Tips for Choosing the Right TV for you.

The images are breath-taking and amazingly clear. The picture is huge compared to your old set. We’re talking, of course, about high definition televisions (HDTV). The beauty of them, besides the picture, is that the price has dropped vastly in the last 4 or 5 years, sometimes as much as 90%. In addition, the technology has been improved.

It could be that you already have an HDTV but want to upgrade. Or, maybe you’re looking buy a gift that’ll be remembered. Yet, you’re still hesitant. What’s stopping you? It’s probably that you're stunned by the range of choices and all of that tech-head lingo that seems to go along with these sets. Honestly, it’s really not all that complicated once you know what you’re looking for.

The two major competing technologies are Plasma and LCD. Should you get a plasma or an LCD HDTV? Nowadays, it really doesn’t matter that much! There used to be major differences in the technology with each version having its own particular problems. Today most of these problems are solved and it can be difficult to tell plasma from LCD.

What’s the best way to pick out a set? With all sincerity, the best method is to go to a store with a lot of choices and find the one you like best. Look at them in the store, and buy the one that looks good to you. It really is that simple today! (One quick note before purchasing: most plasma sets look best in a dark room while LCD TV’s look best in a lighted room. Have an idea of your situation before you buy.)

When you are purchasing your set keep this rule of thumb in mind: for each foot you sit away from the screen, there should be at least 8 inches of diagonal length for the TV. For example, if your couch is 6 feet away you’d want to purchase at least a 48” screen. Really, you should buy a bigger screen than you need. The reason is pretty simple. Most modern shows and movies were shot in high definition, so you’ll need a bigger screen to appreciate the difference in quality. You simply won’t see or be able to appreciate the extra detail with a smaller screen.

So what do all of these numbers mean? Are you a little confused by what 1080p and 720p are? It’s actually fairly simple. The numbers, in a nut shell, refer to the number of dots that make up the picture. As an analogy, think about digital cameras. The higher the megapixel count, the higher the resolution, or detail of the picture. It’s the same with TV’s. In general, the higher the number, the better the picture. You’ll also see Hertz (Hz) numbers in the store. For example, you may see 60 Hz, 120 Hz, 240 Hz, or even up to 600 Hz. What do these numbers mean and does it make a difference? (If you’re considering purchasing a plasma TV, just ignore the whole Hz thing — it’s not relevant to this type of TV) The Hz simply means the number of times the screen refreshes per second. For example, an LCD TV with 120-Hz TVs will track fast moving objects better, simply because the TV can react more quickly. A 60-Hz set with the identical fast-moving image may appear slightly blurry. The 120 Hz is not that much more expensive than the 60 Hz, so it would probably be better to get the 120 Hz. Beyond 120 Hz, it’s hard to visibly discern a difference, so for the most part it doesn’t make sense to get a higher speed.

One more picture tip. In general, ignore the contrast ratings you find on the TV boxes. They’re not really that good of an indicator of picture quality. The best way to judge the TV is find the one that has the deepest, richest blacks. This depth of black will cause the other colors to “pop”, which will in turn make the image look better.

You may see something called LED TV’s. This isn’t new technology and there aren’t really LED TV’s. The LED is simply a different light source for LCD TV’s. LCD sets (which stands for Liquid Crystal Display) must be back-lit to be seen. Most of the sets in the past used fluorescent tubes. Some of the newer models use the solid state LED technology which uses less power and can also last longer. The LED lighting does have other advantages over fluorescent including better color performance and blacker blacks. The LED lighting can also reduce the thickness of the set by allowing the use of special light dispersion technology.

Here’s one last tip. Buy a big brand name TV. Here’s the reason: the less expensive brands often use components that are noticeably of less high quality. This translates into a less than perfect TV image.