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Americans who are in the market for a new TV – perhaps in time for Super Bowl Sunday – will find models that are bigger, better, smarter and cheaper, according to the latest Consumer Reports TV tests.

"If you're thinking about upgrading your TV, or if you're one of the hold-outs planning to buy your first flat-panel TV, you'll find plenty of great models in our latest ratings – many at prices that will put a smile on your face," said Jim Willcox, senior editor for electronics at Consumer Reports.

He said that TV prices are usually lowest in February and March, when manufacturers start shipping new models and retailers cut prices to sell off the old ones. “Compelling new features on mainstream 2013 models aren't expected, so consumers shouldn't pass up great deals on top-rated 2012 sets,” Consumer Reports recommended. “However, some TV bargains can be risky. Super-low-priced sets, especially from lesser-known brands, aren't always the best deals. Some of the lowest-scoring sets in CR's Ratings – with below-average marks for picture, sound, or both – include TVs from Coby, Element, Haier, TCL and Westinghouse.”

LCD TVs from LG, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony have consistently been among the best performers in the Consumer Reports ratings. Plasmas sets from Panasonic have been at the top, followed closely by Samsung and LG.

In terms of size, Consumer Reports recommends that if consumers sit 6-8 feet from the TV, at least a 40" set is preferable, but they should consider a 46"-50" to get a more immersive experience. “If the screen is too small for your viewing distance, it's difficult to appreciate the clarity that makes 1080p high definition so compelling,” the group noted.

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