Big TVs for the big game / Valentine's chocolates

February 1, 2012 4:08:33 PM PST
There are lots of sales on TVs right before the Super Bowl.

But how do you know if the television that's on sale is going to be a great set in the long run? Consumer Reports' tests can help you find a TV that really scores.

The Consumer Reports TV labs are lined with dozens of LCD and plasma sets. Each television faces more than 10 tests. One sizes up picture quality at an angle in order to find out how far to the side you can sit and still get a good view. In general, plasmas don't have a viewing angle issue, but it's a mixed bag when it comes to LCDs.

Testers also evaluate black levels in different lights on plasmas and LCDs. Even in bright light, LCDs hold their black levels. But on some plasmas, the image washes out.

Consumer Reports also evaluates sound quality. As TVs got slimmer, sound quality suffered. But the latest tests show that audio is improving.

And what about 3D? With more and more sets offering 3D as a feature, Consumer Reports created special test patterns to assess the quality of the 3D picture. Some of the top-rated sets are 3D, and still provide excellent 2D picture quality. But you will pay more for a 3D set.

When purchasing a TV, Consumer Reports says people often buy a set that's too small for their room. For instance, if you sit 8 to 10 feet away from your TV, consider a 50- to 60-inch screen.

The 60-inch Panasonic Viera TC-P60S30 is a plasma that rated excellent for picture quality and has good black levels and audio. It costs $1,400. And the remote is very easy to use.

If that's a little too much TV for your budget, the same set comes in a 50-inch size. The Panasonic Viera TC-P50S30 also rated very good, and it costs $800.

VALENTINE'S DAY CHOCOLATES

Americans spend more than $700 million on chocolate for Valentine's Day, according to the National Confectioners Association. But what's the best tasting chocolate for the money? Consumer Reports taste testers have sampled more than 30 boxes of gift chocolates to help you.

One of the priciest is Richart Petits Collection Intense Ballotin. It goes for $67 plus shipping. But it wasn't the best. The chocolate coatings are chalky, and some of the fillings reminded the taste testers of soap.

Far better, but still pricey - the Norman Love Confections 25-piece Signature Gift Box, with ultrasmooth chocolates and unusual fillings. It costs $49, and with shipping you'll pay more than $60.

But Consumer Reports also found some very good chocolates that cost far less. And you can get them in stores, so you won't have to pay for shipping!

  • Godiva Gold Ballotin 36-piece box, $40, especially if your valentine likes really sweet chocolates.
  • Ferrero Collection Fine Assorted Confections, just $11. The truffles are flavorful, and the crisp wafer coatings and nuts add interesting texture.
  • See's Assorted Chocolates, around $17 a box.

    Consumer Reports says chocolates are best when eaten fresh. Most last for only 10 days to three weeks, another reason to enjoy them right away.


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