It’s that time of year again. You’re walking around the electronics superstore looking for holiday gifts and your eyes inevitably stray to those gorgeous high-definition displays over in the TV section.
You forget about the kids and decide it’s time you bought yourself something. Besides, that worn-out looking TV in the family room should have been retired years ago! But how do you decide which HDTV is right for you?
There are LCDs, LEDs, DLPs, and plasmas to choose from. What’s the difference between 720p and 1080p? And should you be thinking about a 3D TV?
Despite the numerous choices, the HDTV market has actually become much more straightforward over the past couple of years. A lot of the early options are rapidly disappearing, and manufacturers are concentrating on producing energy-efficient models at a reasonable price.
Here are some tips on what to look for:
LCD or Plasma?
And what about 3D? Although plasmas led the way when HDTVs were first introduced, LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) TVs have mostly won the battle. LCDs offer a wider range of screen sizes, are more energy efficient, and cost less. If you find a plasma TV these days, it’s likely to be a giant-sized screen or one of the new 3D sets. LCDs offer better viewing at a variety of different angles, and a new breed of LED-backlit LCDs are thinner and even more energy efficient.
DLP (Digital Light Processing) TVs are still available from companies like Mitsubishi, but they are bulkier and are concentrated in the super-large sizes. And those 3D TVs? There really isn’t enough 3D programming to justify buying a 3D TV at the present time. Of course, you can always buy a TV that’s 3D-ready and watch regular HD programming, but you will be paying a premium price for the occasional 3D sporting event and a not-very-cool-looking pair of 3D glasses!
Bigger really is better
Here’s a basic rule of thumb for viewing HDTVs: take the size of the screen in inches, divide by 5, and that’s the minimum number of feet you need in front of the TV for comfortable viewing. For example, if you want a 60-inch TV (measured diagonally across the screen), then you will need 12 feet of viewing space.
Keeping the above formula in mind, here’s another rule: go as big as possible. With today’s quality of picture and HD programming, the bigger the screen, the better the TV-watching experience. So go as big as your budget will allow. Also, before you buy a TV, make sure you understand how the set can be adjusted for different lighting conditions. The lighting in the typical TV showroom can be very different from your lighting at home.
When it comes to resolution, there are two HD formats: 720p (1,280 x 720 pixels) and 1080p (1,920 x 1,080). In simple terms, the higher the resolution, the better the picture quality. Although it would be hard to tell the difference on smaller sets, 1080p can make a noticeable difference on anything bigger than 40-inches. Plus, if you are playing Blu-ray movies or streaming HD content, it’s nice to see them in as sharp a definition as possible. There was a time when there was a significant price differential between 720p and 1080p but that’s no longer the case.
Although most HDTV’s now come with multiple In and Out video and audio connections, you should make sure your TV has enough for your needs. Are you going to connect a Blu-ray player? How about an Xbox 360 or PlayStation gaming console? Make sure your TV can handle all your current multi-media requirements and anything that’s likely to come up in the projected life of the set. HDMI cables almost always provide a better connection than composite cables; make sure your TV has enough HDMI ports for all your peripheral devices.
Finally, decide whether you would like to try one of the many Internet-ready TVs that have recently come onto the market. These connect to your home network either wirelessly or via cable and allow you to stream music, download movies, and access a host of other web-based services. Despite the many features and the range of screen sizes, HDTVs no longer cost a fortune. Brand name 40-inch LCD HDTVs are routinely selling for less than $500. If you are ready to indulge yourself, now is a great time to buy!
Monica Vila is “Chief Technology Mom,” born and raised in Mexico and co-founder of The Online Mom, the market leader in providing online and off-line tools to make parents of kids K-12 smarter and more comfortable with the technology that touches their family. The Online Mom is a website, an online newsletter, a forum for discussion, a network of certified experts and a social community devoted to promoting a healthy understanding and appreciation for the positive role technology can play in a family’s life.