Television Buyers Guide
Introduction To Television
Important Specs To Look Out For When Buying
Gaming On Your TV
Introduction To Television
There are now so many options available in the world of televisions than ever before.
Old-fashioned, wide CRT television screens have been phased out and replaced in favor of space-savings, sleek, flat
You'll certainly notice the difference when you upgrade your old-style TV. But how do you ever
go about choosing which TV you want to buy?!
While most flat screen TVs will be high definition, they use a number of different technologies
including LCD, LED and 3D.
This guide will teach you the difference between these different types of TV, and also go
through each and every spec you should look out for before making your choice of which TV to buy.
The kind of TVs most of us have been used to all our lives are known as “standard definition”.
Although standard definition TVs can be quite good quality, the images aren’t as sharp as they could be.
The difference HDTV makes is that the image is around double the resolution of standard
definition; it’s sharper and far more detailed. Once you’re used to HDTV, standard definition will look poor in
comparison. The bigger the HD screen, the more you’ll notice the difference.
HD-ready TVs will display images sent to them either via Blu-Ray HD DVDs or HD television
broadcasts. However, many TV shows and movies are still in standard definition, and HD TVs can play this too (how
well or not it displays, however, is something you should check for in reviews).
If you’re buying a flat screen TV today, chances are it has some form of high definition (see
the specs section of the guide for more on that). HD is also combined with LED, LCD or Plasma and some can have 3D
LCD TVs come in a huge range of sizes, ranging from relatively small up to 65 inches. They’re
also available from a huge range of different manufacturers, giving you greater choice as to what to buy.
Pros Of LCD TVs:
• LCD TVs use less power to run than plasma screens,
• Good for viewing in brighter rooms if you opt for a matte screen,
• Lasts an average of 16 to 32 years of use at six hours per day.
Cons Of LCD TVs:
• LCD screens have a worse viewing angle than plasma screens,
• Poorer uniformity (i.e. the uniformity of picture quality across all areas of the screen),
• Not best viewed in very dark rooms when compared to plasma.
LED TVs come in a wide range of different sizes and, just like LCD TVs, are available from all
major manufacturers. LED TVs are just the same as LCD except for the backlight, which helps to improve picture
Pros Of LED TVs:
• LED TVs use less power than plasma or LCD screens,
• Very thin design,
• Lasts an average of 16 to 32 years of use at six hours per day.
Cons Of LED TVs:
• Usually more expensive than other technologies,
• Not much extra picture benefit, compared to LCDs, considering the extra cost
Plasma screens are made by LG, Samsung and Panasonic and generally come in sizes of 42 inches
Pros Of Plasma TVs:
• They look very good in dark rooms,
• They have a better viewing angle than LCD TVs,
• Good image uniformity across the screen,
• Lasts an average of 16 to 32 years of use at six hours per day.
Cons Of Plasma TVs:
• Not always the best for bright rooms as they can reflect light,
• Can experience image burn when one still image is paused on the screen for long periods,
• They use a lot of power.
What is 3D?
3D brings TV to life, making it appear as if images are literally jumping out at you from the
screen. This has become more popular in movie theatres in recent years, and now all the major TV brands have
released their own 3D TV offerings.
TVs need to incorporate special technology in order to display 3D images, making them more
expensive than traditional flat panel TVs. It also means you’ll need to wear special 3D glasses to see the effects
– these glasses must be worn by each viewer in order to experience images in 3D.
Pros Of 3D TVs:
• 3D TVs create a whole new viewing experience,
• Some 3D TVs can convert 2D to 3D giving you a broader range of 3D content.
Cons Of 3D TVs:
• 3D capability will make any TV more expensive,
• You need to buy glasses separately, and they aren’t cheap,
• There isn’t that much content yet available in 3D, and 2D to 3D conversion can yield poor
Important Specs To Look Out For When
Don’t be confused by all the technical jargon when it comes time to purchase your new TV. Have a
read through this list of specs to help you understand what they all mean, and whether they should factor into your
decision or not.
Screen Size and Screen Type
The good thing about most modern screens is that they’re flat. This means you don’t need to
worry about the back of the television taking up too much space. You do, however, have to consider how big you’d
like the screen, both in terms of how good the picture will look, and how much space your TV will take up.
The screen size you choose will depend on the size of the room you put it in.
• 40 inches or more is a good size for your main television,
• Screens of around 32 inches or more are more suitable for bedrooms.
It can be hard to know what you’ll need, especially if you’re upgrading from a smaller CRT
television. Flat panel HDTVs will seem a lot bigger, but don’t make the mistake of going too small. Most users like
larger sizes, and have regretted opting for the smaller screens before they knew how good they would look.
Are There Any Drawbacks Of Big Screens?
Most of us would be forgiven for thinking “the bigger the better” when it comes to our
television screen. However, bigger screens can pose a problem for viewing non-HD content. If it hasn’t been
designed in high definition then it can look blurry and bad quality compared to how it would appear on a smaller
You also need to make sure you can sit far enough away to get the best viewing experience. In
general, this means at least 1.5 times the distance of the diagonal screen measurement. Make sure you choose a TV
that allows this in your size of living room.
Aside from this, bigger screens will use more power, and you may find that they end up
dominating the entire room.
3D TV Specs
There are a number of pros and cons of 3D screens (see above), and whether or not to buy one is
completely down to you. If you are looking for a 3D TV, you’ll need to consider the following specs in addition to
the other specs listed here:
2D to 3D conversion: You’ll pay more for this feature, as it means the TV can automatically
convert standard content into 3D images. There is very little 3D specific content out there at the moment, so this
is useful for helping you to get the most out of a 3D TV. However, the quality is often a lot poorer than
3D glasses: Before you buy, always check whether the particular 3D TV comes with any glasses or
not. Most televisions won’t, so you’ll need to buy these separately. Make sure you buy enough for the whole family
to be able to watch the TV at the same time.
The prices of flat screen TVs vary widely depending on the technology they use (3D TV will cost
more, for example) and any extra features. In general, however, you’ll find that costs get higher the bigger the
For a 32 inch screen TV, you can expect to pay anything from $350-$1000. This goes up as high as
$1,000-$3,000 for a 60 inch screen.
Most HD TVs today come with a 1080p resolution. However, you can still find 720p models. The
latter isn’t necessarily bad, and you won’t even notice the difference in smaller screens, so don’t let it put you
off if reviews are otherwise favorable about the picture quality.
There are two main types of screen finish:
• Matte: The benefit of matte screens is that they don’t reflect light. If you’re going to place
the TV in a bright room, this is important.
• Glossy: These are more prone to reflection, which can make it difficult to see the picture in
bright light. You can combat this by swiveling the TV away from the light source, or placing blinds/ curtains in
the TV room. Glossy is more common in the HD TV world than matte.
The aspect ratio measurement shows the proportion of the width to the height of the television
screen. Most modern televisions will have an aspect ratio of 16:9. Older screens usually have an aspect ratio of
The contrast ratio measures the difference between the brightest color the TV can display, and
the darkest. The higher the contrast, the deeper the blacks and lighter the whites will be. It also indicates that
there will be a good range of colors in between.
However, you should always take contrast ratio values with a pinch of salt. There is no uniform
way of measuring this, and some manufacturers will skew the readings. And don’t be mistaken for thinking a contrast
ratio of 50,000:1 is twice as good as 25,000:1.
Plasma TVs usually have a higher contrast ratio. However, as with most other areas, the gap is
now quite narrow and not hugely obvious.
Most flat screen TVs will need a little adjustment before you can get the picture just right for
If you want to make sure you can achieve the perfect look, try to find TVs that come with
picture controls. To make things as easy as possible, most TVs include a number of set pre-sets from which you can
choose your preferred look.
To display moving images on the screen, the pixels on the television have to refresh. This is
what the refresh rate measures.
The number given in TV specifications is measured in speed. I.e. a refresh rate of 60Hz means
the pixels refresh 60 times per second.
LCD TVs once had a reputation for low refresh rates. In real terms this meant that moving images
would be blurry. This is why you should look for TVs with a refresh rate of 60Hz or more. This is very easy to find
in most modern televisions.
The viewing angle shows how far to the side you can sit and still get a good picture. Screens
will always look good when viewed straight on, but this is not always possible when viewing the TV in your living
room with other people. Some will inevitably end up viewing it side on to some degree.
Plasma screens always have a better viewing angle than LCD/ LED screens due to the way that
they’re made. Some manufacturers may claim a viewing angle of up to 180 degrees, though it’s unlikely you’ll
experience the best picture at the full 180 degrees.
In real terms, you probably won’t notice too much difference between LCD and plasma screens,
especially if you watch the latter in brighter lighting conditions.
Most televisions of today have a viewing angle of 160 degrees or higher.
The response time measures the amount of time it takes for the pixels on the television to
change from black to white and back again when the image changes. The lower the number given in milliseconds, the
quicker the response time on the television.
In real terms, this affects the way your television will display moving images. A shorter
response time will mean less of a blur when looking at moving images. Plasma screens are known to have a faster
response time than LCD screens – however, it’s unlikely you’ll notice much difference between top modern
The most modern televisions will have the ability to connect to the internet, though this is
something you should check for before you buy.
What’s the benefit of an internet connection on your TV? It means you can access online video
services, such as Hulu and Netflix, or even social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Skype.
There are a few ways to connecting to the internet on your TV:
• Via a W-Fi adaptor (sold separately),
• Via a built in Wi-Fi receiver,
• Via Ethernet cable.
You’ll usually find these features on mid to high-end TVs, and most won’t have Wi-Fi built in.
In addition to having your own internet connection already, you may also need to pay an extra fee to sign up to
some of these services.
If you already have a set-top box or games console with these features then you may as well save
money and forget them in your TV.
TVs aren’t just for watching movies or TV shows. They can now display your digital photos,
videos, or play your music (depending on the features of the CD).
USB ports and memory card slots are becoming the most common ways of connecting up your digital
camera and setting up a slideshow for family and friends. Some also use Scart or photo ports for this purpose.
The newest TVs, however, may have the ability to stream content from other devices straight to
your TV, over your broadband connection (when the TV is connected via Wi-Fi). This isn’t a necessary feature, due
to the ports listed above that just about any TV will have, though it’s a nice addition.
If you want to use your television as an MP3 player then you’ll want to check reviews of the
inbuilt speaker quality, or connect up external speakers.
TVs today now have a huge number of different inputs – it can be difficult to know which you
• HDMI: This is usually the most important type of input to look for, as most accessories (such
as games consoles, DVD players and cable boxes) will use this type of connection.
• Scart: This is another commonly used input for accessories.
• Composite and component inputs: These are older, so check if you have any current equipment
that uses them.
The remote control isn’t the most important part of your new HDTV, but it’s still well worth
taking a look at before you buy. Remotes that can control your other devices are useful, unless you already use a
universal remote. And, if you’re shopping for a television set that includes a number of internet apps, you may
also want a keyboard on the remote itself.
Although most modern HDTVs will come with an Energy Star rating, this doesn’t mean much given
the fact that pretty much any new TV is worthy of this rating. That said, there are a few general rules to follow.
For one, certain TVs will have their own energy-saving options that you can look into if you’re searching for
something a little more “green”. Secondly, plasma televisions usually use about twice as much power as LCD/ LED
When you buy any new electronics product it should come with a manufacturer warranty. Make sure
you check how long this lasts, but it’ll usually be at least a year for parts, and 90 days for labor.
Many stores will ask you whether you’d like an extended warranty. However, studies have shown
that most HDTVs don’t break down during the extended warranty period, meaning that they’re an unnecessary
Extra Accessories To Buy
When buying your brand new TV you’ll want to consider the following extra accessories (sold
• Wall Mounting Brackets: Many people choose to mount their television on the wall for the best
viewing angle, and as a way to save space. This can cost up to an extra few hundred dollars.
• Stand: If you’re not planning on hanging the TV on the wall, you’ll probably need to buy a
stand. Older stands aren’t usually wide enough for current flat screen TVs.
• Scart cable: Always check to see whether Scart cables are included with the TV. You’ll need
these to connect your DVD player. Note that higher quality cables are recommended for the best picture and
• HDMI cable: You may want to use HDMI cables in place of standard Scart, depending on the
connections on your TV and DVD players. Some stores will try to convince you to buy expensive cables, but stick to
the relatively low-priced options.
• Surge protector: This will help to keep your expensive investment protected.
Gaming On Your TV
HDTV isn’t just for movie fans, or those who enjoy documentaries. They’re also an excellent way
to enjoy your video games. If you’re an avid gamer, here are the most important HD TV specs for you to
One downside of plasma screens for gaming is the risk of image burn. This occurs when you leave
the game paused for a long period of time – you’ll find that the image is faintly embedded on the screen, even when
you start playing again. This usually goes away, and can be avoided by using screensavers, but could be one reason
why gamers opt for LCD/ LED over plasma screens.
Playing games on your TV means you’ll likely have it switched on for a long time. If you can,
look for TVs that consume less power in order to save on electricity bills. Some TVs also have built in energy
saving modes that’ll dim the screen as the light in the room changes.
The general rule of thumb is that gaming picture quality will improve just as general TV picture
quality improves. Therefore, if movies look good in HD, then games should too.
However, if you play the Wii then you should note that this is not an HD games console. This
means you’ll need to find an HDTV that can display standard definition content in high quality if you want your
games to look right.
There can often be a big difference between the quality of high definition and standard
definition on an HD TV, so you’ll have to check individual reviews to see whether the particular model is a good
option for Wii gaming.
If you’re going to be connecting games consoles to your flat screen TV then you need to be sure
you have enough inputs. The newest games consoles will take up an HDMI slot, and you’ll also need more available
for your DVD player, cable box and so on. Check which type of input each of your devices uses, and make sure there
are a sufficient number available.
As mentioned above, current flat screen TVs will usually come with a number of different picture
pre-sets. You can check whether this includes a games mode. Although this isn’t necessary, games modes usually come
with a number of tweaks that’ll help improve performance for gaming and reduce any lags.
Thankfully motion blur on games is not normally an issue if you opt for a TV with a refresh rate
of 60Hz or higher, and a response rate of 4ms at the slowest.
As you can see, there is a lot to consider when shopping for a brand new flat panel television.
Here’s a recap of the minimum specs you should look for:
• TV should have 720p or 1080p resolution as standard,
• You can choose between plasma, LCD and LED,
• Choose 40+ inch screens for main living rooms,
• Choose 32 inch screens or smaller for kitchens/ bedrooms,
• Make sure your room is big enough for the larger screens,
• Must have the inputs that your specific devices use, whether this means Scart, HDMI and so
• Budget TVs don’t usually have Wi-Fi, but expensive models do,
• Most TVs have a 16:9 aspect ratio,
• Look for at least a 60Hz refresh rate to avoid motion blur,
• Opt for a 160 degree viewing angle,
• Prices range from around $350-$500 for budget TVs, up to $1,000-$3,000 for larger or 3D
• Always check the warranty before you buy.
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