Tips for Buying a TV

Home & Family, Technology
on November 30, 2008

If youre in the market for a new television, the choices available can seem mind-boggling. Nonetheless, if you approach the new TV technology practically and financially, you can narrow your options pretty quickly.

One choice to make is whether you want a high-definition TV. HDTV sets offer an amazingly clear and lifelike picturebut only if they receive a high-definition signal. The major networks broadcast manybut not allprograms in HDTV. If you subscribe to cable or satellite, youll have more high-definition programming to choose from, although you may have to pay a monthly fee for high-definition channels. Traditional, standard-definition sets still are available, and, although their picture quality isnt as good, they are less expensive than high-definition sets.

Screen type
Another decision to make is what type of screen you want. LCD, plasma and projection are the new technologies.

LCD. Thin and lightweight, liquid crystal display screens typically offer the clearest picture quality, and work well in bright or dimly lit rooms. LCD flat panel is widely considered to be the most versatile of the technologies, says Rick Stetson, a Best Buy home theater expert in Glendale, Ariz. LCD picture quality is the best for most people in most situations. Its brighter with less glare and less electricity is used.

Plasma. Flat-screen plasma systems, which use ionized gases to create a picture, offer images with the deepest blacks, accurate colors and rich picture quality, especially in dimly lit rooms. But plasmas can suffer image burn-in if left tuned to the same image for too long. Plasma systems can be less costly than LCDs, but are harder to find in the highest high-definition resolution.

Projection. Front- and rear-projection televisions are good choices for consumers who want the largest screen for the least amount of money. But there is a downside: Projection televisions offer a great picture when viewing directly in front of the set, but lose color and brightness when the viewer is watching from an angle, Stetson says. Also, rear-projection systems typically cant be mounted to a wall.

Traditional tube TVs. Although they are becoming more difficult to find, traditional cathode ray tube (CRT) sets still are available, in both high-definition and standard-definition varieties. Compared with the newer technologies, they are bulky, heavy and use more electricity, but they are slightly less expensive than the newer flat-panel TVs. CRTs cost less, but the difference is not that great anymore, Stetson says.

Narrowing the field
Screen size and cost are other factors to consider. A low-end 32-inch LCD television costs about $600, while a high-end 65-inch TV could set you back as much as $10,000. Consider the cost of accessories, such as wall mounts and speakers, too.

Ask the salesperson what kind of connections the TV offers. Check to make sure the television has the inputs and outputs to hook up a cable or satellite box, DVD player, video game system, home theater system, or any other electronic equipment that you plan to use with your new purchase.