Not content to wait until the day after Thanksgiving, Wal-Mart is putting some home-theater electronics up for sale in their brick and mortar stores this Saturday. Scanning through things, we found some ho-ho-hum deals, but also two that could peak the interest of budget TV buyers.
If you are looking to make the jump to Blu-ray, the $148 Sony BDP-S360 that's being touted might draw a second glance or two. The BDP-S360 is a decent entry-level Blu-ray player with a couple of warts that place it just a step behind the better choices. Notably, there's no access to any streaming Internet content and discs are a bit slow to load. Wal-Mart's sale price is also not that great of a bargain as, with careful shopping, the BDP-S360 can be bought elsewhere for about the same price. Though you could do far worse than the Sony BDP-S360, we think the Panasonic DMP-BD60K is a better entry-level Blu-ray player, and street prices are similar; see the ConsumerSearch report on Blu-ray players for more information on it.
Things are a little more interesting for those looking for an HDTV on which to watch Blu-ray movies. The Sharp LC-42SB45UT that's going on sale is a pretty bare bones model, lacking the snazzier features -- such as a faster refresh rate to reduce motion blur --found on pricier TVs. It does feature full 1080p resolution and a decent array of connections, including three HDMI inputs and a coaxial digital audio output. That last connection may come in handy for hooking the TV up to an external home theater system as poor sound quality has been the cause of the few negative comments we've seen. Otherwise, picture quality seems solid, especially with HD signals, and at just $498 -- hundreds less than we've seen it elsewhere -- it's a great deal for a basic 46-inch HDTV.
The story's similar for the Panasonic Viera TC-P46U1. TelevisionInfo.com -- a notably tough reviewer -- looks at the just slightly larger Panasonic TC-P50U1 (performance should be similar) and calls it "a good, but not outstanding, television." Blacks are deep and rich, but whites could be brighter and a few other picture quibbles are noted. At its normal selling price of nearly $1,100, we would strongly recommend spending just a little bit more and springing for the better equipped and generally more impressive Panasonic Viera TC-P46G10 (*Est. $1,200) instead (see the ConsumerSearch report on plasma TVs for more info on Panasonic's G10 series). But at Wal-Mart's sale price of $788, the TC-P46U1 is certainly worth a look for those seeking a big plasma HDTV at the lowest cost.