Pace PC Solutions

HDTV Buying Guide

by on Nov.11, 2009, under Services

Get the most out of your TV viewing experience:
Have you watched Monday Night Football or the hottest Blu-Ray DVD on a big high-definition TV? It’s amazing. It’s incredible. The widescreen clarity is unmatched compared to older tube technology TVs. Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Sharp, Toshiba, Philips, Mitsubishi, Pioneer, and other recognized TV manufacturers make amazing TVs. Even smaller brands like Vizio and Westinghouse are selling HDTVs.
Buying a new HDTV can be complicated. Do you buy an LCD or a plasma TV? How big should it be? What do all the different resolutions mean?’s HDTV buying guide will help you navigate all the complications and buy the best TV for your needs!

Plasma or LCD?
The days of 32″ tube TVs that weigh 90lbs are over. Flat-panel TVs with HD-quality is where TV technology is going. Screen sizes have continually increased, while prices have continually dropped.
While rear-projection TVs with technology like “DLP” or “LCOS” and digital projectors are still sold, most shoppers are deciding between Plasma and LCD TVs. Plasma and LCD displays are extremely popular because of their thin design, vivid picture quality, wide viewing angles, long viewing life, energy efficiency, and bright screens that are not overpowered by room lighting.
Historically, people bought LCD for smaller screens and Plasma for larger screens. Recent technology improvements and cost changes almost invalidate this rule. About 15% of HDTVs sold today are Plasma. Below are a few key considerations when choosing to buy a Plasma or LCD TV
General Plasma benefits over LCD include:
  • Higher contrast ratio that produces deeper contrast and perfectly black “blacks”
  • Richer colors
  • Wider viewing angle for not sitting exactly in front of the TV, or for when a large groups watch the TV from different angles
  • Smoother video motion, especially for fast sports and video games
  • Better picture quality in darker rooms
  • Best value in the 52″ + sizes
  • Lower price
General LCD benefits over Plasma include:
  • More efficient energy consumption
  • Less weight
  • Higher resolution
  • Better picture quality and less screen reflection in bright rooms
  • Comes in smaller TV sizes (Plasma generally starts at 42″)

Screen Size
Plasma and LCD TVs come in a variety of sizes and available sizes vary by brand. Available LCD sizes in inches are 19, 22, 26, 32, 37, 40, 46, 52, 55, 65, and 70. Available Plasma sizes in inches are 42, 46, 50, 54, 58, 60, 63, and 65.
Screen size mainly depends on the size of the room and how far one will be from the screen. The first consideration is if the TV will simply fit. For example, a 32″ LCD TV is a perfect fit for bedrooms and kitchens, while a 52″ might not fit. For living rooms that have space for a larger TV, bigger is almost always better.
The second consideration is your seating distance from the screen. Screen size is a balance between seating distance and the picture clarity you see. With a high-quality TV and a HD-quality video input, you can sit closer without noticing the screen pixels or picture noise. Sitting too close to a TV with a lower quality picture, like a VCR or analog cable, will reveal an unimpressive picture.
Recommended seating distance is simple math. Standard definition TVs look best when at 4 to 5 times the screen size. High definition TVs offer higher resolution, so can sit closer to a larger TV and not notice pixels.
For HDTVs, the optimal seating distance is about 2 times the screen size, depending on the quality of the video input. We recommend a minimum ratio of 3 and a maximum of 1.5
To calculate your recommended HDTV size that balances size and image quality, take your viewing distance in inches and divide by 2. For example, if your sofa will be 8 feet away from the TV, your viewing distance in inches is 96 inches. 96 inches divided by 2 gives a recommended screen size of about 46 inches that maximizes screen size with picture clarity. The minimum would be 32 inches and the maximum would be 64 inches.

Display resolution – 720p, 1080i, 1080p
All the numbers simply describe the HDTV’s resolution, with 1080p being the highest resolution available to reveal the most image detail and sharpness. The numbers count the number of horizontal lines of pixels. For example, 1080p offers a screen resolution of 1920×1080. HDTVs have up to six times more pixels than standard definition TVs, which translates to dramatically higher picture quality. 1080p also offers twice as much resolution as 720p displays.
When compared to 1080i, 720p offers less image blur when fast-moving images like sports. The “p” stands for progressive-scan, meaning that the resolution lines are uniformly refreshed at the same time. The “i” in 1080i stands for interlaced, which means that odd and even numbered resolution lines alternatively refresh to the new image. Most HD television is broadcasted in 1080i, which is compatible with 1080p TVs.
A general rule of thumb is that for screen sizes above 40 inches, get the best resolution possible – 1080p. You’ll see the difference. For screens smaller than 40 inches, or if you plan to sit very far from the HDTV, the visible difference among the different HD resolutions is minimal. 720p should suffice as a cost-efficient solution.
One concern about 1080P is the currently limited number of input sources. Right now, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players are the main sources for 1080p content (PS3 and Xbox 360 qualify). The highest resolution from cable boxes, satellite TV, and over-the-air broadcast is 1080i. Nevertheless, 1080p is still an excellent choice for future-proofing your investment and seeing the most incredible video images available on a TV. A 1080p display showing a Blu-Ray movie looks absolutely incredible.

Refresh rate
When buying an LCD, refresh rate is an important consideration because LCDs have historically been weaker than Plasma TVs at displaying motion without blurring, especially on larger screens. Plasma TVs do not have refresh rates given their inherent technology.
240Hz is the latest technology for the highest LCD refresh rate available. There are still many TVs on the market using 120Hz technology, which was introduced in late 2007, as a way to make on-screen motion appear smoother than the standard 60Hz.
The typical LCD refresh rate is 60Hz with 60 video frames per second, so 120Hz is twice as fast and 240Hz is four times faster. If you plan to display fast sports, action movies, or video games on your LCD, seriously consider buying a TV with 240Hz technology. It’s essentially blur-free.

LCD backlighting
In the LCD market, LED (Light Emitting Diode) backlighting is the latest technology and entering the market in high-end televisions.
Prior to LEDs, CCFLs (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamp) were used in LCDs. In CCFL LCDs, essentially there is a lamp that adjusts its brightness to improve black levels and contrast ratios. LED backlight screens have a layer of LEDs arranged in a grid. Depending on the picture on the screen, LEDs can be dimmed or switched off to produce the proper image. This leads to huge dynamic contract ratios that produce deep blacks. In very dark rooms, an LED TV displaying dark content will literally disappear in the background. LEDs are also more energy efficient.
LED backlighting is more Plasma-like in its motion handling because the LEDs flash on and off. LED TVs are also generally the thinnest TVs available.

Comparing HDTVs in the store
Walking into a retail store and seeing dozens of huge TVs can be exciting and overwhelming. Most shoppers will try to compare the image quality of the screens they see to say one is better than the other. In most retail stores, this is not the best way to compare TVs.
This is because screens are generally not calibrated equally in retail stores. Screens that have their brightness and contrast on the max setting will look “better” relative to one that is not tuned so strongly. However, the colors will not be accurate or realistic. If you’re going to a retail store to look at TVs, just see if you like the way the TVs physically look. Ignore the displayed pictures and focus on the stats behind the pictures, like resolution, contrast ratio, refresh rate, and number of video inputs. Also read product reviews.

Other purchase considerations
The TV itself is a significant investment. However, note that you may need to budget for more than just the TV. Additional costs to consider include:
  • Video cables to connect your game system, DVD player, and other video inputs to the TV. HDMI cables are the best and should support the HDMI 1.3 specification
  • Wall mount in case you want to mount your TV on the wall instead of using a stand
  • Installation charges should you opt for wall-mounting and don’t want to install yourself
  • TV stand or furniture as an alternative to wall mounting
  • Color correction to perfectly set all the contrast, brightness, and myriad of other settings that maximize your picture quality. Professional calibration services are available. Home calibration kits are available for those who want to do it themselves.
  • Extended warranty to protect your investment
  • Upgrading TV input from your cable or satellite provider to HD-quality to take advantage of the HDTV picture quality
LCD and Plasma HDTVs have taken over the TV market. Compared to their old tube counterpart, these HDTVs have dramatically improved pictures, bigger screen sizes, and take up less space. Each manufacturer has many models. This buying guide will help you navigate the important considerations when buying your next HDTV!

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