Q I'd like to get a new TV. Not long ago, you recommended a 42-inch 3-D plasma set from Panasonic, but I'm not interested in 3-D. Is there a less expensive model with similar picture quality but without 3-D?
A There has been confusion over my recommendation of the Panasonic ST30 series plasmas. I wasn't recommending them as the best 3-D televisions at the price, but the best television at the price, period. They're superior to televisions selling for much more.
The Panasonic ST30 plasmas make high-end picture quality available at a price little more than an ordinary TV -- starting at about $900 at discount for a 42-inch set. That's a breakthrough for the average consumer. The 3-D capability, wireless Internet connection and Web streaming from the likes of Netflix and YouTube are just icing on the cake.
Everyone gets frustrated when the expensive electronic device they purchased becomes obsolete, and I got many e-mails about it when 3-D came out. That the ST30 has these features made it an even safer buy, but even without them I would have been just as enthusiastic.
The only TVs I have seen that rival the ST30 plasmas are higher-end Panasonics and the best Samsung plasma sets, all of which are 3-D and are more expensive. There are still good TVs to be had for less. The 43-inch 720p Samsung PN43D450 has an excellent picture and sells for about $500. You won't get the same kind of picture you will with the ST30, but it is hard to beat at the price.Skip Blu-ray burner
Q We are considering upgrading to an HD camcorder. We edit on the computer and burn to DVD. Will we need a Blu-ray burner for future viewing?
A A Blu-ray burner is nice, but not necessary. I have one and rarely use it. There are less expensive and more convenient ways to make HD movies.
Look for an HD camcorder that records AVCHD on SDHC cards. You can place the cards directly into a memory card slot found on most Blu-ray players and many newer televisions and watch your movies in full HD quality straight from the camcorder.
If you want to edit and make discs, use "Roxio Creator 2011." You can import and edit the AVCHD video, then create an AVCHD disc complete with menus, and burn it on an ordinary blank DVD. You don't get as much recording time as with a blank Blu-ray, but they burn faster and the blanks are much cheaper. AVCHD discs play in most Blu-ray players.
Please note that editing AVCHD takes a lot of processing power. Investing in a more powerful computer or upgrading your current one would be a better investment than a Blu-ray burner.
Submit questions and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.