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Televisions

Buying a television is no easy task. As you've probably realised, this buying guide is quite long -- there is a lot to know! With the new flat panel TVs and HDTV on the market, buying a set is more complicated than it was just a few years ago.

Before you begin ogling that lovely 60" plasma at the nearest electronics store, take a few measurements. What size screen will fit in your TV area? How deep can you make the TV? How close do you plan to sit? Finally, how much do you have in the bank to pay for your new tube?

Types of Televisions

There are many types of televisions on the market today. The oldest type is the CRT, the bulky but tried-and-true type that's been around for years. New flat-panels and projection TVs have sharp images and bright colors, but each types has its drawbacks as well. Keep reading for a comparison of the major kinds of televisions or scroll further for information about what you can buy with the amount you've budgeted for a new telly.


CRT Televisions

  • Standard CRT 
    • Classic, deep depth televisions use cathode-ray tube technology.
    • The least expensive models range from £75-£400 and vary in size from 8 to 36 inches.
    • The flat screen  variety offers higher quality viewing, but costs more than the standard.
    • Long product life cycle and decent picture quality, but are no match for big screens and are heavy and bulky.
    • Daytime viewing is slightly problematic beacuse the glare produced from sunlight.

Flat Panel Televisions

  • Flat Panel 
    • They come in LCD and plasma styles, which are typically very thin and can be wall mounted.
    • Both are high definition screens, which produce high-quality images.
    • Sizes range from 15" to more than 60". Prices start around £250 and get as high as £25,000.
    • Some come with built-in HD tuners or speakers, which increases the cost.

Rear Projection Televisions

  • Rear Projection TVs
    • The ideal solution for budget minded consumers looking for a big screen from 40-60".
    • They come in CRT or flat panel -- either LCD, DLP, or LCoS -- which significantly reduces their enclosure depth.
    • Most come in widescreen and ready for HDTV.

DVD/VCR Combination Televisions

  • DVD/VCR Combos come as TV/DVD ,TV/VCR , or TV DVD/VCR  models.
    • The best of both worlds. The only problem is that if one breaks, you have to send the whole unit for repair.
    • Generally repair is more expensive as the entire unit has to be taken apart to fix the problem.

Front Projector Televisions

  • Front projectors  are perfect for a home theatre experience on a big screen.
    • Prices are moderate to start, but since this is a multi-component system you will need to buy the projector, plus a screen, a tuner, and speakers.
    • Set-up is slightly complicated. Professional installation will up the cost of the system if you can't do it yourself.
    • Doesn't work well during the day because they need a pitch black room to create a decent display.
    • The latest DLP models produce bright crisp high quality images and cost more. Well worth the investment though.

Also check out portable TVs , which as the name implies, are hand-held, 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 theatre 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.

How much TV can you get for the money?

Price

CRT/Flat CRT

LCD Flat-Panel

Rear-Projection

Plasma Flat-Panel

Up to £250

  • Up to 26" regular CRT.
  • Up to 24" flat CRT.
  • Up to 15".
  • N/A
  • N/A

£250-400

  • Curved CRT up to 30".
  • Flat CRT up to 27".
  • Up to 17".
  • N/A
  • N/A

£400-600

  • Curved CRT up to 32".
  • Flat CRT up to 30".
  • Up to 26".
  • N/A
  • N/A

£600-800

  • Curved CRT up to 36".
  • Flat up to 32".
  • Up to 30" in HD.
  • Up to 28".
  • 44" CRT
  • N/A

£800-1000

  • Flat CRT up to 36".
  • Up to 30".
  • 61" CRT
  • 56" DLP
  • 61" LCD
  • N/A

£1000-2000

  • HDTV up to 37"
  • Up to 40".
  • CRT up to 50".
  • DLP, LCD, LCoS up to 55".
  • Up to 42".

£2000+

  • N/A
  • Above 40".
  • DLP, LCD, LCoS larger than 55".
  • 50" or larger.

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 CNET and find out if a particular model of TV is worth the money.

Plasma and LCD Displays

  • Plasmas are best for big screen viewing. They are large, slim, very expensive displays with great picture quality. Sometimes there is a glare 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, or 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 drawback 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.

HDTV and EDTV

HDTV (High Definition TV) is the new television format which offers potentially stunning picture quality via digital imaging instead of analogue 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. 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.

Screen Shape and Viewing Distance

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 .

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: one to two metres 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 two to three metres 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: Three metres is the minimum distance for optimum viewing.

  • Wide-screen plasmas, LCDs, and rear-projection TVs are perfect. Three to four metres is enough distance for screens up to 60", but up to five metres is a good bet for TVs up to 70".

Special Features

There are several features which are becoming more widely available. You might not find them on smaller TVs, but most large TVs have them now.

  • Picture in Picture (PiP)
    • Lets you watch a second programme in a small window.
    • Requires having two tuners.
  • Remote Control
    • Some TVs come with a basic remote that will only work with the TV.
    • More expensive models come with a universal remote that can adjust your other devices as well.
    • If you get a universal remote, make sure it will be compatible with your other equipment. If it is, it will greatly simplify your life.
  • Sound System
    • Most TVs are sold with stereo speakers.
    • Look for 5 watts or higher for decent sound.
    • If you want truly amazing sound, however, get a separate home theatre sound system.
  • TV Stand
    • Some large TVs come with a stand; if you like the way it looks, it will probably make setting up your television easier.
    • If you decide to buy a stand separately, make sure to measure carefully. Don't forget the weight of the television; large CRT and rear-projection TVs are very heavy!
  • Inputs and Outputs
    • Different kinds of cables have different uses and different image qualities.
    • For a good rundown on the many kinds of cables, check out this page from CNET.

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Related Products

DVD Recorders 

VCRs 

TV Stand 

Home Theatre Systems 

International Resources

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