How To Select the Perfect HDTV

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With the switch to digital airwaves at midnight on February 17, 2009 comes a perfect opportunity to purchase a brand-new digital high-definition television (HDTV). But with all the choices out there, how do you choose the best HDTV? In this article, we’ll take a close look at your HDTV options to determine exactly which HDTV is right for you.

1) Determine HDTV Screen Size. Before you head out to the store, measure your space to make sure you have room for your new HDTV. Will you hang your new HDTV on the wall, or will you be able to fit it into the same spot in your entertainment center that your current television is in now? Do you have a large room where you sit further from your television, or a small den where you’re less than eight feet away? All of these considerations are important in determining whether you need a larger screen size (42″ or above) or whether you can go with a smaller one (32″-37″).

2) Determine the Best HDTV Picture, Brand, and Style. When you’re finished measuring your space for your new HDTV, head out to the store and gaze at their walls of shiny new HDTVs. What you’re looking for is a television that displays colors brilliantly and has the sharpest, cleanest picture. In terms of brand, there isn’t a whole lot of difference unless you’re buying the same screen size for a lot lower cost with a generic name brand. So long as you stick with the mainstream brands – Sony, JVC, Samsung, etc. – you’ll be okay. In terms of style, choose the look that’s right for your room decor.

3) Determine Your Need for Inputs. While in the past television sets had little more than a plug in the back for the antenna, today’s high-tech HDTVs are fast becoming the entertainment hub for the entire home. That’s why they now sport HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) and USB inputs for your digital camera, laptop, USB thumb drive, digital camcorder, and MP3 player. It’s all about interoperability. Play CDs in your DVD player through your television to listen to music, or plug in your thumb drive to watch a slide show of some pics you just snapped with your digital camera. Or, plug in your laptop and use your new HDTV as a computer monitor.

4) Determine Technical Specifications. Here’s where we get into the nitty-gritty of the HDTV and talk about things like pixels, contrast ratios, & response times. Pixels are basically the tiny dots that comprise the picture. The greater the number of pixels (p), the clearer and sharper the picture. When you’re in the store, look for full 1080p which is reflective of the newer generation of HDTVs. Contrast ratios are an indicator of the contrast of colors in the picture (e.g., dark vs. light). Look for a 30,000:1 contrast ratio. Lastly, response time is a measure of how quickly the HDTV displays motion. The lower the response time, the less chance for motion blur, making motion more fluid and realistic. Look for a response time of 5ms (milliseconds) or less.

5) Determine Plasma vs. LCD. While the ongoing battle between plasma and LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) rages on, very minor differences between the two make it such that the average consumer really won’t be able to tell much of a difference. Plasma HDTVs have a slightly larger viewing angle and are just a hair above LCDs in terms of contrast and color accuracy; but the reality is, most people won’t really see the difference. When you’re in the store, focus more on picture brilliance and clarity, inputs, and style rather than the Plasma/LCD choice.

Tips:

  • To receive HDTV broadcasts, you will need a new digital rabbit-ears indoor antenna, a new digital rooftop antenna, or digital service from your cable, satellite, or fiber optic provider.
  • After hooking up your new HDTV, you must program the unit to scan for local HD channels. Otherwise you’ll be scratching your head as to why the picture looks just as grainy and shadowy as your previous analog TV.
  • If you have a large room where you’re further from the television, purchase a 42″ or larger HDTV. If your room is smaller, for example a den, you can opt for a smaller HDTV.
  • If you want to hang your new HDTV on the wall, you’ll need a special HDTV wall-hanging kit. Don’t attempt to rig it up yourself.
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