What’s Important and What’s Not Important When You’re Buying an HDTV
There’s a lot to consider when you’re buying an HDTV. Pros and cons to weigh and options to think about, all of which can end up being pretty confusing.
So we at HDGuru.com want to help you prioritize all these different aspects so you can get the best TV possible.
1) Screen Size
It’s easy for us to say “get the biggest TV you can afford,” but the reality is most people get far smaller TVs than their room could support. The problem is, in a store the TVs often look huge, but once you get it in your house, it often looks a lot smaller. The easiest way to overcome this is by measuring how far you’re sitting from your TV, and stand that distance away from the TV in the store (if possible).
If you’re upgrading from a CRT, remember that standard definition tube TVs are roughly square (4×3), while all HDTVs are wider, 16×9. This means that a 42-inch TV is smaller than a 36-inch CRT when displaying 4×3 material (though obviously wider on HD content).
If you’re sitting 10-feet away from a TV – and most people are - then a 65-inch diagonal set is commonly recommended. Even if you go bigger than that with projection, 1080p is high enough resolution that you won’t likely see pixels.
Here is a link to our exclusive HD Guru optimum viewing distance chart that shows the furthest distance from the TV where you will see all the detail in the picture for a given screen size and resolution (720p or 1080p). You may sit further back but you will not be able to perceive all the fine detail.
2) Viewing Angle
Take a look at your current room setup. Where do people sit? If you’ve got a long narrow room, and everyone is fairly close to the center, than any technology TV will work.
If you’ve got a wide room or a wide couch with people seated off to the side, you shouldn’t get an LCD. This is because despite the marketing, the picture quality of all LCDs drops off significantly when you move “off axis” or away from center. Some (IPS designs) are better than others. If you have a wide setup, make sure you stand at these angles when you’re looking at the TV in the store. It’s not hard to miss, the contrast ratio decreases, and often colors get washed out.
Make sure the TV has enough HDMI inputs for all your HD devices. If not, we recommend an A/V receiver to do your HDMI switching (and, you know, for decent sound).
The current trend in HDTVs and Blu-ray players is Internet connectivity. This gets you access to “Apps” that bring all sorts of new content to your TV. Netflix is the most ubiquitous, though VUDU and Amazon Video on Demand are quite popular as well. Samsung, Sony, VIZIO , and Panasonic are leading the way with a wide array of content. LG is making a big push with their LG
Smart TV Upgrader“.
This year promises more open platforms (like Panasonic’s Viera Connect) which means apps written by 3rd party developers. We expect the explosive growth of on line content to reallyÃ‚Â take off.
4) Black Level/Light Output/Contrast Ratio
Contrast ratio is by far the most important aspect of a televisions picture quality. The problem is, there is no standard how to measure it. This is why you see manufacturers claim 1,000,000,000:1 and other meaningless numbers. They’re not lying, per se, but they’re not being honest either.
The fact is, when you’re watching the TV, at home, plasmas will have a better contrast ratio than LCDs. What makes this difficult to accept for some (namely, LCD TV owners) is that in the store, the opposite appears to be true. LCDs are better at combating ambient light. So on a brightly lit show floor (like Best Buy or Costco), LCDs will look better. At home, where almost everyone has MUCH lower light conditions, the plasma will look better.
BUT, and this is key, LCDs are brighter. If you do most of your TV watching during the day with no shades on your windows, then an LCD – especially the new LED LCD models - will be a better choice. Keep in mind high ambient light levels degrade the viewing experience and no TV con hand direct sunlight.
If you watch movies and TV at night, with only some viewing during the day, plasmas will look better. Plasmas are not “dim” by any stretch of the imagination, they just aren’t as insanely bright as the new LED LCDs (which are often too bright in their stock settings).
This is true even of the now-rare local dimming LED models.
What’s Sort-of Important
1) Energy Efficiency
There are two mindsets here. If your goal is to be as green as possible, without concerns for purchase cost, then the new LED LCD models are extremely energy efficient and don’t contain the mercury of “regular” LCDs.
If you think buying an LED LCD will save you money on energy costs, making it a more economical choice, there’s no way. Even if you live in an area with extremely high energy costs, the price premium you have to pay for an LED LCD will never be offset by its lower operating costs.
2) Anti-glare/anti-reflective LCD screens
Chances are you’re going to have light in the room where you watch TV. Anti-glare screens (matte looking) do a great job at minimizing the glare from room light. The problem is that it will have a lower contrast ratio overall, regardless of ambient light. Anti-reflective (glossy/shiny) have a better overall contrast ratio, but if you have a light on behind you when you’re watching TV, you’re going to see it.
The fact is, you should try to minimize the light in the room regardless of technology, as the TV will look a lot better as result.
The up-model plasmas will have some sort of anti-glare or anti-reflective coating to make it better in rooms with ambient light. If you’re worried aboutÃ‚Â overhead lamp fixture reflections, make sure your plasma has one of these coatings. They can be found on the Samsung PND7000 and PND8000 plasma seriesÃ‚Â and the ST30, GT30 and VT30 Panasonic plasmas. Generally, though, anti-glare coatedÃ‚Â LCDsÃ‚Â (as found on the LG LW
series HDTVs) will perform better against light sources that are visible on the screen, no matter what the technology.
There’s a price premium on ultra-thin LCD and plasma models. They’re stylish, and undeniably cool. The thing is, most people never mount their TVs. So if the TV is 1.5-inches or 3.5-inches, who’s going around back to check? A thin bezel on the other hand…
A big push this year is for ultra-thin bezels, some less than a half an inch. These look cool from all angles, and in our minds worth the premium if style is your thing. The TVs have a certain “floating in air” look that is really badass.
3D is just a feature, nothing more. Current 3D TVs are often the best performing 2D models as well. There is more and more content coming out, but it’s still not a lot. Is 3D worth the premium? That’s up to you. But when you can get a great 3D TV for under $1,200, there’s not much of a case for not getting a 3D set, cause why not?
Not at All Important
1) Sound Quality
All TVs sound like crap. All. A few models are shipping with separate soundbars, but most of these are being discontinued. If you want good sound, get an HTIB or a small audio system. They don’t cost a lot, and will sound MUCH better than the speakers in the TV.
Despite the marketing, the only picture quality advantage LED LCDs have over plasma and regular LCDs is extreme brightness. In all cases, this is like having a car that can do 190mph. Sure, that’s great, but you’ll never use it. LED LCDs are more efficient (see “Energy Efficiency” above). It’s important to note that LED LCDs are not a new TV technology, merely a new way to light TVs. There is no such thing as an LED TV, at least not in the home.
Technology is less important than how you intend on using the TV. For that, see all the Important stuff above.
Independent testing has found that LCDs and plasmas are exceptionally reliable, with little difference between the two in this regard.
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