I looked into HK's HDTV status in 2006 and wasn't terribly impressed with the glacial pace things seemed to be moving at. HD broadcast antennas were newly planned for 2007/2008. Without a clear HDTV broadcast standard, none of the flatpanel sets throughout the HK stores contained a high-definition tuner. Having purchased three LCD flatpanels in the states, the notion of paying 1.5 to nearly 2x for a tunerless version of a similar sized screen in HK just wasn't pallatable.
Two years later, I'm heading back to Hong Kong in the next several days and just spent some time researching the situation. With the olympics looming, I was hoping things would be progressing quickly by now. According to Wikipedia, a sole HDTV transmitter went online in Tsz Wan Shan in December 2007. The HDTV standard in HK/China is chosen as DMB-T/H now rebranded as DTMB. By comparison, the US employs ATSC tuners to receive digital HDTV signals. (Typically paired with legacy NTSC tuners for receiving old analog broadcasts)
ATSC prefers a direct line-of-sight to the broadcasting tower. I would suspect this requirement is no different for DTMB. If true, the HD reception will range from abysmal to non-existent for most HK residents until the rest of the towers can be deployed. Do any of our permanent forum members have updates on this?
Fortress has started listing a handful of LCD HDTV sets that sport a DMB-T/H digital (HDTV) tuner. I detest the notion of using an external tuner box (extra footprint, extra wiring, extra remote, etc) so with this (IMO) final crucial feature ratified/standardized I'm once again looking to outfit the HK flat with a HDTV.
This leaves price. Things haven't dropped as far as I'd like. Digging up my pricing notes on the same brand...
HK: 40" LCD 1080i (no tuner) $29,600hk
USA: 40" LCD 1080i (ATSC) $17,200hk
Granted Fortress' pricing is always on the high-side. Similarly equipped models from the same manufacturer now reveals...
HK: 40" LCD 1080p (DMB-TH) $24,280hk
USA: 40" LCD 1080p (ATSC) $15,400hk
I suppose I'll have my work cut out for me investigating the typical street price on a HK HDTV set when I arrive.
Here are some additional things I should point out based on previous experience and research:
Sony / Samsung
Sony LCD sets are not entirely their own. They were firm backers in rear-projection. When the market showed increasing preference for LCD flatpanels, they turned to Samsung's factory for the LCD panel. Samsung has been advancing the LCD technology to where elimination of ghosting (response time) and off-axis viewing angle has put it in fierce competition with Plasma. Many plasmas of the same size or price range are still 720p. At the time I evaluated the stateside sets, direct side-by-side comparison of the Sony and Samsung sets gave the nod to Samsung. The Sony sets seemed to exhibit an overall grayish hazy tone. Given the same features, the Sony model consistently cost several thousands more than the (IME, nicer looking) Samsung. Sony STILL can't manufacture their own panels. Latest news reports Sony is turning to Sharp for future panels.
When comparing Contrast Ratios between manufacturers, it's important to note that there's no official standardized measure. While it might provide some relative numbers between models of the same manufacturer, I wouldn't rely too much on this number and would prefer to visually compare the difference in-person. It should also be pointed out that these numbers are DYNAMIC Contrast Ratios. The numbers are assisted by the fluorescent backlight being actively dimmed according to the picture content. There's nothing wrong with this, but it further skews the numbers.
Stores are rightfully to blame for poor setup of their displays. All HD sets are often pegged at a "Vivid" setting. A/V geeks often lambast this as "Torch Mode". The oversaturated colors might be enticing to passersby, but it's a horrible mode for serious movie watching. The second sin is that retailers hardly ever feed a proper high-definition signal to a HDTV set. Instead, most are hooked up to a standard def DVD player saddled with 4:3 content... which is then improperly stretched to 16:9 on the HD display. Upconverting DVD player with an HDMI port? Equally insufficient for a 1080i/1080p set. If you are going the high-definition route, save up for a high-definition player rather than rebuying an upconverting DVD player.
Screen Size & Viewing Distance
Beyond the question of brands, models and features, when it comes to shopping for a HDTV, screen size is perhaps one of the most important considerations. In this case, screen size is predicated by the typical viewing distance you will be from the set.
As this chart shows, buying a 40" 1080p display suggests that you sit no further than 6-7 feet away. Otherwise, your eyes will perceive all that glorious detail to be the equivalent of a 40" 720p display... which then begs the question of why you spent the extra amount for the 1080 feature.
Prior to stumbling across Carlton's chart, I purchased a 46" 1080p set and have a seating distance of 11 feet. At this length, it's a great picture; eons better than standard definition, very sharp, superb colors (4:2:2 colorspace). However, merely nudging the seat two feet forward the eye-bleeding details emerge. Individual strands of hair, the well-defined glint in eyes' pupils, texture of clothing enabling you to discern differences in cotton or silk, pore detail both in skin and masonry, it's all there. Had someone demonstrated the importance of viewing distance, I would certainly have gone with the 52" or 56" model.
Wrapping this up, I'm keen on the new Samsung LA40N81BD. Note the "D" at the end signifying the inclusion of a "Higher-Tier Receiver". All the other specs put the Samsung in league with its competitors. The only final thing I need to check is seating distance for this model.
Ultimately, a significant portion of picture quality extremes across different manufacturers can be leveled out by using a calibration disc like "Digital Video Essentials" or "Avia". If HK doesn't have a local equivalent of these discs, I suppose one can hobble along with a free disc like the one found at TVblink. Inquire about the store's exchange policy on sets that have a dead pixel or excessive light pillars on the edges.
Let me know if there's anything I need to elaborate.