Like the title says, I am looking for a budget HDTV somewhere in the 32-40 inch range. It will primarily be an Xbox display, though I may end up getting cable on it as well.
I'll be in a fairly dark apartment bedroom (one small window), and I have the option of either hooking up my cheap 5.1 setup to it or two cheap desktop computer speakers, so sound quality is not too much of an issue.
Budget: no more than $300 after shipping to Colorado
f you're considering image quality, I wouldn't consider house/disposable brands at all (TCL, Haier, Dynex, Sylvania, RCA, etc etc). You can pick up a decent refurb set from amazon for just a shade more than your budget.
Keep an eye on slickdeals.net, if you're patient you will find something that's perfect for you. Your other option is to drop to a 32 inch. Toshiba makes a very nice 32 inch 720p set for 229 with free shipping.
A lot of recent Sony models have been catching my eye, however, I would still go with LG. They are usually fairly well priced and their products are very good. You should be able to get a good deal for a 32" to 40" from LG.
When I know I am planning on buying electronics in the near future, (I have no innate talent or knowledge so this is mandatory for me to be comfortable with any big purchase) I research the device by jumping from electronics site to electronics site for hours at a time for several weeks to a couple of months. Also, I have a couple of retail sites that several times a week send me news of their promotions, special deals, etc. When I am not researching, I only casually glance at these pestering Email notices. However, when planning a purchase I scour these Emails and follow to whatever sites they may extend, thereby learning more about the product, what different features mean, how those features are relevant to me, the general price differences for various features, while also getting an idea of price fluctuations over time, as new better features are added to the latest models, thereby reducing significantly the price of last week's almost purchase. But I can't stress the Email notifications enough. Surf a bit and pick 2 or 3 electronics dealers that seem a little different in specialties, sizes (big commercial, niche store, small business dealer), price on some items totally off from one another. Check these notices daily and you will surely find a brand new set (probably 32" unless you have time to be patient) in the $225-$300 area. Patience also allows you to realize what features mean the most to you, thus allowing you to find and purchase accordingly. Over the past two months, just from these regular Emails, I have noticed a few modest 40" sets being sold within your price limitations, but perhaps more importantly, I have seen some high end, stacked 32" sets go within that range. As your limitations have you already shopping at the low end of the pool, it's really important to figure out what you can live with and what you can't, feature-wise. For what you want, I would be concerned about pixels and refresh rates and backlighting and dynamic contrast ratios. As you probably won't buy another for awhile, I would patiently wait for an LED (backlit) 1080P with a large ratio for dynamic contrast and a refresher rate of at least 120. Dynamic Contrast Ratios aren't a scientific measuring tool as there are no universal, set parameter truths guiding the grading system yet (consequently, no repercussions for falsifying and advertising a grade) - so check the same couple of sets at a few different sites to make sure you are getting a truthful representation of the D.C.R. in relation to other sets. One site could have a TV's DCR at 1,000 to 1 (which if it stands, is pretty weak) while another site could have the same set as 1,000,000 to 1 (totally acceptable based on today's standards, fairly good). After I figured out my main criteria, I would then figure out my secondary list of features I want/can live without, such as 3 HDMI ports would be awesome, but what is your minimum number you will allow if the primary set of criteria has already passed the test and you gotta decide whether to pull the trigger or not? A not insignificant factor is shipping. Some sites have free shipping periods to generate business (which is awesome for heavy, big ticket items), and some have standards such as once a certain price point is hit, shipping is free. I hate to scrupulously shop, patient for weeks or months to search out my item at my price, only to lose most of my savings from terrible shipping rates. Sometimes free shipping beats out the drastic difference in price of another seller. My final advice is to search out the set (better yet, a couple of sets from different manufacturers) that matches your criteria and is already close to your range (within $100), and wait for an Email saying it's suddenly $100 less than the going rate and shipping is nearly free. Or wait until, what is it, January? February? when the TV industry's new models are rolled out in bulk, and all other models drop heavily in price, especially those already distanced from the newest features. Sorry to ramble, but I just went through this a few months ago and from no knowledge to what I have now, I felt I must share. If anyone notices a flaw in my information or advice, please correct me, it's how we all learn...Good luck man! PS - I am not a proponent of corporations or big business in general, I think the corporate structure and it's ever expanding influence and dictation of what the people should care about is a truly destructive influence on our country and freedoms and priorities and humanity. That being said, poor is poor and sometimes, depending on the principle at stake, we must sacrifice a belief in order to live and sustain ourselves (or to just get that something "cool" we desperately want - everybody's values are different in some way from each others). I believe Sam's club has free shipping right now for TV's and big ticket items. I don't know their selection or prices or whether the free shipping is temporary or the norm, or whether a membership is required. Geeks.com sends a good Email flyer 4 times a week (thankfully the flyers have different deals/opportunities and its always a good study of what's out there and how much it costs). CompUsa sends a couple a week, featuring varied deals, similar to Geeks but usually highlighting different products on sale. There's a few places to look to get you started. Again, good luck my friend!