Buying a Large Screen HDTVs
Before you shell out big bucks for a fancy HDTV, make sure you ask the right questions.
February 01, 2006 by Frank Sadowski

High-definition television (HDTV) is the biggest step forward in TV since the advent of color. The key benefit is of course image quality. HDTV images are super sharp and richly detailed, with true-to-life colors and unprecedented depth of field. They’ve often been described as “looking out a window” instead of looking at a conventional TV screen. When combined with a surround sound audio system, today’s large-screen HDTV sets can literally bring the movie theater experience into the home—or make you feel like you’re sitting courtside at a basketball game!

Besides the availability and increasing affordability of so many high-performance HDTV sets, another thing that’s driving the HDTV revolution is the availability of so much HD content from over-the-air sources, cable companies and satellite providers. These days, most sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the Olympics are broadcast in HD, as well as primetime TV, and movies on HBO and Showtime. HD content is also available on DVD, thanks to new HD-DVD players from Toshiba. More models of both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray (also a high definition format) will be released this year, along with dozens of titles. This will give viewers multiple options of HD content.

Shopping Guide to Large-Screen HDTV
When shopping for a new large-screen TV, you should think about how important image quality is to you. If you want the very best, and you have HDTV capability from your cable or satellite provider, you should purchase a full HDTV (high definition), rather than an EDTV (enhanced definition) set. An HDTV delivers either a 720p or 1080i resolution picture—many times better than a conventional set. An EDTV model delivers a 480p picture, which is comparable to a standard NTSC TV (same as analog TV).

Screen size is also very important to your overall enjoyment. Quite simply, if you’re building a home theater, you probably want as big a picture as you can get for the price. The good news is that there has never been a better time to purchase a large-screen HDTV, including both flat-screen “hang-on-the-wall” plasma and LCD models as well as rear-screen projection sets. Prices have come down substantially and probably will not go much lower. Just a few years ago, a 50-inch plasma TV could sell for $20,000—now they start at about $3,000; 50-inch projection models start at around $1,500.

Flat-screen plasma and LCD TVs are ideal for blending in any room’s decor—they’re only a few inches deep and can be hung like a painting on a wall or mounted on a stand on a pedestal or tabletop. LCD sets are the most affordable in the under 40-inch category, while plasma models range in size from 37- to over 60-inches. Plasmas offer the best value between 42- and 51-inches and projection sets are the best value if you’re looking for a set over 50 inches.

Questions to Ask
Before buying a new large-screen TV, you should ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I plan on hanging my new TV on the wall?
  • How important is picture quality to me?
  • How big a picture do I want for the price?

The first question requires a lot of consideration. You need to make sure that you actually have a large enough space on the wall to hang you set! Remember, you need a minimum of six feet between viewer and TV for the optimum image quality.

If you’re planning a wall unit for your home entertainment system, or if you don’t have enough room to hang your TV on the wall, you should think about opting for a large-screen projection TV—either a DLP or LCD model. Rear-screen projection TVs are much thinner and lighter than ever before, and almost all are powered by either advanced DLP or LCD technology, both of which deliver exceptionally clear and bright pictures. For the largest possible big screen experience, front projection TVs are the answer. With screen sizes of more than 100-inches, they’re the ultimate choice for building a full-fledged media room in your house. They require a separate screen however, and need a dark room to work best.

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