Friday, January 12, 2007

How To Choose The Best Wide Screen TV


There is nothing more gratifying than owning an impressive home theatre system. The booming speakers. The magnificent picture quality of the gigantic television in the center. Even the comfy couch adds to the ambience of the room. The cost is worth it for those that know how to do it right.

So how does one go about getting the most bang for their buck?

The current options are daunting.

Flat screen. Plasma. LCD. DLP. What do all these things mean? Lots!

Let’s start with the oldest. When projection televisions first came out years ago they were looked at as the next big thing. They offered a larger viewing screen than was possible with the traditional tube television. They range in size from 42” to 65” and beyond. Using three different colored tubes, red, blue and green, rear projection TV’s can provide a startling amount of clarity. But the quality of picture can vary depending on seating arrangement. This is seen as a great detractor to projection TV’s.

Another difficulty lies in the tremendous bulk with these TV’s. They are the least advanced of the current TV’s although they now come in a microdisplay variety. For a fraction of the cost of the other newer technologies, a consumer can get a quality set with the purchase of a projection screen TV. For those on a budget, this is the best choice for a big screen.

Speaking of those other, more advanced televisions, let’s look at plasmas and LCD screens. When plasmas first hit the market they were priced at very high rates, some going for over $15,000 MSRP. Times have changed but the prices for these TV’s are still at the higher end of cost. A plasma screen is actually a network of tiny individual pixel cells infused by a rare gas mixture. Because of this incredible technology, plasmas are considered by many enthusiasts as the clearest picture around. However, their prohibited cost and a potential “burn-in” problem may cause concern for some buyers. But these TV’s are truly phenomenal for the avid purchaser being sleek and thin, normally 4” in thickness. They range from 40” to 70” in size.

LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. The technical definition is transmissive technology uses a light engine to stream high-intensity white light onto the screen. The more layman’s reference would be like the display on the majority of laptop computers. LCD screens are amazingly bright, the best to view in dark lighting conditions. This brightness can come at a price, however, when certain images suffer from blurriness. They range from 10” up to 37” in diagonal length. Just like the plasmas, they are light enough to be mounted on any wall.

Another option you will have is whether to go with the 4:3 aspect ratio or the more popular 16:9 or “wide” screen format. In other words, the 4:3 aspect ratio is more like a traditional TV, whereas the wide aspect ratio is gaining tremendous popularity. This is the size of the screen that you see in a movie theatre. The movies you rent at BlockBuster or your favorite video store show in this wide format by default and look significantly better in a wide format TV than trying to “squeeze” the DVD onto the older 4:3 aspect ratio screen.

In this day and age there are many choices in home theatre systems. Weigh the pros and cons of each. If the room is large and seating good for all viewers, perhaps projection is the way to go, although you still need to consider the viewing angle. If the space is limited, go with the flat screen variety. The bottom line is to not let price be the single and only deciding factor to determine what is best for you.


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good post, I couldn't agree more about plasmas having the clearest, best, and least blurry picture around, not to mention a glass screen that can be cleaned instead of just dusted (a problem with LCDs and rear projectors.)

I do disagree about your pricing comment, however. Not because plasmas aren't expensive -- they are -- but because all forms of high-quality, HDTV, home-theater-grade TVs are relatively expensive.

Prior to Christmas, 42-to-50-inch plasmas from reputable manufacturers (an important consideration, no-name house-brand plasmas often have a burn-in problem, brand name ones tend not to -- something to do with better quality phosphors) were selling for as little as $1100-$1800.

Brand name flat-panel LCDs in the same size were discounted, some places, to $1600-$2100 and good DLP or LCoS rear-projectors were anywhere from $1000 to $1800.

There used to be a big discrepancy between the price of a plasma and something else, but the over-priced leader is currently flat-panel LCDs.

Thanks

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