With 1080p televisions becoming more and more common and other innovations like 100Hz, 24p and HDMI 1.3 being shoehorned into most TVs, the manufacturers need something else to shout about. That's not a bad thing, because in order to shout about something, you need to have something worthy of attention.
The contrast ratio of a TV is the difference between the brightest white and the darkest black the set can produce. Enormous figures tend to be touted, and LCD TVs frequently employ a little trick called 'dynamic contrast ratio', which works by reducing the output of the backlight to increase the black levels. This is fine on a scene that is all black, but isn't helpful when there is a mixed scene.
As a rule, LCDs have a far poorer black reproduction than plasmas because of the way the technology works. Even so, plasmas aren't perfect, and as yet nothing has really matched CRT for producing deep, rich blacks with plenty of detail.
The Samsung LE52F96 is an LCD with a quoted contrast ratio of 500,000:1, a figure we'd suggest taken with a pinch of salt. That's not to say it isn't a good TV -- because it is -- and it produces excellent blacks because of its LED backlight.
Called a 'Kuro' TV -- translated from Japanese to mean 'black', of course -- the Pioneer PDP-428XD is designed to be as good at producing blacks as possible.
We've also picked the Panasonic TH-50PZ700 plasma, claiming the same contrast ratio as the Samsung. Irrespective of the number, it's an excellent TV. The Samsung PS42Q97HDX also makes the list as it offers great contrast at a sensible price.