TV shopping requires knowing how to compare tech features
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Saturday, December 01, 2012
12/01/12 at 5:24 AM
Learn more about consumer electronics: Read about the latest products and trends.
If a store carries even a single model of HDTV, chances are it's on sale right now.
This Christmas season has brought an avalanche of television sales, with deals on just about every size and type. There's just one problem for those wanting to take advantage - what kind to get?
This guide will give you a basic idea of what's available and how to get the most pixel-perfect bang for your buck.
Original Print Headline: Pixel-perfect TV
Plasma, LCD or LED?
In recent years, the traditional split between plasma and LCD HDTVs has been joined by LED, which is essentially a more refined version of LCD. LED televisions give you the absolute best picture available, along with astoundingly ultra-thin bodies, but be aware that you'll pay significantly more for the technology.
Don't fret if you're on a budget. Plasma and traditional LCD HDTVs still look great, and there's not a real difference in quality between them anymore.
720 or 1080p?
These seemingly random numbers refer to the number of vertical pixels in the screen and, naturally, 1080p has more of them. Yes, 1080p is superior, but you shouldn't automatically shun 720 if you're looking for a smaller television.
The general rule of thumb is that most people who aren't pressing their faces against the screen only notice the difference between the formats at screen sizes of 36-40 inches and above. If you want to buy a smaller television than that, you won't miss much with 720. But with prices dropping, there's never a reason to settle for a 720 television in larger sizes.
Televisions have a variety of input jacks, but most manufacturers of accessories such as cable boxes, Blu-ray players, content streamers, video game systems and more are switching to HDMI.
Nowadays, any decent TV should have at least three HDMI jacks to make sure you can handle the basic equipment, though if you plan on loading up on gizmos you might want to see if there are more.
Speaking of options, 3-D is just about dead in the TV world. Dedicated 3-D channels are getting kicked off cable networks and few 3-D movies are being released for Blu-ray. So it's not worth paying extra for it.
Specs don't matter
Any given TV will have an array of specifications, like refresh rates, contrast ratios and the like. Ignore them. The manufacturers have become famously bad at supplying numbers that accurately reflect what's on the screen, so the only way to judge picture quality is to look at the display model.
Want an app with that?
Smart TVs - TVs that connect to the Internet - are also increasingly common. This opens up a range of possibilities, from streaming Netflix and YouTube videos to, in some cases, downloading apps. Types of smart TVs can range wildly even within a single manufacturer, so it may be worth trying it out on the floor model.
These capabilities typically come at a price. On top of that, it's worth checking the capabilities of what you already have; if your existing Blu-ray player or Xbox 360 can stream Netflix, it may not be worth the cost to have a TV do the same.
Timing is everything
There are loads of sales right now, but don't feel you have to buy if you've already blown your Christmas budget.
Sales often continue through the end of January because manufacturers want to take advantage of people upgrading in time for Super Bowl parties. You might also be able to catch some sales in the summer and early fall as older models are phased out in favor of new ones.