Advice on Purchasing a High-Definition TV
Here is an email that I received recently: "Hello Sandy: Well, >I am finally ready to buy myself a new TV set! Out with my old deep-box set! >I pulled out my files and find that >my >best information is a column that you wrote in The Pilot, >Dec. 1, 2010!
"Has your advice changed much since then? >My room is small. >I >plan to have my >TV cabinet redone to accommodate perhaps a 42-inch >TV. > Consumers >Report leads me to a Sam-sung >or Sony Bravia. I am interested >in good sound as well as good picture. >
Any suggestions >to this >80-year-old lady? >Many thanks, > > Betsy"
Betsy, most of the things I talked about two years ago are still the same. Luckily, however, the prices have dropped considerably.
The differences between plasma, LCD and LED remain.
Each is different in the technologies they use to light the screen. While plasma used to be the cat's meow, LCD technology has improved more over the last few years, and with the addition of LED backlighting, it is now pretty close to an equal contender.
Plasmas still have darker blacks and are better in dark rooms. As far as price goes, plasma can give you good bang for your buck if you want a really big screen. However, most of us don't want to keep the drapes drawn during the day, and many of us, like Betsy, are happy with a 42- to 48-inch screen.
In that size screen, LCD and LED are more cost effective than plasma. An LED television is simply an LCD with LED (light emitting diode) backlighting. You will pay a slight premium for LED over a plain LCD television.
LEDs offer better energy efficiency and are often thinner. Most, but not all, LEDs have slightly brighter pictures. If poorly done, however, they can have lighting uniformity issues. So let your eyes be your guide in that respect.
You will still hear about 720p and 1080p in the television specifications. If you have 20/20 vision and sit 12 feet from the TV, you won't really notice much difference between a 720p and a 1080p TV. You would actually have to sit quite a bit closer to see any additional details.
These days, however, 1080p televisions are becoming the norm and not adding much to the cost, so you may want to get a 1080p TV just because you can.
Two other common high-definition television (HDTV) specifications are refresh rate and contrast ratios. You will see refresh rates of 60 Hz, all the way up to 480 Hz, and you will see a wide variety of contrast ratios. These two specs are often used to entice people to purchase more expensive televisions.
Next week, I'll give you a rundown of exactly what these two specs mean, but my simple advice is that in purchasing an HDTV, you can pretty much ignore them both without detriment.
When buying an HDTV, the last things to consider are the extras such as 3-D and Internet connectivity. I personally don't like 3-D. Not only does it give me a headache, but also I don't want to have to wear glasses to watch TV. If, however, you like 3-D, go for it. Just remember that because of lack of 3-D content, the only way to really take advantage of a 3-D television to buy a Blu-ray player and 3-D movies on disks.
As far as Internet connectivity, it can be a plus if you plan on using Netflix, Amazon videos or other content from the Web, but don't pay too much of a premium for Internet connectivity because you can always add a device such as Roku, Apple TV or others to add it later fairly inexpensively.
OK, Betsy, that brings us to your television cabinet, your choice of manufacturer and sound. Building a cabinet around the TV is a bit old-fashioned and not really necessary with the new televisions. They are so thin and light that you might be better off to simply buy a small stand or hang your new TV on the wall.
Betsy, you mention Samsung and Sony as the two brands that you read were highly rated. They are both good brands, but even good brands are not perfect. I have a smaller Samsung that has been going without a glitch for about eight years. The 42-inch Samsung that I purchased a few years ago, however, has had two repairs that would have each cost more than the television. Luckily I took out a five-year service policy when I purchased the television. A friend of mine has already had to replace the Sony that he purchased three years ago.
Bottom line is that if you pay more than $700 for an HDTV, you may want to see if a service policy is cost effective.
As far as brands go, if you want to save some money, I also like Visio, which is a less expensive brand. My Black Friday purchase was a 26-inch Insigna LED 1080p 60 Hz television for $99. Insigna is a value brand from Best Buy. I don't expect this television to be perfect, but for $100 I won't feel bad if I have to throw it away in three or four years.
Last but not least, Betsy wants a television that sounds good. Sorry to do this, Betsy, but I've run out of space for this column. Check back next week and I'll give you the scoop on contrast ratios, refresh rates, and how to look for a television that sounds as good as it looks.
Contact Sandy Berger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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