The Clicker: Five of the top "IT" TVs (and who they'd be in real life)

Stephen Speicher contributes The Clicker, an opinion column on entertainment and technology:

Congratulations! You've taken the first step; you've decided to buy a new television.

The problem, as you quickly discovered, is that the world of televisions is a crowded place. Determining which set is worthy of your hard-earned cash can be a daunting experience. Oh sure, you've done a little research. "Research," of course means that you cornered the first "TV geek" friend you could find and asked him (uh, or her) the ridiculously open-ended question "Which TV should I buy?"

Your friend, having been suckered by this question before, looked at you with an expression that clearly said, "Would you walk into a random doctor's office and nonchalantly ask 'What surgery should I have?'" and went on to do some skillful hand-waving that ultimately deflected your question. Your friend (no idiot) knows that if he actually answered the question, he'd forever be held responsible for the "quirks" any TV is bound to have.

We here at Engadget feel your pain. We don't feel your pain enough to tell you what to get, but we do feel your pain. So, to help you out a little, we've compiled a list of "IT" TV's. Below are five of the top "mob-selected" televisions. In some cases they are the best of the best. In other cases they provide good value. However, in each case, you won't be alone if you're looking at these sets. In short, these are five of the top buzz-worthy TVs, and just for fun we've included each set's "IT" girl equivalent.

#5 Westinghouse LVM-42W2

It's been a long time since the Westinghouse brand-name has been relevant. This once-proud American firm long ago sold its credibility, tradition, trust name to the highest bidder. The result was a long dark period for Westinghouse products. Well, that could just be changing with this latest line of LCD televisions.

Since re-emerging on the scene, Westinghouse has released a slew of 1080p LCD televisions. Targeted at the price-conscious consumer, the LVM-42W2 packs quite a few goodies for its relatively low price. Its 8ms pixel response time greatly reduces the ghosting often associated with early-generation LCD televisions, and its ability to accept 1080p signals will be much appreciated by future PS3 owners. Overall, it's considered a solid performer for those looking to join the 1080p crowd without breaking the bank.

The closest "IT" girl to the Westinghouse? Paris Hilton, of course. It comes from a once proud name. It's rail thin and cheap. (And yes, I did get this far without using the phrase "bang for your buck.")

#4 Samsung HL-S5679W

Samsung DLPs are the Lindsay Lohan of the television market. Just when you think that they're looking a little bit worn and are about to lose their "IT" status, BAM! They do something to get the public interested again.

In the case of this latest Samsung, they've made the jump to an LED light-source. This change accomplishes a few things. First, it eliminates the need for a color-wheel. (Note: that doesn't necessarily equate to the elimination of rainbows. The rainbows are caused by the sequential layering of colors. Until they switch to a three-chip solution, there will always be the theoretical possibility of seeing rainbows. With that said, eliminating the wheel should, in practice, eliminate rainbows.) The LED light source also means a quick boot-up and a "bulb" which, for all intents and purposes, will last for the life of the television set. Add to the mix improved color accuracy, and you've got yourself a little more life out of the Samsung DLP line.

#3 Sony KDS-50A2000, KDS-55A2000, KDS-60A200

If you've always drooled over the picture quality of Sony's SXRD (Silicon Crystal Reflective Display) rear-projection televisions. But couldn't afford the hefty price tag of the Qualia 006 (the first generation), or later you boycotted the KDS-RXBR1 series (the second generation) because it didn't accept 1080p signals, this new line might just be for you -- third time's a charm, after all.

While you will certainly pay a premium for the KDS over similarly-sized DLP units, you'll also get a picture few can argue with. They've also finally fixed what many considered the fatal flaw of past versions of the SXRD line -- its inputs now accept 1080p. Like its predecessors, the new KDS line runs at a native 1920 x 1080 resolution via a three-chip SXRD set-up.

The equivalent "IT" girl? Eva Longoria. Why? No reason in particular. It's just quite nice to look at and a little more upscale than your typical teeny-bopper TVs.

#2 NEC 50xr5

If you crave those gorgeous black levels but don't have the room for a CRT (or you simply lack the willingness to deal with a traditional CRT rear-projection in this digital world) plasma is still king. While Panasonic and Pioneer are certainly darlings, NEC is quietly making some noise with their 50xr5 model.

Wrapped in a sturdy but quietly elegant casing, the 50xr5 displays a very well-balanced picture. Skin tones are rich and true. Black levels excel. While not 1080p, the NEC does an admirable job putting that 1365 x 768 resolution to work. The end result is a picture that makes you forget that you're watching TV, and, in the end, isn't that what it's all about?

And, for those keeping track at home, you can't look at the delicate beveled casing and the rich skin-tones and not immediately think Keira Knightly.

#1 VPL-VW100 AKA "The Ruby"

It should come as little shock to anyone that the number one "IT" TV (well, projector really) is Sony's gem, the Ruby. The VPL-VW100 is nearly identical to its older sibling, the $30k Qualia 004, but rings up at one third the price.

The Ruby is the dream projector for those with the ability to buy at the $10k price-range. In fact, when Engadget headquarters was looking to blanket all four walls of the conference room with digital projection, there was little debate -- the quad set of Rubys gave just the performance needed to create our own private holo-deck.

The VPL-VW100 pumps out full 1920 x 1080 (1080p) resolution, accepts 1080p signals, and is whisper-quiet. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

The Ruby is the Charlize Theron of projectors. It's gorgeous. It's versatile and, most importantly, it's got the skills to back it up.

You see -- picking a new TV can be as easy as choosing your "IT" girl of choice. So get out there and pick one because heaven knows that Bea Arthur model of yours isn't doing that Xbox 360 any justice.

If you have comments or suggestions for future columns feel free to drop me a line at