Buying a new TV involves a bit of thinking and planning. The guide below outlines some easy, painless steps that will help you make a smart decision.
• Budget: The first of your decisions.
Screen size, features, brands, and more affect the price. Good TVs can be had for as little as a few hundred dollars, while others go for several thousand. There are many sets that fall in between those extremes.
• TV type
You’re going to want to buy a slim flat-panel TV, but you might not know whether to buy an LCD, LED, plasma, 3D, internet, etc. Though they look very similar on the outside, they use different technologies and the pictures have different characteristics. For instance, LCDs outsell plasmas by a wide margin–in part because plasma sets are available only in screen sizes 42 inches and larger–don’t automatically assume that LCDs are the way to go. It’s worth considering both types, especially if you’re looking for a 3D set. 3D TVs are the newest technology, and with more TVs now offering 3D, prices falling, and more 3D content arriving, 3D television is likely to increase dramatically in popularity this year. Another hot feature is Internet capability. Many new LCD and plasma TVs are Internet-enabled sets that can stream online video and access popular websites.
• Screen size
A bigger screen size enables better appreciation of fine, sharp detail of HD content, making it more compelling and creating more of a theater-like experience. Most consumers seem to identify a 40- to 42-inch screen as optimal for their primary TV. A 46- or 50-inch set is often preferred in rooms where you’ll be sitting 8 to 10 feet or so from the screen. Consider an even bigger set for spacious family rooms. You want the screen to be large enough that you can see the detail that makes HD look so lifelike and enjoy the impact of a large image. Screens of about 26 to 32 inches are good for casual viewing in bedrooms, and even smaller screen sizes suit kitchens and home offices.
• Screen resolution
Resolution means the number of pixels, or picture elements, a screen contains. A 720p set displays 1024×768, 1280×720, or 1366×768 pixels. A set with 1080p resolution, sometimes advertised as “full HD,” displays 1920×1080 pixels. The first number in each case indicates the number of pixels going across the screen from left to right; the second number is the number of pixels from the top of the screen to the bottom. That second number is often used as shorthand to describe the set’s resolution, e.g., a 1080p screen has 1,080 pixels from top to bottom. Most new LCD and plasma TVs with screens 40 inches and up now have 1080p resolution, and the price difference between 720p and 1080p sets is shrinking.
While a 1080p set has the potential to display finer detail than a 720p set, resolution alone doesn’t determine picture quality. Factors such as brightness, contrast, and color also come into play. You can best appreciate the finer detail of a 1080p screen on a 50-inch or larger TV, though you might see subtle improvements on a 40- to 47-inch screen, especially when viewed up close. In smaller sizes, the benefits of 1080p are less obvious. One exception: If you plan to use your TV as a computer display, 1080p resolution is a plus even on smaller screens. The higher resolution will let you see more graphics and text onscreen with greater clarity and finer detail than you would on a 720p set. (You might have to connect your computer to the TV with an HDMI input to take full advantage of the 1080p resolution and to avoid cutting off outer edges of the image–otherwise known as overscan.)
• Features and brand.
The TVs detailed in the future posts of this blog will help you to make the best choice for your specific needs and preferences.