I'm faced with a rather tough dilemma :-
I had completed M.Tech in CS 2 years back, completing my dissertation in the field of VLSI Testing. While I liked my work, I don't wish to go back to pursue my PhD in that - I've been strongly wanting to pursue a theoretical course (in approximation/online algorithms) as means for obtaining my doctoral degree.
However, since I've had no research experience in TCS(Theoretical Computer Science), I'm afraid that would hurt my chances of getting admission to a reasonably good school in the US - whereas, the research experience in VLSI (as well as the LORs from my adviser/committee members, who are well known in the field of VLSI) would have helped me get into a good program (but my enthusiasm in that field has already petered out).
That's why, I wanted to hear from people who have successfully migrated from their initial research field (in UG/MS level) and have been able to embark on a completely different field for their PhD - how did you explain the reason for your shift in the SOP, whether that affected their chances in getting into a top school etc. Also, for any academics browsing the question, what would be your take on it - do you always prefer students who have a background matching your interests only ?