Choosing The Right HDTV For Super Bowl XLVI
With the big game just around the corner this guide will help you pick the HDTV that is best for viewing the annual spectacle.
The game will be broadcast in high definition on NBC on Sunday February 5th at 6:30 Eastern Standard Time. This means it will be past sunset on the east coast and about two hours before it in the west. The western time may affect ambient room lighting conditions if your game viewing environment does not have curtains or window shades. There are four main criteria for great sports HDTV viewing. The list appears after the jump.
The four HDTV criteria for a great Superbowl viewing experience are: screen size, viewing angle, motion performance and screen brightness.
With the game broadcast in 1080 line resolution you will want to sit close enough to see all the detail. The further the seating distance, the larger the screen needed to see all the resolution of the broadcast. Here is a link to our viewing distance chart . Below are some examples of screen size viewing distances below (measured diagonal versus maximum viewing distance (distance may be slightly rounded up or down):
Screen Size=Max Viewing Distance
55-Inch=7 ft. 2-inches
60-Inch=7 ft. 10-inches
70-Inch=9 ft 2-inches
How Viewing Angle Can Affect Contrast
If you watch the game alone or with one person next to you all the current HDTVs will provide a good picture. However, if you expect to have a crowd over then you should know about viewing angles and how they affect picture performance. Called off-axis viewing some HDTVs images loss contrast and color saturation and may also shift colors, all these anomalies can degrade your viewing experience. There are two types of large flat screen technologies currently available, LCD and plasma. What TV makers often call LEDs are really LCD panels lit by LED lamps instead of fluorescent (CCFL) lamps. While the so called LED LCDs may have a thinner form factor, and can reach a higher maximum brightness (more on this later), the viewing angle with this type of lighting is no better than the lower cost CCFL LCD models.
Plasma TVs have the best vertical and horizontal viewing angle, everyone sees the same high quality image no matter where they are sitting or standing in the room.
LCDs and LED LCDs have a limited vertical viewing angle and lighter blacks and darker whites know as lower contrast are noticeable as one moves above or below the screen. LCDs and LEDs (LCD) also suffer from lower contrast as one moves from center to the side of the TV with performance varying greatly depending on the screen technology. LG and Panasonic LCDs use IPS panels in their respective large screen sets and these IPS panels consistently have the best off-axis horizontal viewing. Samsung, Sony and Sharp all use a type of panel called VA and these panels suffer from more contrast loss as one moves off center though results may vary from on model to another. If you plan to have viewers off center a IPS LED LCD or IPS LCD (CCFL) or a plasma TV should be considered. You can test this yourself by moving off center at your desired viewing distance at your local dealer showroom.
All LEDs and LCDs with a 60 Hz refresh rate blur fast motion like runners and pans. In our tests of hundreds of sets we found 60 Hz models reduced image sharpness around 70% during fast motion. If you are considering a large screen LED or LCD you should get one with at least a 120 Hz refresh rate to reduce motion blur. 240 Hz is even better but the improvement is not as dramatic as when comparing 60 Hz to 120 Hz. All plasma HDTVs have excellent motion resolution.
One more word of caution. While higher refresh rates work fine with sports that are shot by video cameras, these circuits called ME/MC have a side effect for film based content like movies and many scripted series. They make the film look like video and create other artifacts. Here’s a our article here and here explaining what is called “the soap opera effect” and how it affects picture performance. Plasma TVs do not need this circuit for excellent motion resolution, so you will not see this effect (with the user controls set properly)
If you are upgrading from a large screen CRT old style TV you will be happy with either screen technology as all are far brighter than the big bulky old CRTs. However, if you want to watch in daytime without curtains or window shades, LCDs and LEDs can be cranked brighter than a plasma. Keep in mind high ambient light levels degrade image quality by masking deep blacks you will see a better picture by controlling a room’s ambient light level via shade or curtains.
If you are a satellite or cable subscriber, make sure a few days before the game that you can receive NBC in high definition. This requires a special high definition set top box, not the one you’ve been using on your 15 year old standard def TV. You will also need a special cable called HDMI to get full high definition picture and sound over a single wire from the set top box to the HDTV. We’ve used the Amazon Hi-Speed HDMI Cable with perfect results. A 3 meter length sells for $9.99 including shipping Best Buy sells similar ones for up to $140 each.
If you want to see the Superbowl via over-the-air signals, you will need an antenna that can pick-up your local station and it must be pointed in the direction of the local NBC transmitter. For more information go to antennaweb.org. You may also call your local NBC station for advice.
This is a great time of the year to buy a new big screen HDTV as the makers are planning model changes starting in March and they are providing huge dealer incentives to move out the 2011s.
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We recommend and affiliate (we may earn a small commission on referred sales) with Amazon because they have among the best HDTV policies in the industry including a 14 day low price guarantee and 30 Day returns with free return freight. They stand behind their sales. Note: prices are correct as of posting and may change at any time, please verify with our links; Most states do not collect sales tax on Amazon orders [with the exceptions of [CO, KS, KY, NY, ND & WA]. You always must pay sales tax when buying at any brick and mortar store. Should you buy an HDTV from on-line or from a retail store? Learn all the pros and cons in our article here.
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