For 2009, and gearing up towards 2010, you can forget about 120hz and 1080p as the must-have features for your TV. Both are so common now, it can almost be difficult to find a TV without at least one or the other. That may be exaggerating, but only slightly because the TV world has moved on to newer and better features. LED is now taking center stage.

It s interesting how one company s marketing tactics can catch fire and change the way we look at a product. LED TVs are now considered by some consumers to be their own category of TVs, like LCD or plasma. But really, LED is a feature found on LCD TVs and is about as distinguishing a characteristic between one LCD TV and another as 120hz was last year. But why are we suddenly talking about LED TVs like they ve created their own genre?

All in the Name

Samsung had a marketing idea. If LCD TVs were getting cheaper and cheaper   decreasing their profit margins, what could they do to boost those margins back up? Change the name. That was when Samsung s new LED line was born. They added the LED backlights to their high-end LCD models and they were done. All that was left was to make them seem like a new concept and raise the price. Samsung wasn't being an evil corporate giant, they just understood how to get the LCD TV market back to where it had been. Other manufacturers quickly took the cue and now, these LCD TVs are being packed up and repackaged with the seemingly more attractive LED moniker. It s a good way to go, LED is the buzzword right now, showing up in the latest laptops, MP3 players and even computer monitor screens.

Why the New Tech?

LCD TVs had one great weakness when compared with plasma TVs. Because of the way the fluorescent tubes lighting the screen have to always be on, the light leaks through and keeps the black scenes from going all the way black. Meaning often times the black parts of the screen end up looking purple. Because the LED light sources are on the sides in LED back-lit LCD TVs, and because LED lights can be turned all the way off, blacks are black and the color saturation looks better.

Plus, because the LED lights are on the side panels can be thinner   many of the high end LED LCD TV models from Samsung, Vizio and Sony are only 1  thick or less. Another benefit to the LED technology on LCD screens is that they use less energy.

Is it better?

Obviously LED is being lauded, at least this TV season, as the next big thing in TVs. There are many benefits that go along with LCD TVs with LED backlighting, but there are also disadvantages. Sometimes there are varying black levels on the same screen - probably aren t noticeable to the average TV viewer, but can be a distraction.

As far as price goes, as with any hyped-up product, the price is still well above other TVs with similar features but no LED. That s what makes it difficult to recommend LED back-lit LCD TVs above all others because one could cost as much as $500 or more (we ve seen it above $1,000) than a similarly sized plasma or LCD models. Is LED worth the extra chunk of change? It s up to you, but it s definitely something to take into account. It might be a good feature to wait a couple years before you make the move to LED.

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