Choosing a New TV
Once considered a luxury item, big-screen TVs are becoming more and more common.
Once you decide to seriously start looking at large-screen TVs, you find out
that you have a range of types to choose from: CRT, DPL, LCD, HDTV. But what
does it all mean, and which one is right for you? Let’s find out.
Cathode ray tubes (CRTs) are the TVs we’ve used for the last 50 years.
CRTs are also used for the big, boxy computer monitors (not the flat-panel
ones). CRT technology is not yet obsolete, and you can actually get a great
picture – and in some cases, an even better one than a plasma TV or an
LCD TV. However, two things a CRT set cannot be is thin and big (screen size,
that is). For thin sets you can hang on a wall or screen sizes that really
put you in the action, you need to look elsewhere.
When you think of buying a new TV, the first thing you probably think of
is a sexy flat screen. Not only do they look good, but even the large-screen
versions are easy to hide if you don’t what the TV to be the rooms’ center
of attention. There are two types of flat-screen televisions on the market
today, LCD and plasma.
- Plasma. Plasma TVs have a larger screen size with a
higher contrast of color, offering a clearer, brighter picture. They also tend
to be a little less expensive than their LCD counterparts.
- LCD. Liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs are more energy-efficient
and don’t suffer from “burn in”, which will permanently burn
an image on the screen if it is displayed too long. LCDs also absorb light
instead of reflecting it, providing a better picture in brighter rooms. If
you are seriously considering a flat-panel TV, the best thing to do would be
to visit the store and look at them side be side. If possible, sample movies
and sports on the sets and decide which is best for your type of viewing.
- DLP. Dual light processing (DLP) TVs are rear-projection
TVs. They have great color accuracy, low power consumption and high contrast
and brightness. The greatest advantage that a DLP TV has over Plasma and LCD
screens is that you won’t run into the problem of pixelization. Pixelization
is sometimes called the “screen door” effect. It happens when you
are able to see the outline of the pixels that make up the picture. Pixelization
can also cause some images to seem jagged. This is not such a problem with
better, more expensive plasma TVs. Another big advantage of DLP TVs is price;
DLP TVs are generally less expensive than a plasma TV or LCD set. While a DLP
TV isn’t going to be as thin as a plasma TV, it will cost less, and it
will provide a film-like quality to movies at a very affordable price.
High-definition television (HDTV) is not a type of TV but rather a feature
of the TV, or the future of TV, depending on who you talk to. It has been labeled
the ultimate TV experience. Television stations transmit richer, brighter,
deeper and more clearly-defined, high-definition broadcast signals. But you
need an HDTV set and be watching an HDTV program to benefit from HDTV. Don’t
be confused. Some people who think they are watching an HD signal on an HDTV
are just watching a regular signal.
If price is an issue, here are a couple of ideas to help work your way
up to the TV of your dreams. Begin with a starter TV. Buy a smaller, high-quality
LCD that you can use later in life on the kitchen counter or in your bedroom.
Or combine tasks by buying a large LCD monitor that you can use as both a TV
set and a monitor for your computer. (Make sure it has inputs for all of your
TV and computer needs.)
If you have a small room, 32 inches may be perfect. There is a mathematical
equation that says to measure the distance from the couch to the screen, that
it should be three times the diagonal size of your screen.
Well, that’s fine, I guess . . . unless you’re a movie buff like
me. For me, the bigger the better, but be warned: if you have a big screen
and you sit too close, you notice more imperfections.
If you are unsure of the size or need to come up with a compromise with the
denizens of the household, here’s a way to figure out the best size.
Choose the three sizes of TV screens you could buy and cut out three pieces
of cardboard to those sizes. Tape or lean them in the prospective TV location.
Go sit on the couch. Is it too big? Too small? Do you want it on the wall,
on a stand, on the ceiling? Let the cardboard be your guide, then go buy the
Compare features, not just prices. One of my favorite places to go to compare
prices on TVs is ConsumerReports.org. Once you have narrowed your choice of
size, type and price, go to the store and compare them side by side.
With all the different choices choosing a new TV may seem daunting, but knowing
the differences will definitely pay off. You get the picture.