New Season, New TV?

There is not much time left between pre-season and THE season. With lots of big games coming, isn’t it time to consider a new big TV?

And boy oh boy have they gotten big.  The current crown for king-size TV’s is held by Mitsubishi, which makes a mind-boggling 92” screen with 16 speakers and 3D capabilities that weighs 195 pounds with a street price of about $2700.  If you gotta have the biggest, stop reading here, your work is done.

Assuming that monstrous model is bigger than your budget, available wall space and/or weight bearing capabilities of your living room floor, you’ll need to make some choices and this should help you out.

Space in Your Place.

The first thing you need to think about is where you are going to actually do your watching.  I’m assuming you’ll want an HDTV unit.  First things to think about are actual wall space (to either hang it from or push it up against) and viewing distance.  First, remember that the screen size for TVs is given in the diagonal of the screen viewing area, so that 92” is the distance from upper left to lower right corner.  You need to know the actual height and width of the TV to figure out the wall space it’ll take.  Second, different HDTV resolutions are best viewed at certain distances.  If you sit too far away you’re starting to lose out on all that high definition you are paying for.  The good folks at HDguru have an extremely helpful chart for figuring out the distance from the screen you’ll want to sit and the height and width of the screen based on the screen size and resolution specs of a given box.  You’ll still need to check the height and width of the actual TV’s you’re comparing eventually, because different manufacturers will frame the screens and place the electronics differently.  Still the chart’s a great place to get a rough idea of what’s best for your room configuration.  Also remember that weight increases with size, so if your walls are thin you’ll need to think about a stand for those bigger screen sizes.

So let’s say your future home theater will allow a 60” screen at the highest resolution, which is 1080i. Next two questions to answer are how sunny is the room and what viewing angle will the room allow.  By this I mean, will everyone be looking dead-on at the screen or will some of them be looking at an angle?  The answers to these questions will help identify the technology the TV uses to display its moving images.

Pretty as its Picture.

How the images on your screen appear is mostly affected by display technology, resolution and contrast.

Picking your display technology can also be influenced by the space your TV will live in.  LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) technologies work better in brighter light (especially those that use LEDs, Light Emitting Diodes, for the lighting component), but picture quality suffers when looking at them at an angle.  They also are less effective at displaying large, rapid motion across the screen, which can be important in watching plays.  Plasma screens have somewhat better picture quality but often cost more on a size-by-size comparison and draw lots of power, making them less friendly ecologically and more costly in monthly power bills. DLP (Digital Light Processor) TV’s have perhaps the best pictures out of the three (I think so) but they use an internal lamp that has to be replaced after about 5000 hours and costs usually $200-$300.  The technology prevents the TVs from being flat screen so they need a stand and take up more room.  Like the plasmas, they do better in darker spaces and/or out of direct light.

Screen resolution refers to the number of pixels, the dots that make up the picture on your screen, that the TV can display. Most 40” screens or above offer 1080i screen resolution, the highest of hi definition.  Some screens, to save dollars top out at 1366 by 768 pixels or 720p.  You won’t miss much at the former resolution, but the latter will need to reduce the resolution of 1080i broadcasts or DVDs and you may notice some breakdown of picture quality or motion across the screen when that happens.

Contrast refers to the range between the darkest blacks and lightest whites your image can display.  The higher the difference, the crisper the image.  The numbers, however, don’t tell the whole story as they are generally measured in a dark room displaying a fully black and white image.  Watching a color picture in a room with an active light source will impact the viewing experience so the numbers alone are not enough.

Do you want 3D?  The folks at CNET offer a solid piece on the basics.

Making Connections.

What do you want to show on the screen besides your broadcast, cable or satellite content?  Do you want images and video from your home computer or the Internet?  DVDs?  Video Game consoles? Make sure that your television has the right number of ports (HDMI, VGA, etc) for your needs before you buy. Don’t forget sound.  Will you connect your TV to an external sound system or home stereo or rely on the TV’s internal speakers?  Do you want surround sound? Check out this piece from

Hit the Web and then get in the Car.

After you’ve run through all these options to determine basically what you want search the web for makes and models that match your choices (40-60 inches, plasma 1080i with 3 HDMI ports and a VGA port, no 3D and solid built-in audio, for example).  Find out what makes and models match your need and then narrow it down to a few choices by reading reviews on the web on CNET, Sound and Vision and other sites. Then even if you plan to buy on-line, take your eyes and ears down to the local departments stores and experience the products for yourself before making that purchase.

And hurry up, the kickoff won’t wait for you.

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