Televisions

A TV purchase can be a major expense depending on the type of display and the size you want. Today a single TV set in a household is often insufficient and even impractical. If you decide your family needs to invest in another TV, you want to make sure you get the best value for your buck especially considering that a TV usually lasts from 6 to 12 years. With so many different types of TV in the market nowadays, it sure can be quite confusing to make the right choice.

The first decision you have to make is the budget you can allocate for the purchase of the TV. Then you have to decide whether you want to a High Definition TV (HDTV) or remain with Standard Definition TV (SDTV). Next is deciding on the size of the TV and the type of display that would be most appropriate for the intended use. Other issues to consider are connectivity and the sound system offered.

Though most TVs are currently still Standard Definition TV (SDTV), almost all the newer models coming out as HD, HD-ready or EDTV.

These are your options:

1. Standard Definition (SDTV)

This is the actual TV standard with a resolution of 480i, which means there are 480 lines on the screen interlaced to each other. The quality is pretty good. The signals are analog, not digital. Consequently they might suffer during transmission and conversion.

2. Enhanced Definition (EDTV)

An EDTV is better than a SDTV but not as good as a High Definition TV. The signals are digital with a resolution of 480p, which means 480 lines are scanned progressively on the screen. Progressive scanning are superior to interlaced scanning. Some EDTV can receive high defintion signals when connected to a HD tuner, but the quality will be inferior to that of a HDTV as the signals have to be reconverted back down to ED resolution.

3. High Definition (HDTV)

This is the best possible quality todate with a resolution of 720p or 1080i. However the TV signals received have to be high definition too. As more and more TV stations switch to HD programming and transmission in the coming years, HD TVs become more attractive. Remember that a HD-Ready TV needs a HD digital tuner, or a HD cable or satellite box to receive HD signals.

Choosing The Right Screen Size

The closer you sit to a TV the more details you can see. However you don’t want to see the lines or the pixels (dots) on the screen. There are the traditional 4:3 and the movie 16:9 screen shapes.

Here is a rough guideline to help you choose the right screen size:

For a 16:9 Widescreen TV:

Multiply the distance (in feet) between you and your TV by 8 and you have approximately the maximum diagonal screen size (in inches) you can use. For example, if you are sitting 5 feet from your TV you can view a 40-inch widescreen TV without noticing too much the pixelation on the screen.

To calculate the maximum distance (in feet) you can sit from your TV, divide the diagonal screen size of the TV in inches by 4. So for a 40-inch widescreen TV the maximum distance between you and your TV should be 10 feet in order not to lose the immersive movie feeling.

For a 4:3 screen TV:

Multiply the distance (in feet) between the TV set from your seating area by 5 and you have the maximum TV size in inches. In this case a 5 feet viewing distance would allow us to use a 25-inch TV.

Our recommendation: Go for a 16:9 widescreen TV if you can afford it.

Types of TV Displays

1. CRT – Direct view
2. Flat panel Plasma
3. Flat panel LCD
4. Rear projection CRT
4. Rear projection LCD
5. Rear projection DLP
6. Rear projection LCoS

CRT – Direct View TV

These are TVs with the traditional cathode ray tubes. Formerly the screens were curved shaped. Now they are mostly flat.

The image quality can be excellent, especially in the black level. They can be viewed from any angle. However their size is limited – up to 36 inches so far.

They are the least expensive and therefore still quite popular as a second or third TV in the house, for a teenager bound for University, or in a not-to-secure place where you may want to use a TV.

Flat Panel Plasma TV

The picture quality can be excellent depending on brands. It is generally crisp with good viewing angle. It is a few inches thick, relatively light weight and is often wall mounted.

Its screen size can range from 37 to 80 inches. Though generally more expensive than a Flat Panel LCD TV, it becomes cheaper than the latter as the screen size inceases. It’s black level is also deeper than LCD’s but not as good as DLP or conventional TV.

Plasma TV have two major drawbacks:
1) “Burn-In” effect: the screen acquires a permanent etched image because it stays fixed in a particular area for too long. The newer models have screen savers and pixel orbiting to counter that effect.
2) Generally, a low life span.

However, according to some manufacturers, the newer models can now have a life span of up to 60,000 hours, which is equivalent to about 10 years viewing. Plasma TVs use more power than any other type of TVs and also generate more heat.

They are not recommended for video game playing because of the “Burn-In” effect.

Flat Panel LCD TV

The Flat Panel LCD TV is similar to the Flat Panel Plasma TV and is also only a few inches thick and light enough to mount on a wall. Screen size ranges from 17 to 46 inches. Unlike its plasma counterpart, a Flat Panel LCD TV does not consume much power and the picture quality is stunningly sharp and bright with high contrast.

Flat Panel LCD TVs have traditionally suffered from 3 areas in the past:
1) Poor black level.
2) “Ghosting Effect” from fast moving scenes.
3) Restricted viewing angle.

In the latest models, the black level has significantly improved and the “Ghosting Effect” has virtually disappeared. Check the specification on the “response time”: it should be 12 ms or less. Viewing angles have also improved with better off-center images.

A LCD TV is suitable to be used as a computer screen or as a media center display.

Rear Projection CRT TV

Rear Projection CRT TVs use 3 cathode ray tubes to form an image, which is projected to the rear of the viewing screen. The image is consequently dimmer and needs to be viewed in a light-subdued area.

They have very good black level with deep, saturated color, but the viewing angle is restricted. They require periodic calibration and there is the possibility of “Burn-In”. One of the main disadvantage is that they are very bulky and heavy.

Rear Projection LCD TV

Not to be confused with Flat Panel LCD TV where the image is formed right on the screen, the Rear Projection LCD TV uses a lamp to project through the LCD panels onto the rear screen.

It is lighter and thinner than a Rear Projection CRT TV. The image quality is very good and does not suffer in brightly lit room. Contrary to Rear Projection DLP TV it has no “Rainbow Effect” (streaks of color which appear briefly on the screen).

However it may suffer from the “Screen Door Effect,” whereby a faint grid of pixels are seen on the screen image, especially when it is viewed closely. Its black level is not as good as a CRT TV but it is almost as good as that of DLP TV. The lamp needs to replaced after a certain period of use and may cost more than $200.

Rear Projection DLP TV

A Digital Light Processing (DLP) TV uses more than 1 million microscopic mirrors to reflect the colored light from a rotating color wheel. Each mirror represents one pixel in the screen and the resulting image is very sharp and vivid.

It has good black level and the “Rainbow Effect” has been significantly reduced in the new models with the use of 3 chips or faster color wheels. The bulb needs periodic change. In shadowy areas, low level video noise (tiny moving pixels) can appear on the screen.

Like the LCD TV, it is slim and not as heavy as the CRT projection TV. The image quality of DLP TVs is considered to be better than that of LCD TVs.

Rear Projection LCoS TV

Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) display is the latest in microdisplay. It is a combination of both LCD and DLP technology — albeit without a colored wheel — and is capable of surpassing both of them in image quality ( with higher resolution and pixel fill).

Its main drawbacks are low constrast and limited lamp life (only 1,000 to 1,500 hours). Its black level was initially poor but it has been improved considerably by Sony (SXRD, a variant of LCoS). JVC has also introduced a variant of LCoS known as HD-ILA (Direct drive Image Light Amplifier).

The price is expected to drop in the coming years.

Connectivity

Different inputs are provided to connect the TV to other devices like the DVD player or recorder, camcorder, satellite receiver, digital cable box or video game. The newest models have DVI (Digital Video Interface) or HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface).

DVI input transmits only video signals. It can be digital (DVI-D) or both digital and analog (DVI-I), but without audio signals.

HDMI enables transmission of digital video and audio signals without any deterioration between the TV and the connected devices. HDMI is the new standard for digital secure high definition video and audio transmission. It uses only a single wire connection instead of multiple set-ups. It allows 2 way communication between the connected devices.

To enable your TV to act as a computer screen, a VGA/SVGA input is required.

To connect your camcorder or video game to the TV, look for an A/V input at the front of the TV.

Other Features

There are a number of nifty features that may augment your viewing enjoyment:

  • PIP (Picture-in-picture) allows you to watch 2 channels simultaneously. There are single-tuner and dual-tuner PIP. Single-tuner has to use the VCR or the cable box to obtain the other channel whereas the dual-tuner doesn’t need it.
  • Stretch and Zoom modes enable the image to fill the TV screen completely.
  • 3:2 Pulldown Compensation corrects the distortion that occurs when movies which are filmed at 24 frames per second are converted to video at 30 frames per second especially if it is not played on a progressive scan DVD.
  • SRS TRuSurround sound simulates home theater sound with only 2 speakers.

Editor’s Recommendations

Sony KD3R60XBR1 LCD Projection TV – 60″
Panasonic TH-42PX50 Plasma TV – 42″
Panasonic Viera Onyx TH-42XVS30U Plasma TV – 42″
Pioneer Elite PRO-930HD Plasma TV – 43″

Televisions at Amazon.com

Questions? Ideas? Spot a mistake? We’d love to hear from you!Email this article to a friend!

Learn more about televisions and compare models: