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CES 2010: The coolest-looking HDTVs announced at the show

Picture quality and screen size are the most important features to worry about in an HDTV, but the slimness of flat panels mean you can also look for a little style that those old boxy tube sets (and mammoth rear-projection models) usually lacked. Given the uniformity of specs that TVs from all manufacturers seem to possess (at their respective price points, of course), design can help a set stand out from the crowd and even be an aesthetic focal point of your living room.
Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor on
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Picture quality and screen size are the most important features to worry about in an HDTV, but the slimness of flat panels mean you can also look for a little style that those old boxy tube sets (and mammoth rear-projection models) usually lacked. Given the uniformity of specs that TVs from all manufacturers seem to possess (at their respective price points, of course), design can help a set stand out from the crowd and even be an aesthetic focal point of your living room.

It's still mildly surprising how little attention some manufacturers seem to pay to their TV design. While Panasonic arguably has the highest quality plasmas on the market, its 2010 lineup looks nondescript from top to bottom. There are a few sets that have been announced at CES this week that have a little more flair than the black rectangular slabs we're used to seeing. Take a look at how they deviate from the norm.

Sharp LC-60E88UN

Bezels haven't been eliminated—yet—but until they are, we could use more with rounded edges. Of course, most are rectangular to match the shape of the screen, but Sharp's new 60-inch LCD doesn't appear to suffer from dropping the sharp corners. The classy, understated look is complete with the translucent bottom edge of the bezel and a chrome look to the stand.

Samsung LED8000/LED7000 Series

I'm not a fan of Samsung's previous Touch of Color aesthetic, which has previously added a red accent to the bezel, though I appreciate that the company is stepping out from the black or gray options with which you are usually presented. With these two lines, both 3D capable, Samsung has tweaked the usual stand design, adding an extra pair of feet and a chrome finish. It continues the style with a new "mystic earth" Touch of Color tone, which basically translates into a brushed metal look. Not a radical rethink, but those who like the chrome look will appreciate it.

LG LE9500

We'll definitely feel like it's the 21st century when we start getting some screens that run completely edge to edge, but LG is getting awfully close with the Infinia design for its new top-of-the-line LED-backlit LCDs. It sports a bezel that's only 0.33 inches (8.5mm) around, and the cabinet depth is less than an inch thick. And, of course, it's 3D capable, and comes with a remote control that in part works through gestures a la the Nintendo Wiimote. If you're all about slim, this may be your set.

Vizio XVTPRO580CD

This 58-inch set is definitely going to look different, because its aspect ratio is 21:9 instead of 16:9. That's a boon if all you which is movies, since it's closer to the 2.35:1 ratio that movies are displayed in when you're at the local theater. (Not as great for watching HDTV in its 16:9 format.) The long, lean look is already sure to elicit a double-take from guests, but Vizio also pumps up its uniqueness with the brushed aluminum bezel in a love-it-or-leave-it purple hue.

Sony Bravia NX800/NX700

Sony is hyping its new Monolithic Design, and based on these two new Bravia LCD lines, it's easy to see why. They aren't 3D-capable sets like the new flagship Bravias, but they do feature a stand that's grooved to let the display balance in the middle. Whether the slight upward tilt helps or hinders your viewing experience is a concern, especially when you're paying $2,100 for the cheapest NX700 set. Still, it's possibly the most different look on any living room TV introduced this year.

Ultimately, you shouldn't buy a new HDTV based solely on its looking cooler than the competition. But if all things seem equal between two sets you're considering, that little bit of style could make the difference in which one you choose. After all, are iPods so superior in features compared to all of the MP3 player rivals Apple's left in the dust? (They certainly aren't cheaper.) It's something TV makers might want to devote a bit more attention to. What do you think? Does design enter into your TV decision making at all? Let us know in the TalkBack section.

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