3 Big Values in Big TVs

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Here's a sentence I love to write: There is big value in big TVs.

I have nothing against the Vizios, Olevias or RCAs of the world. I get it. The value these discount TV makers create has brought much techno-love to the overall TV market. It's just that I don't want to spend my one and only life looking at a TV that has a viewing experience disturbingly close to a looking at a East Harlem bodega dairy-case at midnight.
The Runco Vistage V-63 Ultra-Thin Displays are terrific and can be had in the $6,000 range.

So it is with genuine excitement that I report big-time makers of big TVs, including Sharp, Samsung, Sony and LG, are bringing some of the ethics of these ultra-low-cost TVs to bigger, better -- and let's face it -- more expensive sets.

That means that if you do a bit of searching you really can dig up some high-end, fabulous-looking sets for less than high-end prices.

Here are three better sets to consider:

Sharp Aquos LC-80LE632U ($5,500)
Listen up: Sharp is becoming a real player in bigger TVs. The company invested in its own panel production facilities, which has let it affordably produce some dang nice models. It recently set the bar for big with this 80-inch Aquos. I saw this set at a recent press demo. And while it is a step down in terms of image quality from Sharp's top-of-the-line Elite TVs, this is still a truly nice set. Only high-end image snobs will dismiss the utterly deep blacks and stellar image quality. And this Aquos is not only solid looking, but comes with all the right bells and whistles: app support, improved video game performance and dual USB inputs. Even better, there are smaller models -- say, one in the still-large 70-inch size -- that do show up at cheapie big-box stores such as Costco ( COST). So if you do some hunting, you can save some big money on a big Sharp TV.

Samsung 64-inch Plasma 8000 Series ($3,800)
Samsung has clawed its way back to being the nation's No. 1 television maker in several critical categories for good reason. The company continues to exploit direct control over its own panel production to create entry-level and high-end sets with real value. I, and most geeks, have been particularly impressed with the 8000 series, and the plasma version is one of my faves. In particular, the 64-incher is a terrific TV. Rich blacks, smooth color rendering, great work on movies -- and sports buffs should dig it too. You will miss truly high-end features such as hand manufacturing and some control options found in, say, a Runco. But at these prices, you won't care. The 8000 is a serious TV at a seriously good price.  

Runco Vistage V-63 Ultra-Thin Display (contact a local dealer for a quote)
No question, Runco is not a big, big TV maker. Other giants such as LG and Philips are making larger sets of note. Still, you must check out this company's Ultra-Thin line. Not only is this set terrific to look at, but with its usual great-is-never-enough ethic Runco has literally taken back the TV. (Meaning you can custom finish a veil that attaches to the rear of the set in whatever material you like: metal, woods, fabrics, murals and other designs.) Better yet, entry-level Vistage models can be had in the $6,000 range, according to dealers I spoke with, for a 55-inch model before the cost to install. For a TV this good, that's not so pricey. Certainly on the bigger end, Runco sets can get out of hand, but at this point in the line the company is in step with other value high-end TVs. And there is no denying the quality here.

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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.