http://youtu.be/AsLovKbiKBY You’re ready for a new TV, and you want to stretch your budget as far as it will go. Can you get more HDTV by taking a chance on a lesser-known brand? Are you simply paying more for the name, or does it guarantee higher quality? Size Matters. You can get a bigger TV for the same price by going with a lesser-known brand. But that’s only compelling if you have the space to fill; most living areas are too small to make a 60+ inch screen worthwhile — especially one with a ho-hum picture quality. Resolution. 1080p is a standard HDTV resolution now. That no-name (or even brand name) HDTV may achieve a lower price point with only 720p, which rules out Blu-Ray and full high-definition channels, among other things. Smart vs. Dumb. A Smart TV includes web browsing, media services like Netflix and Hulu, and social apps like Facebook and Twitter, all of which you won’t find on most lesser-known brands. Research the variety of apps, the consistency of updates, and how well last year’s models can access newer features (they may already be too dumb to qualify). Keep in mind that you’ll be saving money on a Smart TV, if it takes the place of your next home PC. 3D. Is 3D a must-have feature for you? More expensive TVs by LG and Panasonic earned bragging rights in the 3D world, and Sony and Samsung are worthy contenders, but lower-cost models by any other manufacturer (brand name and especially otherwise) are a big 3D risk. LED vs. Plasma vs. LCD. LED provides a plasma-quality picture, but unfortunately at plasma-quality prices (or more), although this is offset by notable energy savings. As a “bang for the buck” consumer, you’ll probably want to focus on standard LCDs — which are still much more “green” than the plasma competition. Reliability and Longevity. You can’t assume that a well-known name brand will give you any guarantee of customer service and dependability. The Internet is awash with negative reviews of ANY model of HDTV, but taking a chance on a lesser-known brand is even riskier. You might get lucky with a smaller company that wants to earn your trust, but it’s more likely that they save money by minimizing “non-essential” quality control or support personnel whenever possible. 3 Brands to Avoid: Insignia — the house brand of Best Buy for years, yet remains mysterious about manufacturing details. What’s not ambiguous is the lack of features, poor picture quality, and ongoing trouble that most owners have. Sanyo — you’ll recognize the brand and low price — and probably the history of poor quality. No bang for your buck here. Sharp — everybody has heard of Sharp’s HDTV quality, and the company knows it. So you’ll pay more for a good Sharp than you’ll pay for an equivalent HDTV from a lesser-known manufacturer — and you’ll also pay more for one of their lower-end, lesser-quality HDTVs. 3 Brands to Consider: TCL — this Samsung spin-off has produced some “bang for the buck” picture quality. You won’t find many extra features, and they’re still a little too much of an unknown, but models such as the L40FHDP60 have earned a place among the thrifty and satisfied. Panasonic — some of the best HDTVs are made by Panasonic, and you’ll tend to pay dearly for them. However, some “budget-friendly” Panasonic TVs come with Viera apps and other impressive features, so it’s worth keeping an eye on them. Samsung — top-of-the-line Samsungs are among the best for picture quality, features, and reliability. But even Samsung’s more affordable HDTVs give you a great picture and plenty of connectivity. 3 Brands to Bet On: GOOD BET: Vizio — lacking some brand recognition, Vizio’s aggressive pricing has delivered some noteworthy HDTV deals. Do they compromise on quality and features? Not if the Vizio M3D550KD is any indication. This 3D LED Smart TV has been praised for its picture quality, and comes with integrated Wi-Fi and apps from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Pandora, Facebook, Twitter and others — and includes a Bluetooth remote with QWERTY keyboard. BETTER BET: LG — LG can satisfy both “price is no object” and “bang for the buck” consumers. You’ll certainly find a wider range of premium features on LG’s top-tier offerings, but there are surprisingly few compromises among the more affordable LG HDTVs. If you’re focused on 3D or apps, there is simply no point in “saving” with a lesser-known brand. BEST BET: Sony — honestly, you can’t go wrong with Sony. You may suspect you’re paying for the world’s best-known brand, but Sony makes a quality TV for any price range. The company gets stellar reviews for many of its affordable HDTVs, and the Bravia app market rivals LG’s Google-connected variety and range. Sony has a well-earned reputation for longevity, and you’ll find service options wherever you go.