCD 37 inches 1080p HD resolution,
detachable bottom speakers
$3,499
SONY
BRAVIA XBR
(800) 222-SONY,
www.sonystyle.com
LCD 40 inches PC inputs, USB port, one-year warranty $3,500
Westinghouse
LVM-42W2
(866) 287-5555
www.westinghousedigital.com
LCD 42 inches PC inputs, 1080p HD resolution,
integrated sound
$2,800