Buying a Plasma, LCD, or LED HDTV

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Although cheaper than ever before, TVs are still relatively expensive. Buyers should research all their options before shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars. The first step is to figure out what features you want. These include:

  • 3-D capability (and how many sets of glasses you need)
  • Wireless or wired network access (for Internet access, streaming movies through Netflix, DLNA, etc.)
  • Viewing angles (will you always be watching from straight on or do you need good picture viewability from odd angles)
  • Refresh rate (will you be watching much content with fast action like sports and video games)
  • Resolution (1080p or 720p)
  • Screen size (usually measured as the diagonal of the screen, but you should also note the height, width, and depth of the set)
  • Television type (plasma, LCD, DLP, or LED)
  • Brand

Depending on which features you want, the price of the television goes up. The most crucial part of the equation to consider is usually the screen size. What size TV will work best in the setting that you have chosen? Well, think about how far away you want to sit from the TV. The current rule of thumb for HDTVs is that you should take the size of the TV

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(in inches) and multiply that by 1.5 to 3 times in order to determine a proper sitting distance. For example, a 50″ HDTV is a good size if you plan to sit 75 to 150 inches (about 6 to 12 feet) away from the screen.

One of the other most important choices you will need to make is what type of television to buy. DLP is cheap, but the sets are usually relatively thick. This seems to be a dying technology. Traditional LCDs are also cheap, but the picture quality and viewing angles typically aren’t as good as plasma or LED. Plasma gives great picture quality, is less expensive than LED, and typically allows for fantastic viewing angles. However, there are still concerns about energy consumption and picture burn-in – though the latest plasma TVs seem to have overcome these problems. Finally, LEDs are the most expensive and currently the most revered type of television. They look great. However, they typically cost 10-50% more than plasmas.

On a note related to picture quality, you will also have to decide between 720p and 1080p. Both are considered high-def, but I strongly advise you to get a 1080p set in most cases. Although it can be tough to tell from a distance, 1080p really shines and can “wow” you with the clarity and detail of the picture. You must view 1080p content in order to take advantage of it, but it is certainly worth it.

Then you also need to consider picture quality when there is a lot of motion on the screen, like when watching sports or playing video games. This is where refresh rate comes into play. The lowest you will find is 60Hz. Try to avoid 60Hz TVs as you will at times notice a motion blur or choppiness. Many TVs have features to combat this, but they often result in some odd movement. Generally look for 120Hz or better.

Another important factor to consider is Internet connectivity. With Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and other streaming services out there, it is quite possible that you will soon be watching much of your TV and movie content from online sources rather than cable or satellite (if you arent’ already). Keep this in mind as you shop for a TV, but don’t make it a necessity. It might be worthwhile to pass up a TV with online features due to the fact that you can just hook up a separate device to your TV to achieve the same goal (e.g., an Internet-ready blu-ray player, Wii, or even your laptop).

What I feel like is one of the least important factors to consider is 3-D. I am not a big fan of it as I believe it is just a gimmick with an appeal that will soon be overshadowed by even higher resolution TV displays (e.g., 4K). Even now, 1080p displays have a bit of that “looking through a window” effect where the picture is so realistic that it truly feels like your tv is a window that you are looking through.

As for brand, leave a comment below to let us know which brands you have found to be good or bad. I own a Panasonic Viera personally, and I am very happy with it. How about you?

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3 Responses to Buying a Plasma, LCD, or LED HDTV

  1. Hi Tech Beetle,
    Speaking of which, I want to buy an 40″ – 46″ HDTV (1080p) for my home to replace my 10 year old 40 ” CRT TV. I’ve seen different types out there: Plasma, LED. LCD. What’s the difference and which is considered best (quality-wise). Any references to links that explain the different types of TVs on the market now. I’m just now able to afford getting into 21st century technology and would like some help.
    Cheerio

  2. Tech Beetle says:

    Hello Kevin,

    Thank you for your question. LED is currently considered the best type of TV as far as quality goes. They tend to output the brightest, most vibrant picture which makes them particularly ideal if you will often be watching in a room with a lot of light. It is the current hot ticket in TV technology, and the price of LED TVs are higher as a result. There is a great in-depth article comparing the 3 types of TVs here: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2387377,00.asp Also, if you will be purchasing one, I recommend checking http://www.slickdeals.net regularly and waiting for a great deal. Good luck!

  3. Adam says:

    This article offers a lot of good considerations when it comes to buying a new TV. I decided it was time to upgrade just before the Super Bowl. I went from a 32” 720 p Samsung to a 50” 1080 p Samsung and I couldn’t be happier. I decided to save the money and skip 3D, I think it is just a fad anyway. One more consideration that is just as important as the TV is the HDTV provider. I have service from DISH, my employer. They offer the most HDTV channels available from any provider. I was even able to get HD Free for Life under a current promotional offer for $120 savings per year!

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