Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Your official HDTV buying guide.....with video

If you're about to go out and buy the family that 50-inch flat screen you've been eyeing, I say congratulations. You'll love your new HDTV.

But wait. There is lots of confusing lingo out there. Do you want Plasma, LCD or DLP? What about all those numbers you hear about: 720P or 1080i or 1080P? And how much to spend? You'll see some $1,000 50-inch sets and other 50-inch sets that cost upwards of $6,000.

In HDTVs, as with most anything else, you get what you pay for. That $1,000 Costco model is not going to look as good as the Pioneer Elite you get from a high end store (with the high end price). But unless you have that super high end model in your home or are a real videophile, you're probably not going to know the difference. So don't get caught up in side-to-side comparisons at Best Buy between the one you want and the one you should buy. The one you want does look better. At home, you'll only have one and it will blow you away. Now, if you're upgrading to a new HDTV and coming out of an older one, your equation certainly changes.

My guess is everyone knows where they fall there.

For most newbies, though, upgrading to HD will be a quantum leap over that's 27-inch 250-pound behemoth sitting on that 10-year old stand (with the glass casing cracked or missing).

Here's a few easy basics. Choose the progressive TVs (1080P or 720P) over interlaced ones (1080i). They look better. If you're buying 40 inches or larger, buy plasma, they look better. If you have an extra bright room, consider LCD.

DLP sets are cheaper but are bulkier. You cannot hang them on the wall and they don't look as good as plasma or LCD.

Last, people will tell you there's no difference between 1080P and 720P, at least at longer distances. Yes and no. The 1080P set costs more and can render full resolution HD from videogame and HD-DVD and Blu-Ray sources. And while your eye cannot see a huge resolution difference from 8 feet between competing 720P and 1080P models, the newer 1080Ps can render more colors, better blacks and simply look better.

And now to the video. Get your notebooks ready.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes I really am concerned about you....You try to break everything down to categories. PS3 vs. 360, Plasma vs. LCD, 720p vs. 1080p. It doesn't work like that. One of the most important number for picture quality of a TV is contrast ratio. There are LCDs on the market that outperform some plasmas of the same size. Some DLPs obliterate LCD in blacklevels and price. It's the OVERALL specs of a TV that matter.

Anonymous said...

Good post. You highlighted the major attributes that will concern most consumers. As for the previous poster, what, exactly, are the specs? What about response time? What about DLPs and the rainbow effect? Plasmas and screen door effect? LCDs and washed out blacks? Sheesh. Each technology has its advantages and disadvantages. Got kids? Stay away from plasmas (or keep the remotes away from them).

All in all, good post for your average person. Whatever TV looks good to you after viewing both satellite/cable and Blu-Ray (there, I said it), buy it. Then go purchase a calibration disc like Digital Video Essentials or Avia, or use the THX Optimizer if it comes on one of your DVDs.

Then stop reading about the specs and enjoy your TV.

Anonymous said...

But that's just it, you can't classify one type of TV above the other. If anything you shoud group by brands, where I've certainly noticed larger differences. I realize this is for the average consumer which I'm far from having bought 3 HDTV's in the past two years (I'm addicted). Buying choosing is an extremely difficult process, and I just don't like it when people try to dumb it down, because you only cheat yourself. You can stare at a TV all day in the store, but it's on factory defaults and unless you stroll in there with printouts of the calibration for all TVs you're interested in, you shouldn't really base your decision off of that experience. I own all three: Sony LCD, Sammy DLP, and Pioneer Plasma and they all took quite a bit of tweaking to produce the picture I wanted. I agree you should trust your eyes, it's just difficult to do that with half-ass feeds running to TVs and the Brightness cranked through the roof.

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Anonymous said...

OK, anonymous poster 1, cut it out. Specs are a good starting point, but if that's what you use to buy your TV, then you can end up with a marketing-spec'ed TV that does a crappy job rendering the video feed. Jeez. You can't just walk in with a calibration sheet! It's specific to your display, your room, the source (cable, satellite, DVD player, etc), and your distance from the display. And my Fujitsu will own that Pio any day of the week :-) Stop suggesting people trust the manufacturer's specs and start trusting your eyes. Go see the TVs in your friends' homes or in the small AV stores (BB and CC turn brightness way up, just like manufacturers do). Buy from someone you can get a 30 day return policy from. Then get a good HD source. If you don't like it, return it for a better display. If you do, enjoy it!

Anonymous said...

Oh I completely agree. That's why I said it was more complicated than just going to the store. I admit the specs they throw out are obviously to boost someones confidence in the purchase. The way some TVs mysteriously leave out contrast ratio, and how we just now see TVs using response time in their marketing. That's why it's important to read the specs from users and independent reviewers. They can give you a better feel of what the TV can offer you in your own home. (I sure hope not about my Pio, thing cost me a freaking fortune, but It's been the only HDTV that I really can't find flaws in since calibration....Initial colors were disturbing though....)

Now ELM said...

Wow, that's still more information than I'm interested in. I'm looking into hdtv because husband is whining about it. I've gone into a few show rooms and come out realizing, I just want my tv to work and not need instructions. I don't want to be in the house wanting to play Dora for the kids and not know how to set it up. As that's what happens at my parents house. I can read this information, but my interest level is at less than zero so it's in one ear and out the other. The more I read into it, the more it's about "researching". That's settled. Not HDTV. Manufacturers won't get a penny from me.

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