Also check out portable TVs, which as the name implies, are handheld, lightweight, portable devices for watching TV on the go.

Budget vs. Quality

Most people have a limited range for what they are willing or able to spend on a new television. This section will give you an idea of what you can get within your budget range. The rule of thumb is that the more you can spend, the bigger the set you can get. Bigger is not always better -- if you have a set amount of money you want to spend, you will be better off with a medium-sized TV with excellent quality. A giant TV with poor quality will not enhance your home theater experience.

Keep in mind what is more important to you: '''size or screen quality'''. Proper viewing requires a certain amount of space anyway, so don't buy a 42" TV for your kitchen. By sitting too close to a large TV, you will see pixels instead of a beautiful image. Screens up to 36" require at least 5 feet between you and the television; larger screens require even more space, although LCD and plasma screens need proportionally less space than a CRT TV.

Also consider the depth of the TV. A standard picture-tube television (CRT) will be at least two or three feet deep and needs to be housed in some sort of cabinet. LCD and plasma TVs, on the other hand, are only a few inches deep and can be mounted on the wall. Keep in mind that there is a significant price gap between the two TV types.

These numbers represent the upper limit in size for a given price range. Remember that size is not the same as quality. There is a wide range of quality in televisions today, especially in LCD and plasma flat-panel sets. Before you buy, read the reviews at sources like ConsumerSearch and CNet and find out if a particular model of TV is worth the money.

Plasma and LCD Displays: The Basics

Plasmas are best for big screen viewing. They are large, slim, ''very'' expensive displays with great picture quality. Sometimes there is a glare produced off the screen in brightly lit rooms. Plasmas also use a lot of electricity and produce a lot of heat. All phosphor based display systems (CRT direct and rear view and plasma) are susceptible to image retention also known as "ghosting, image shadowing, image burn in." 

LCDs are typically more expensive than plasmas. They are newer to the market, but are great for small, high quality screens that can handle contrast well even in brightly lit rooms. Like plasmas they offer thin, flat displays. The only draw back in terms of image quality is that they aren't great at rendering blacks and grays and sometimes blur on fast movement.

Note that many of the higher end displays (mostly the plasma and LCDs) do not always include a tuner, they are simply displays. If you have a source for the display, such as a cable box, satellite receiver, or DVD player, you are ok. Also, check if the display has built-in speakers. Check out the Home Audio Directory for all your home audio entertainment needs, including receivers, speakers, and home theaters in a box.

If you're looking for a quick side-by-side comparison of LCD televisions and Plasma televisions, check out the Plasma vs LCD article.

About HDTV and Enhanced Definition Television

HDTV (High Definition TV) is the new television format which offers potentially stunning picture quality via digital imaging instead of analog as on standard TVs. They offer better clarity and resolution. However, most major TV networks don't create content in HD format. The newest video game consoles are already upgrading to HD format and many cable TV stations are planning to switch over completely within a couple of years. You need an HDTV-ready TV/display for HDTV, and also a tuner if not built into the display. High definition comes on almost all types of TVs whether they are CRTs or flat screens.
* HDTV tuner
* Learn more about HDTV at Wikipedia

Enhanced Definition TV (EDTV) uses digital technology but does not have the same resolution as HDTV. EDTV is broadcast at 480p (progressive scan), about the same as a DVD. HDTV is broadcast in 720p or 1080i (interlaced). Because EDTVs don't offer as high quality an image they cost less than HDTV. For a full explanation of the difference between interlaced and progressive, see this guide to buying HDTVs.

Screen Shape

When shopping for a new TV you will see that there are two main choices for screen shape: the traditional square shape or wide screen format. Traditional 4:3 screens (the square ones) are less expensive, and most TV stations are formatted with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Wide screens are shaped more like a movie screen and use a 16:9 aspect ratio. Many movies come in this format. If you are a movie buff, then a wide screen may suit you better. Search for wide screen televisions.

Screen Size vs. Space

Make sure to choose a TV that will fit in the space where you watch TV alot. There must be a certain distance between the viewers and the screen in order to get the best picture quality. If you choose something too big, the result will be a "screen-door" effect, or in other words, a very grainy picture. Here is how to choose.

'''Small space''': about 5 feet of distance between the TV and the viewer.
* For optimizing the small space, try a TV/VCR or TV/DVD combination. To skip the built-in devices aim for a CRT TV 20" or less, or between 15" and 21" for an LCD.

'''Long and narrow space''': Anywhere from 7' to 11' should be between the viewer and the TV.
* Large screen TVs (plasma, LCD, or rear-projection) are best from 32" to 44" or more depending on the length of the room.

'''Large space''': 11' is the minimum distance for optimum viewing.
* Wide-screen plasmas, LCDs, and rear-projection TVs are perfect. 11-13' is adequate for screens up to 60", but give an extra foot for TVs up to 70".

Sample Searches

International Resources

For this resource in your home country, please see:
! NL: Televisies Shopgids