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LCD TV Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

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Your TV is the center of your home entertainment system. Among televisions, flat-panel TVs are rising in popularity every year. LCD TVs have proven to be affordable entertainment displays with attractive picture quality. This LCD TV buying guide will help you decide how to buy an LCD TV that works best for your situation.

Buying an LCD TV:

  1. LCD technology: Each pixel of an LCD TV screen has a red, green and blue pixel cell, which glow when they receive an electrical charge. Altering the charge varies each pixel's color intensity; different intensities among cells in each pixel change the color.

  2. LED LCD TVs: LED LCD TVs use a field of tiny LEDs to illuminate the TV screen rather than florescent bulbs, which regular LCD TVs use. LED backlighting provides an LCD TV with superior contrast ratio and better energy efficiency.

  3. Flat-panel design: Most LCDs are called flat-panel televisions because they are thin and light enough to hang on the wall like a painting, using television mounts. The terms "flat-screen television" and "flat-panel television" are often used interchangeably to refer to any TV with a flat screen. These terms don't have any real technical meanings other than that, so even an old CRT TV could be a flat-panel model. Read product descriptions carefully to make sure you're looking at a genuine LCD TV.

  4. Aspect ratio: The actual shape of most LCD TV screens will be different from older televisions. Most new LCD TVs have a wide-screen format (16:9 aspect ratio) instead of standard format (4:3). This means your new LCD TV may not fit in your old entertainment center.

  5. Contrast ratio: This statistic is the ratio of the brightest white compared to the darkest black which your LCD TV is capable of displaying. A higher ratio means that your LCD TV can display a wider range of colors, resulting in a more vibrant, realistic picture.

  6. Response time: The change in an LCD TV pixel's color often happens too fast for your eyes to notice, but during action scenes, sports or other on-screen movement, you can start to notice blurring. The slower the pixels change -- or their response time -- the more motion blur you'll notice on your LCD TV screen. A faster response time is better for your LCD TV.

  7. Picture modes: Check to see if your LCD TV offers different picture modes. Because LCD TVs process picture data digitally, they can also manipulate those pictures in specific picture modes to improve your viewing experience. Many HDTVs can change picture settings to customize picture quality as you watch movies, sports, standard TV shows or play video games. Most HDTVs also include some type of video enhancement modes, meant to smooth out digital artifacts that can creep into the picture.

  8. LCD vs. Plasma: When they first appeared, large-screen LCD TVs couldn't match plasma televisions on contrast ratio and response time. Manufacturing advances have overcome many of these obstacles and, though plasmas still have a market edge among over 50-inch screens, LCD TVs now match most plasmas on image quality.

  9. Location: You may want to take some measurements of the area where your LCD television will be placed. Whether it will hang on a wall or be placed in an entertainment center, you'll be able to shop more knowledgeably with the measurements on hand to compare to those of the LCD TVs you're considering.

  10. Video sources and connections: If you will plug your new LCD TV into existing components, like your DVD player or home theater system, make sure you have the right connectors. If not, you may need to find adapters that help you connect them.

    Connection Types

    • HDMI: This is the new standard cable for many Blu-ray players, video game consoles and home theater systems; it carries both digital video and audio over a single cable.

    • Component: This analog video cable is commonly used by DVD players, video game consoles and home theaters and uses three separate connectors.

    • Coaxial: This analog cable has been in use for decades and may connect your cable or satellite box to your LCD TV.

    • Optical: This audio cable is used in high-end sound systems for its clarity and bandwidth, using light to transmit data.

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