Large TV, Tiny Speakers

I would like to install a 70-inch or larger high-end, networked TV in a new home-theater area. Please provide a few brand recommendations as well as LED, LCD, or plasma and why. I'm also wondering about your take on the Orb Audio speakers for that "I have never in my life experienced such completely amazing sound" for a 7.1 system. Feel free to make several other speaker manufacturer suggestions, keeping in mind a small, corner ceiling-mounted speaker system.

Jeff Moline

There are only three options for a self-contained television measuring 70 inches or more diagonally—Mitsubishi rear-projection TVs, Sharp LED-LCD TVs, and Panasonic plasmas. Mitsubishi RPTVs are available in screen sizes of 73, 75, 82, and 92 inches, while Sharp makes flat panels at 70, 80, and now 90 inches. Panasonic makes large plasmas at 85, 103, and 152 inches. Most, if not all, models from Mitsubishi and Sharp include online streaming capabilities, though the specific apps vary; the Panasonic plasmas are intended more for business and professional applications, so they don't typically have online-streaming apps.

If your budget is unlimited—and your room is huge—the 152-inch Panasonic TH-152UX1 is a mere $500,000, which gets you 4K resolution and 3D capability. Of course, you must airlift it into your house before installing the roof! The 103-inch, 1080p TH-103VX200U is also 3D-capable for $65,000, while the 2D TH-103PF12U is about $40,000. Stepping down in size again, the 85-inch, 3D TH-85VX200U and 2D TH-85PF12U are both about $30,000.

Back in the real world, if you want truly high end, I recommend the 70-inch Sharp Elite PRO-70X5FD ($8500; see our review of the 60-inch version here)—there is no better large consumer flat panel made today. If that exceeds your budget, Sharp's other large flat panels are mostly less per screen inch—from $3300 for the least-expensive 70-inch LC-70LE640U to $6500 for the most-expensive 80-inch LC-80LE844U to $11,000 for the new 90-inch LC-90LE745U. We haven't reviewed them, so I can't say how well they perform, though Tom Norton is just starting his review of the new 90-incher, and his first impressions are pretty good. (It's about the same cost per screen inch as the Elite PRO-70X5FD, but it provides 40 percent more screen area.) Also, keep in mind that only the Elite implements local dimming with the LED backlight.

RPTVs are generally much less per screen inch, which means they offer the best bang for the buck in terms of screen size. The Mitsubishi RPTVs range in price from $1599 for the 73-inch WD-73642 to $5999 for the 92-inch WD-92842. However, in most cases, you must replace the lamp every few thousand hours or so, which can cost a hundred bucks or more each time. The only exception is the 75-inch L75-A94 LaserVue ($5999), which use lasers instead of conventional lamps. The last Mitsubishi RPTV we reviewed was the WD-73837 here, and it was very good, but that was in 2009, so I don't know how the current generation performs.

BTW, all prices quoted here are list prices. Many of these TVs can be found online for much less, especially the RPTVs.

As far as speakers are concerned, HT did a capsule review of the Orb Mod1 system here, and reviewer Mark Fleischmann liked it a lot. Another option in the super-small, spherical speaker category is the Morel SoundSpot Music Theatre 2 Ultra reviewed here, though at $2199, it's much more expensive than the Orb system.

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