Update: Amazon’s Latest Deals on HDTVs

In our accompanying article (link) we picked the week’s hottest Super Bowl deals. Want to make sure you’re picking the right one and that it’s set up correctly? Here are some useful tips in choosing and transporting your new HDTV home, followed by a checklist to make sure you going to see the game in high definition and not standard def.

Picking the Right Set

When choosing the HDTV that’s best for your needs, keep in mind store lighting conditions are up to ten times brighter than a typical home viewing environment. A set may appear dark or washed out under the glare of high intensity store lighting but may actually have the best picture at home. Stores use this trick to up-sell you to the most expensive TVs. For example, LED LCDs have the ability to be cranked up to the brightest image in the store. Brighter is not always better. There are far more important factors than a set’s ability to sear your retinas, including black levels and shadow detail. Bright store lights obscure your ability to evaluate those picture quality factors.

If thin design is your main criteria, LED (LCD) will offer the thinnest form factor. We rank plasma TV as the having the best overall image quality for a number of reasons: deep blacks, sharp motion resolution, and widest viewing angle to name a few.  They also offer the best value in large screen TVs. Traditional, non-LED, LCD TVs represent the middle ground in terms of price in the big screen sizes (assuming an equal number of features) but they suffer from similar image issues as LED (LCDs). To help you choose the best screen size for your viewing distance, check our chart here.

To be clear, all three types of HDTV will make great images, however, most potential purchasers rank picture quality and price as the most important buying factors. If you fit into that group, we recommend  plasma over LED (LCD) and LCD.

Once You Choose

Getting the set home is the next issue. Large screen HDTVs (42″ and above) should not be laid flat in your vehicle. They are meant to be shipped upright. Best Buy and many other brick and mortar stores offer free delivery if the set costs over $999. We recommend you take advantage of it.

If you decide to haul a big flat screen home, please note: if you hit a pothole or bump on the road (with the TV laying flat in your vehicle), there is a chance the screen could crack, destroying the set and possibly making an exchange or refund difficult.

If you do decide to take it home with you, we recommend you check the store’s written return policy for damaged TVs. If it states you are responsible with no refunds or exchanges for cracked screens, you should visually inspect the TV before leaving the store. This means a stock person unpacks it, plugs it in and powers it on. If the screen is cracked, and it is an LED or LCD, you will instantly see the cracks when it is on (due to screen tint you may not see it if the set is off). With a plasma TV the screen won’t light up at all if it’s cracked. When powering on, you only need to see the start up menu to inspect it. Don’t bother feeding it a signal, it’s not necessary to check for screen cracks. Make sure the stock person repacks it properly with all material the set came with.

If you buy on-line, find out the etailer’s delivery, inspection and return policies including who pays the return freight for a defective or damaged HDTV. Sets sold by Amazon direct  are covered for return freight (link).

What You Need to See the Game in High Definition

If you have cable or satellite you must have the following:

1) A high definition set top box with accompanying subscription. Learn your system’s HD channel number for the local Fox HD channel (as many cable and satellite systems duplicate network feeds with a standard definition channel).

2) A high definition connection cable. We recommend a High Speed-rated HDMI cable as it is the least expensive and best connection between a HDTV and source. It will work perfectly with any HD signal on any HDTV. All HD set top boxes and all HDTVs have HDMI jacks. A WARNING. Stores may try to tell you that you need a special, expensive 120 Hz, 240 Hz, 3D or 600 Hz cable for your HDTV. This is completely false, as there is no such rating. All you need is a “High Speed” (a technical term that will appear on the package) HDMI cable. See our article here (link) for more information. You can buy a two meter  High Speed HDMI Cable from Amazon for $8.99 with free shipping. Stores may try to sell you an HDMI cable they will claim gives a better picture for $50, $100 or more. It’s a profit gimmick and a waste of money.

3) All sets have a “Home” and “Retail” mode when performing the initial set-up. This is now required for an Energy Star rating . Choosing “Home” mode, provides a better picture and saves electricity.

4) If you are using an over-the-air antenna you will need to tune the TV to the Fox channel (they only broadcast one HD channel per market). All HDTVs have an “Autoscan” mode to automatically tune in all the stations you receive in your area. If the picture intermittent or breaks into small boxes, you have a weak signal. Before rushing out for a new antenna, do the following checks.

a) If the antenna cable comes from a wall jack or splitter, try replacing that cable. If you need to buy a new one it’s called an RG-6 cable with male “F” connectors on both ends.

b) If your antenna wire is good or you only have one directly connected to the antenna, try an antenna amplifier (link).

c) You may just need to point the antenna towards Fox’s broadcast tower. Check AntennaWeb.org for more info.

5) Make sure your cable or satellite box is set for 1080i output for a 1080p set or 720p for a 720p set. The Fox network only broadcasts HD in 720p. We have seen many home installs where the box is set to output standard definition (480i/p) instead of HD.

Enjoy the game.

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