Thinking about buying new TV? Last time you bought one, you probably only needed to decide on screen-size and whether to go with regular or high definition. Now there’s a dizzying array of TV screen options and “smart” features to choose from – and some of them are real budget busters.
Here’s a quick guide that explains what the choices mean in terms of picture quality, reliability and whether a feature is a good fit for family viewing habits. The three main things to consider when buying a new TV are:
- TV Screen – size, type of screen, resolution and refresh rates
- Smart TV – the features you’ll use
- 3D TV – passive or active 3D
TV screen size – is bigger better?
Now that prices have come down on large screens, it’s tempting to buy the biggest screen that fits your budget. But a really big screen can overwhelm a room and your eyeballs. Choose the screen size based on the distance you’ll normally watch TV from. Home theatre experts suggest that a 40 inch screen TV be viewed from 4 to 6 feet away and a 60 inch screen from a distance of 6 to 9 feet.
Experience how a larger TV changes the feel of a room by using painters’ tape or a cardboard cutout to block out the new TV’s dimensions on the wall. If your new set will sit in a media cabinet, remember to allow one inch around the sides, top, bottom and back for cooling purposes.
Plasma, LED or LCD? Different types of TV screens
Once you’ve decided on size, it’s time to pick from three types of screens; plasma, LCD and LED. Plasma screens deliver the same picture quality from almost any viewing angle, making them a good choice for hanging out with the family. They are favoured for their contrast, deep blacks and accurate colour but need a darker room to be at their best. Newer plasma TVs use built-in screen savers to prevent the screen image burn-in that has been occasionally reported in older models.
LDC and LED both create their picture using the same liquid crystal display (LCD) technology. The difference is how they are backlit to create brightness: LED screens use light emitting diodes (LEDs) to backlight and LCD screens are backlit by fluorescent lights. If thickness is an issue LED, especially edge-lit LED, is the clear winner when it comes to a wafer thin screen. And, LED screens use less energy than LCD or plasma screens.
TV screen resolution 101
Today even the most basic TV delivers a good viewing experience. However, the more pixels (picture elements) on a screen, the better the TV’s picture quality.
A basic 720 pixel (p) screen delivers “traditional” picture quality. A HD (high definition) TV, also known as “full HD,” has a 1080p screen. Pricier TVs now boast ultra high definition (UHD) of 2160p or higher for near-theatre quality images. Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens, the newest and priciest technology, deliver a deeper, brighter and more colour-rich picture than anything on the market. However, the technology is still new and there have been industry reports that the manufacturing process still has some bugs to iron out, so you might want to hold off on this technology for another year or two.
Why refresh rates matter
Refresh rates are important if you enjoy watching sports or gaming. The number of times per second that your TV screen picture updates is referred to as Hz. The standard 60Hz is slow enough that fast motions may blur. Many new models now deliver 120Hz refresh rates and truly high end TVs come with 240 or even 480Hz rates – fast enough to track the speediest superhero!
What to look for in a smart TV
The next big development promises to integrate your TV with your online life: use the same screen to watch TV, download online content, update social networks, play games, Skype, use it as computer monitor, turn it on with gesture or voice command and more. If you’re investing in a smart TV, you’ll want it to have:
- Wi-Fi connectivity so that you aren’t chained to an Ethernet cable.
- The digital sharing platform DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) that lets your computer and TV be on the same network.
- A user-friendly internet menu and remote (try them in the store before buying).
- Info on the number and type of apps (like the ones on your smart phone) that the TV’s manufacturer supports.
- Four or more high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) connectors to plug in your cable box, Apple TV, Blu-ray player and other devices.
- Two or more universal serial bus (USB) ports to download other devices’ content like photos, videos and other big files.
- A smart TV browser that supports common web features like Java and Flash.
Because all smart TVs are not created equal, allow yourself plenty of time to try out the browser experience, interface and the remote system before you make a purchase decision.
3D TV pros and cons
Everything old is new again and 3D, which works by giving each eye a slightly different picture, is back. When shopping for a 3D TV, you’ll need those funky-looking 3D glasses and you’ll be asked to decide between active and passive 3D.
- Active 3D glasses’ big advantage is that you get the full HD resolution. They cost more than passive 3D glasses, are heavy and dim the source image. Also, many users report find the rapid shuttering unpleasant.
- Passive 3D glasses are inexpensive, easier for prescription glasses users to wear, lightweight and offer a brighter image. But if you have a big screen or like to sit close to the TV, you may see diagonal lines.
Best advice? Try out both types in store from different angles and distances before buying.
Now you’re ready to hit the stores and find the best bargain on the TV set that’s right for you. Looking for more big ticket items to enhance your new home? These tips will help.