Halloween is over…flurries are in the air…Next up – the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Electronics are often a large part of Christmas for many families and a new flat panel TV features prominently as they have been changing the way we enjoy home entertainment.
The decisions involved in choosing a TV are daunting; compounded by so many different choices, numbers, and acronyms. To help you become an informed consumer and enjoy your Christmas TV shopping experience a bit more, consider the following tips:
Tip #1: Type of TV – Today’s best choice is a flat panel television. This is a widescreen format meaning it has a 16:9 (width:height) aspect ratio rather than the 4:3 aspect ratio of older televisions. Movies are typically displayed in a widescreen format and more and more television shows are being broadcast in widescreen format. With few exceptions, flat panels are high definition (HD) and are available in either plasma, liquid crystal display (LCD), light emitting diode (LED) LCD, or 3D varieties.
Tip #2: Resolution –There are two high definition resolutions – a 1080p and a lower 720p. This refers to the screen resolution and references the amount of horizontal lines on the screen. 1080p is “true” high definition but depending on what you are watching, this may not make a difference, especially with older television shows. Where you really notice the difference is if you have a high definition package through your cable, IPTV (internet TV) or satellite provider. Currently in Nova Scotia, the best HD broadcast signal is 720p. To experience 1080p on your new TV, you will need a BluRay player or gaming console. Some DVD players will upconvert a standard DVD to 1080p. If you have an older DVD player it can still be used, but realize the picture you are seeing will not be high definition.
Tip #3: Contrast Ratio – Contrast ratio is what gives your picture deep blacks and bright whites. Blacks and whites define the depth and brightness of color so higher contrast ratios also provide better colour reproduction. The higher the contrast ratio, the greater the range between black and white. The easiest thing to remember that the higher the contrast ration, the better. However, each manufacturer has their own way of measuring contrast ratio so the ratio is only useful in comparing TVs from the same manufacturer and not across brands.
Tip #4: Refresh Rate – Refresh rates help determine the speed the screen can keep up with a moving object. Higher refresh rates will result in less jagged edges and far less blur in fast moving scenes. LCDs range from 60Hertz (Hz) to 240Hz. Plasma televisions refresh many times faster than most LCD TVs. In general, the higher the refresh rate, the better, especially if you primary use of the TV is watching sports or gaming.
Tip #5: Viewing habits – It’s important to consider how your new TV will be used in your home. If you are an avid sports fan you’ll want something with a high refresh rate such as a plasma or 120Hz LCD or LED LCD. Movie buffs like the deep blacks produced by a plasma.
Tip #6: Lighting –In general, plasma screens tend to work best in darker rooms. Likewise, if you have a lot of sunlight in the room, you may be better off with an LCD panel. The important aspect to consider with both is to ensure the screen does not reflect light easily, especially if most of your TV watching is done during the day. Some TVs are manufactured with an anti-glare screen.
Tip #7: Size –It’s very important to consider the impact the TV will have on the room. An overly-large TV can take over the room and become the focal point. If you know where you will be sitting, you can determine your typical viewing distance from the TV. Generally you can sit anywhere between 1.5 and 3 times your HDTV screen size for the best viewing experience. If you sit too close you take the risk of noticing scan lines or pixels, but sit too far away and you begin to lose out on picture details and the immersive feel of a wide screen TV.
Tip #8: Placement – If you have an existing area or entertainment unit where the TV will live, then you will need to measure to ensure the new TV will fit. If your existing space will not accommodate the 16:9 widescreen version, you should factor either a new entertainment unit or the cost of wall mounting into your budget.
Tip #9: Energy Efficiency – Some of the largest, high-resolution TVs can use up to 500kWh every year – as much as a new refrigerator. Look for TVs that are ENERGY STAR qualified. These meet strict energy efficiency guidelines and deliver great features, while using up to 40% less energy than standard televisions. LED LCDs tend to me the most energy efficient models.
Tip #10: Safety – There is a growing number of childhood injuries and death as a result of falling TVs , especially in 2-6 year olds. If you have small children, a TV should never sit on a dresser or table that has drawers for climbing or that is not fastened securely to the wall. Always use an equipment stand designed specifically for a TV, preferably low to the ground with the TV pushed to the back. Be sure all cords are well out of reach. The safest and recommended option is to mount the TV directly on the wall. Consider a professional installer – once the TV is on your wall, you want it to stay there.
There is no one answer as to which TV solution is better, as it depends on your taste, budget, viewing conditions and features. The best advice is to consider the tips above, and ensure that you solicit the advice of a knowledgeable salesperson.
Check back next month – We’ll discuss the cables, connections and components required to ensure you are getting all that you can from your new HDTV.
Suzanne Wamboldt is co-owner of uberHome, an award-winning electronic system integration firm in Dartmouth, NS. uberHome designs and installs a variety of electronic solutions to create smarter homes the entire family will enjoy.
firstname.lastname@example.org www.uberhome.ca 446-UBER (8237)