Saturday, November 6, 2010

How to Choose an HD TV

LCD or Plasma?
Plasma TVs were the only flat-panel game in town when they were first introduced more than a decade ago. But given the remarkable rise in the popularity of LCD TVs in the past couple of years, many manufacturers have stopped making plasma sets, while the remaining players, LG, Panasonic, and Samsung are shifting toward producing only larger screen sizes. As a result, the majority of our recent HDTV reviews are LCD sets.

The popularity of LCD TVs can be attributed to some of the technology's inherent advantages over plasma, including a wider range of screen sizes, a very bright picture, and better energy efficiency. And newer LCD sets with LED backlighting and 240Hz technology offer even greater energy efficiency along with solid picture quality and motion performance. Plasma's strengths include its picture consistency, which (unlike LCD) doesn't exhibit color shifts, loss of saturation, or reduced contrast when viewed at wider angles. With plasma you don't need to be front and center to have the best seat in the house. And a plasma's fast-pulsing pixels are inherently well-suited for minimizing detail loss when displaying motion video.

Where Will Your New TV Go?
Choosing the right HDTV will greatly depend on the room in which you're planning to watch it. Finding the right display size for your viewing environment is simple. Buy as big as you can fit in the space (budget permitting, of course).

The ideal distance for viewing HD material on various screen sizes vary. Sit close to the screen and you'll start to notice the pixel structure of the display. Also, keep in mind that standard-definition (SD) video on an HDTV will look disappointing at the close distances, so consider moving your seat back to improve the appearance of SD material.

Room lighting is also important. You want a TV with a screen that produces the best-looking picture under typical conditions. If you usually watch TV in a dimly lit room, plasma is your best bet because it can seamlessly reduce the overall intensity of the picture when displaying bright scenes so you can take in more subtle details. LCD TVs can create brighter pictures, so they work well in brighter rooms.

In a well-lit area, screen color can also strongly influence the impression of picture quality images on darker screens (LCD or plasma) can appear more contrasty and saturated. Most LCD sets have very dark-colored screens, but some models incorporate a glossy screen finish that acts like a pair of sunglasses, making video black appear even darker (boosting picture contrast). Just be aware that these shiny screen surfaces can also increase distracting reflections. If you want to use an LCD TV in a darkened environment, consider choosing a model that can automatically dim its picture in response to reduced room light levels or one that you can easily adjust manually to reduce eye strain.

Choose Your Resolution!
1080p resolution (1,920 by 1,080 pixels, progressively scanned) remains the pinnacle for consumer home-theater material, and all other things being equal, you want the screen resolution of your HDTV to match this format in order to provide the most detailed picture possible. But many factors affect the perception of picture detail, including distance, the quality of your eyesight, and the quality of the video material. At a viewing distance of 12 feet, it would be difficult to distinguish between a 720p and a 1080p display showing the same 1080p video (like a Blu-ray movie) if you have 20/20 vision. 1080p is most critical with bigger screen sizes, where larger numbers of smaller pixels create a more seamless image. It's less important for screens smaller than 40 inches, since you'd have to sit very close in order to notice the additional details. These days, though, 1080p sets are becoming the norm and no longer command premium prices. If you can afford 1080p, go for it.

Make the Right Connections !
Your ideal HDTV should provide enough video connections not only for now, but for the foreseeable future. The most important input is the High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), which supports most forms of digital video and audio (from upscaling DVD players, game consoles, set-top boxes, and even some camcorders) using a single cable. Smaller HDTVs should provide a minimum of two HDMI ports and larger ones at least four. If you plan to hook up older analog video devices to your HDTV, make sure your new set provides enough of these connectors too, as many manufacturers are reducing the number of analog inputs on newer sets.

Also most of today's HDTVs include a USB port so you can play music and display photos stored on USB flash drives and hard drives. And an increasing number are featuring Ethernet ports or offering optional Wi-Fi modules to connect the set to the internet so it can display news, weather, and sports widgets, for example, and access sites like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Netflix, or YouTube right from your remote control.

Which Set to Get?
The first thing to remember when you're ready to shop: Always compare prices. Rarely does an HDTV sell for its full list price, so some savvy online shopping can save you a bundle. And don't forget to check out reviews before you buy.

Click Here to Browse HDTV's and Video


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