Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Bumbling Revolution - Part 3:
Which HDTV Is Right For You?

When purchasing an HDTV set, everybody thinks that having the most "up-to-date" technology is where it's all at. My opinion on that is bullsh--! There are so many changes going on nowadays with HDTV displays that it can ben mind-numbing. In my opinion, you should get the best possible HDTV that works for you now! Go to the store, see what you like, check out the picture and get one that fits in your budget. I'm pretty sure you'll be happy.

But for those who have more "techo-questions", hopefully I can answer them here to help you make the choice for your next TV set.

What should you consider when shopping for an HDTV set?
Decide on Screen Size. Measure the distance between your primary seating area and the TV's desired location when considering size, both width and depth. To take advantage of what HDTV offers, you want to sit within optimum viewing range. Sitting too far away diminishes the overall impact, while sitting too close reveals the screen's "structure" (those tiny "dots" that are really called pixels). There is no set rule, so try out various sizes and distances. Yet, keep in mind, the higher the resolution the closer you can sit to the screen.

So what type of HDTV or Flat Panel should I get?
Consider Plasma vs. LCD vs. Rear or Front Projection. Some of it is personal preference, as well as budget. LCDs start as small as 10 inches and go up from there. If you plan on watching TV in a room with a lot of light, LCD has the edge over plasma, with its bright picture and its special surface coatings that reduce room reflections. Yet LCDs generally have slower video response times than plasmas, which is noticeable on sports and fast action scenes. On the other hand, Plasmas, which start at 37" and go up to 103", have wide viewing angles, high contrast ratios, excellent color, deep blacks, fast response time and are generally priced less than LCDs above 42". However, prices of larger-sized LCD TVs are falling.

A year ago plasma was the leader for large flat panel TVs. For a few reasons, better contrast (blacker blacks - keep reading for the contrast ration section below), cheaper and a wider viewing angle. LCD is making tremendous strides, and for a panel under 40 inches, I would probably go with LCD. But for greater than 40 inches it is still plasma that has the biggest bang for the buck. This is changing and could be the other way around this year. The old myth of plasma burn in has been fixed by most mainstream manufacturers by a number of methods. It really comes down to a personal choice. If you have a home theater environment, then plasma is probably the way to go. If you have a bright room, and you will be watching the TV staight on, then LCD would be a better choice.

Another thing you'll hear about is contrast ratio. The contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks a display can show. The higher the contrast ratio, the greater the ability to show subtle color details and tolerate ambient room light. Contrast ratios of at least 1,500:1 are good, but 2,000:1 or higher is considered excellent.

Lastly, they'll blast you with crap about resolution. The quality of your picture depends on how many pixels and how many lines of horizontal and vertical resolution are displayed. The more lines, the more detail, the better the picture. The most common HDTV resolutions are 720p, 1080i and (as of late) 1080p. Look for these numbers when you shop. And, while 1080p is the highest resolution currently available, you don't necessarily need to go that high to enjoy a great picture. With a smaller screen size or larger seating distance, you may not be able to see the difference between 720p and 1080p.

Lastly, and pretty darn important in my opinion is cables.
Don't be too cheap here if you want a "great" picture. Most HDTV's today have a number of connections at the back. Which one to use will depend on what you are hooking up to the set. You should know, that in order to get HD resolution you have 3 choices. Component (red, green, blue cable), DVI or HDMI. Component is an analog cable that is the same on many DVD players. This will allow you to get up to 1080i on your flat panel. DVI and HDMI are digital cables. They will allow you to get up to 1080p. The video signal on both cables is the same. With HDMI, they add the audio signal on the same cable. I am always confused as to why someone would want to run an HDMI cable to their flat panel. First, they are expensive. Some are as high at $200 for a 4 ft. cable. Second, most people who have a flat panel TV, will have spent some money on a surround sound system. Granted the speakers that come with today’s flat panels are much better than the old CRT speakers. They don’t come close to the quality of your surround system. So my recommendation is to go with component or DVI and put the sound through your surround system. Use the menu on your TV to turn off the speakers that are attached to your TV. I can’t stress enough, the cables you should not be using are the composite, which is the single yellow RCA type plug. Or the small 5 pin S-video cable. Neither of these 2 will give you the HD resolution that you paid for.

Well, are you confused yet? In conclusion, pick the HDTV set that works for you. Compare. Put your choices side by side and see which one has the better picture. What fits into your decor.

Hey, this is just my opinion, I may be wrong!