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Television Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

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Man holding a remote watching his HD television

The latest televisions have made some major strides in picture quality, and they're loaded with features. This television buying guide will give you more knowledge on how to choose a great television with superior picture quality and features.

Buying a Television:

  1. Screen size: TVs are measured diagonally. Televisions screens normally range from 20 inches or so up to 60 inches or more. To decide on a TV size, you might consider where you'll be placing the TV, how much it weighs and the distance between the television screen and viewers.

  2. Wall mounts: HDTVs over 47 inches may need extra support. Be sure to use a wall mount and studs capable of supporting the weight or pair your TV with a sturdy TV stand.

  3. Viewing distance: The distance between your TV and seating area is mostly a matter of preference. However, if you're too close to your television, you may start to see the individual screen pixels. If you're too far away, you won't see the high detail that an HDTV is capable of.

  4. High-definition televisions: CRT TVs, the old tube televisions, are no longer in production. HDTVs give you a picture at a much higher resolution than standard-definition televisions, which means that your picture is sharp and clearly defined. This is particularly important for large televisions, where details are more noticeable. If you're shopping for a high-definition television, you'll be looking at LCD, plasma or organic LED (OLED) televisions.

  5. Plasma TVs: Plasma TVs have no backlight to illuminate the television screen. The plasma cells themselves glow. These glowing plasma cells make up the pixels for the entire television screen.

    Plasma Features:

    • Plasmas use more energy than LCD TVs, and they tend to give off more heat as well.

    • Plasma televisions feature a high contrast ratio and superior response time, which translates into great color reproduction and less motion-blur or "ghosting" effects in the picture.

    • Plasma TVs have glass screens, so they tend to be heavier than LCD TVs.

  6. LCD TVs: LCD TVs use liquid crystal to make up the pixels in the TV screen.

    LCD Features:

    • LCD televisions are lighter, cooler and more energy-efficient than plasma TVs of the same size.

    • A LCD flat-panel TV uses backlighting, which can affect the picture quality and contrast. LED backlit LCD TVs have better contrast ratios.

    • LCDs used to lag behind plasma TVs when it came to response time and motion-blur, but most new LCD TVs correct for these problems and have superior image processing and response time.

  7. Programming sources: Televisions can get TV signals in a variety of ways. You can get both standard and high-definition programming through an antenna, satellite, cable and a variety of home video sources.

  8. Video connections: Televisions and peripheral devices, like DVD players, use various audio and video cables to communicate. Which connection type you choose has an effect on audio and video quality.

  9. HDMI connections: HDMI is currently the most popular cable type for connecting your TV to other devices, like Blu-ray players, video game consoles, home theater receivers and many other audio and video sources. HDMI carries both digital audio and video signals, which is essential for your HDTV to get the best audio and video quality.

  10. Component video connections: Component video cables are the only analog video cables capable of carrying high-definition content to your television. They only transmit video signals.

  11. Other connections: Most HDTVs still have ports for connecting your old DVD player or even a VCR through the red-yellow-white composite video cables, S-video cables and coaxial cables. Not all of these support HD video, however.

  12. Progressive vs. interlaced scan: Old CRT televisions used to divide the picture into odd and even lines. There wasn't enough bandwidth in an analog signal to broadcast them all at once, so televisions would receive the odd numbered lines first and then the even lines. This is known as "interlacing." The TV scanned the odd and even lines onto the screen so quickly that the human eye viewed it as one solid picture. This is also how DVD players and VCRs sent video. With newer video technology, like Blu-ray and progressive-scan DVD players, the bandwidth isn't a problem. All the lines in a picture are displayed at once, which is known as "progressive scan." Nearly all new HDTVs use progressive scan, but you will see some TV resolutions, such as "720i," in which the "i" stands for "interlaced," which have the interlace format.

  13. Resolution: HDTV screen resolution is usually listed as the number of pixels in the horizontal dimension. For example, a 1080p HDTV uses progressive scan and has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. A higher resolution television has a clearer, more detailed picture.

Ideas from Overstock.com:

  1. Overstock.com sells a huge selection of equipment that you can use to build the home theater of your dreams, including home theater receivers, surround-sound speaker systems and much more.

  2. No high-definition home theater would be complete without the extraordinary video quality that you can get with Blu-ray videos. Look to Overstock.com for the perfect Blu-ray player to go with your HDTV, as well as a wide selection of old and new releases on Blu-ray.

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