TV Guide

LCD TELEVISIONS


Shopping for a brand new LCD TV can be very exciting, especially for those of us that have been waiting for prices to finally start coming down. At the same time, the number of technical features to take into consideration and the incredible number of models on the market can be a little overwhelming. With so many options and models to choose from, it can be a little tough to figure out the best LCD TV for you. Thankfully, you can narrow your options down to just a few top choices by taking four simple features into consideration: size, resolution, refresh rate and cost.

SIZE

Before even bothering with the technical details, the best place to start searching for LCD TVs is to decide the ideal size of screen that you need. Unlike CRT televisions, an LCD screen needs to be situated in such a way that everyone has a fairly direct view of the screen. As a result, it is important that the LCD TV is in proper proportion to the room where it will be displayed. For instance, a smaller room such as a bedroom or an office might require a 26" LCD TV, while a larger living area could incorporate a 32" LCD TV. The larger models such as a 42"LCD TV will only be comfortable to watch if the room is large enough for everyone to sit back at a comfortable distance and enjoy a direct view of the television.

RESOLUTION

When many shoppers start looking into purchasing an LCD television, they often assume that the resolution of the television of the screen is the most important factor. While high end LCD TVs do offer outstanding resolution, it is important to remember that the quality of the resolution is only as valuable as your personal ability to appreciate it. Just like some audiophiles can only really enjoy their music on high end stereo systems and others are fine with a kitchen radio, many people don't get as much extra enjoyment out of high resolution as they had hoped.

Serious resolution lovers are often amazed at how much better their favourite movies appear on a high end LCD TV and claim that they are able to really see the director's vision for a film for the very first time. Other consumers really just want a decent TV to enjoy regular television shows on after a hard day's work. To find out where you stand on this feature, visit a show room of LCD TV's and spend some time seeing how important this is to you.

REFRESH RATE

On the other hand, one feature that is important to just about everybody is the refresh rate. If you are looking for an affordable LCD TV, be careful about making concessions on this feature. As the name suggests, the refresh rate is a measure of a number of times that the screen's image is refreshed per second. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother the video will appear. A low refresh rate can be extremely distracting to watch as nearly everything will appear very clunky and awkward. A high refresh rate is particularly important if you plan on watching a great deal of sports or action films on your LCD TV.

COST OF LCD TVs

Lastly, of course, there is the bottom line. While no one wants to pay too much on an LCD television, consumer technology is one of those areas where you get what you pay for, and it may be a mistake to rush out and purchase a cheap television based on price alone.

Instead, take into consideration what you are really looking for in terms of size, resolution and refresh rate, and make a short list of the best models that meet your needs. Next, take a look at the cost of each television and decide which models seem to offer the best value.


LED TELEVISIONS


LED TVs are the next generation of televisions. Instead of using ordinary fluorescent backlighting, LED Televisions use multiple light-emitting diodes which will brighten, dim (or turn off altogether) depending on the need of the image onscreen. This new technology results in a thinner panel, less power consumption therefore better energy efficiency (and less heat generated compared to regular LCDs), brighter displays and better contrast levels. LED TVs are also more environmentally friendly, offering fewer pollutants upon disposal.

SIZE

Before thinking about the technical details, you need to know the size of the LED TV that will best suit your needs. Unlike the old CRT televisions, an LED screen needs to be situated in such a way that everyone has a fairly direct view of the screen. Therefore it is important that the LED TV is in proper proportion to the room where it will be displayed. For instance, smaller rooms such as bedrooms or offices may require a 26" LED TV, while larger living areas could incorporate a 32" LED TV. The larger models such as a 42"LED TV and above will only be comfortable to watch if the room is large enough for everyone to sit back at a comfortable distance and enjoy a direct view of the television. LED Televisions do benefit from being ‘thinner’ than other flat screen models (up to a third the thickness of LCD TVs) and therefore are perfect for wall mounting.

RESOLUTION & REFRESH RATE

When many shoppers start looking into purchasing an LED television, they often assume that the resolution of the television of the screen is the most important factor; however it is important to remember that the quality of the resolution is only as valuable as your personal ability to appreciate it. Just like some audiophiles can only really enjoy their music on high end stereo systems and others are fine with a kitchen radio, many people don't get as much extra enjoyment out of high resolution as they had hoped.

However, the refresh rate is something to bear in mind. The refresh rate is a measure of a number of times that the screen's image is refreshed per second. The higher the refresh rate, the smoother the video will appear. A low refresh rate can be extremely distracting to watch as nearly everything will appear very clunky and awkward. A high refresh rate is particularly important if you plan on watching a great deal of sports or action films on your LED TV.

LED TVs are produced in two ways:

Dynamic RGB LED’s:

- Positioned behind the main panel
- Allows dimming to occur in specific local areas of the screen therefore creating ‘Truer Blacks’
- Technology allows darker blacks and brighter whites at a higher level of contrast ratio

White Edge-LEDs:

- Positioned around the outer rim
- Light is diffused across the screen by a panel that creates uniform colour range across the screen
- Allows the unit to be manufactured to be very thin – less room used, better aesthetics when wall mounted

COST OF LED TVS

LED TVs are a new technology so they are currently the more expensive option. While of course no one wants to pay too much on an LED TV, consumer technology is one of those areas where you get what you pay for, and it may be a mistake to rush out and purchase a cheap LED TV based on price alone. Take into consideration what you are really looking for in terms of size, resolution and refresh rate, and make a short list of the best models that meet your needs. Next, take a look at the cost of each television and decide which models seem to offer the best value. Check out our LED TV Section to see the televisions available to you.


PLASMA TELEVISIONS


Unlike LCD and LED televisions, Plasma TVs produce their picture through thousands of gas cells that emit ultraviolet light which in-turn strike red, green and blue on the screen to build the picture. Plasma TVs have, for some time, been the choice for those wanting great contrast, a wide viewing angle and the possibility of owning a really large television. Although other technologies (such as LED TVs) have started to catch up on size, Plasma TVs are still a very popular choice with consumers.

The choice in the television market is now bigger than ever and can be a little overwhelming, but with a little comparison, you can find a top model Plasma TV that is perfect for you.

SIZE

Plasma televisions have a reputation for being the solution for large home cinema needs. In fact they have been known to go up to 103”, although that may be too large for most people’s requirements (and rooms!). While plasmas have wider viewing angles than their LCD counterparts, you still need to consider carefully the size of television for your room. For instance, a smaller room such as a bedroom or an office might require a 26" Plasma TV, while a larger living area could incorporate a 32" Plasma TV. For a 42” screen this will only be comfortable to watch if the room is large enough for everyone to sit back at a comfortable distance and enjoy a direct view of the television. For larger plasma models: A 50" Plasma TV will look best from 12-16 feet, whereas a 60” screen will demand at least 15 feet of viewing distance to for optimum results.

RESOLUTION & REFRESH RATE

When many shoppers start looking into purchasing a Plasma TV, they often assume that the resolution of the television of the screen is the most relevant factor. It is important to remember that the quality of the resolution is only as valuable as your personal ability to appreciate it. Just like some audiophiles can only really enjoy their music on high end stereo systems and others are fine with a kitchen radio, many people don't get as much extra enjoyment out of high resolution as they had hoped. To find out where you stand on this feature, you could visit a show room of Plasma TVs and spend some time seeing how important this is to you. Plasma screen refresh rates have also improved over recent years and generally are between 60Hz and 100Hz however these rates are incomparable against LCD TVs due to the different technology used in producing the picture.

COST OF PLASMA TVs

Plasma TVs used to be known as the more expensive television; however they are now sitting more in-line with LCD televisions for cost, giving you even more great choice. While you don’t want to pay over the odds on a television, consumer technology is one of those areas where you get what you pay for, and it may be a mistake to rush out and purchase a cheap television based on price alone. Instead, take into consideration what you are really looking for in terms of size, resolution and refresh rate, and make a short list of the best models that meet your needs. Next, take a look at the cost of each television and decide which models seem to offer the best value. Check out our Plasma Television Section to see the televisions available to you.


3D TV


The release of 3D smash hits like Avatar has led many television manufacturers to begin producing 3D-ready television sets in order to enable them to watch movies in 3D at home. While the use of 3D technology in broadcast television is still in the planning stages, it is hoped that by 2015, 3D television technology will be widespread enough that most people will watch movies in 3D, especially blockbusters and documentaries where 3D technology is at its finest.

3D READY TVs

The first and most important thing to understand about a 3D ready TV is that it operates on the same mechanical principles as a standard flat-screen TV, only that it has the necessary processing power and upgrades for showing effectively two images at once, since this is how the 3D effect is created. Most people are familiar with traditional 3D setups as they experienced in the movies, which used coloured or polarized glasses to allow each eye to see a different image, resulting in a 3D effect. However, the effect is limited because the glasses interfere either with the colour or the position of the screen, meaning that the screen must be very large and very bright in order for the effect to work properly. This was not considered a problem in theatres, especially since it permitted the use of 3D glasses so cheap as to be disposable should theater patrons break them or take them home.

3D Ready TVs get around this problem by using very advanced and expensive glasses that use what is known as an "LCD shutter". This method basically allows the separate halves of the glasses to become completely opaque and completely transparent at an incredible rate, much higher than the human eye can detect. By syncing the glasses with the film, the 3D TV is then able to show the left eye an image, then the right one, and then the left again, so that the 3D effect can be generated. This means that the glasses are expensive, usually about seventy-five pounds or more each. Luckily, most 3D TVs come packaged with two or more glasses. Additional glasses may be purchased, and it is hoped that their price will decrease as more methods are found to reduce the cost. This means that the television needs to be able to display images twice as fast as normal however, so it must be capable of rendering images at 120 frames per second as opposed to the 60 frames per second present in most TVs. This need to be extremely fast accounts for most of the increased cost of 3D TVs, of which even the cheapest costs two thousand pounds or more. It is hoped that these costs will go down as efficiencies of scale and improved technologies are developed.

HIGH DEFINITION 3D TVs

The high speeds and qualities demanded by 3D TVs also mean that they require very high resolutions. All 3D TVs are inherently high definition, but the demands of 3D mean that they must be able to receive and display massive quantities of information through high-end cables such as HDMI or composite cables. Luckily, cables are one of the least expensive parts of any 3D setup, as almost all cables are of equal quality. The electrons that travel down a cable go at the same speed no matter what, so purchasing thicker or gold-coated cables has a minimal increase in quality.

It is also important to note that the immense amount of data in a 3D movie, since it has twice as many frames as a regular movie, means that 3D technology will be limited to high-density discs such as 3D Blu-Ray for the time being. It is hoped that advancements in science will allow for additional disc formats to be used, and many companies hope to one day be able to stream 3D movies directly to televisions using advanced transmission technologies. Anticipating this, almost all 3D televisions have some basic ways of connecting to the Internet, although currently this usually involves the use of peripherals.

Although 3D TV technology is currently in its infancy, Samsung, Panasonic, Phillips and LG have all begun the production of 3D TVs and their models are already widely available for purchase in high-end electronics shops. While these initial models will no doubt look primitive in a decade or so, they currently represent the finest that modern television technology has to offer. Most electronics companies have declared that 50% of their production and sales will be nothing but 3D TVs as soon as 2012, and the fact that 3D TVs are backwards compatible makes them highly desirable. Many movie studios are anticipating this demand by shooting their latest blockbuster releases with 3D cameras, ensuring that even early adopters will have lots of films to watch. With the entire summer of 2010 slated to come out in 3D, and Avatar already available in the format, even those who buy a 3D TV today will have plenty to watch.


GLOSSARY

HDTV stands for High Definition Television, but what is HDTV?

High Definition Televisions are the inevitable upgrade from today’s analogue system. HDTV uses digital technology to transmit an enormous amount of information in the same amount of space as used for standard ‘analogue’ TV, thus setting new standards in your viewing experience by offering exceptional picture quality. A traditional television set uses 576 vertical lines to produce images on screen. Compare this to a High Definition Television set’s 1080 and you can begin to see just how much better HDTV actually is.

720p and 1080p - What is the difference?

720p stands for resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels and the "p" means that the picture is in a progressive scan format. The other HDTV resolution1080p means 1920 x 1080 pixels. Progressive scan is based on all the horizontal lines being shown on the screen at one time giving a smoother image. It is generally believed that a progressively scanned picture is more suited to fast moving images such as sports, whilst an interlaced format is more suitable for slower images like films and documentaries. The term "high-definition" can refer to the resolution specifications themselves, or more loosely to media capable of similar sharpness, such as photographic film.

High Definition Receivers

Sky Television launched HD transmissions early in 2006. To receive HDTV now you will need to purchase a High Definition Receiver and, if not already installed, a satellite receiver dish. Freeview High Definition or Freeview HD is a television service that a selection of HD channels via your existing TV aerial and is due to launch in late spring 2010.

Are all digital TVs High Definition?

No. Digital TVs, commonly referred to as IDTV, are capable of receiving ‘standard’ digital signals and, while noticeably different to an analogue signal, it is not High Definition. Some HD-ready sets are, however, IDTV and capable of picking up the digital signal currently broadcast on ‘Freeview’. HD-ready televisions can also receive Freeview or Sky digital by the using a set-top box.

What are HDMI, DVI and HDCP?

Both High Definition Media Interface (HDMI) and Digital Video Interface (DVi) are connection types used to connect your source - whether it’s a set-top box, Blu-Ray DVD, HD DVD etc. - to your HDTV. Both HDMI and DVi offer high-bandwidth connectivity capable of carrying the HD signal to the TV.
Already widely used, HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protocol) is the copyright protection that helps to protect against unauthorised recording of HD content. Both HDMI and DVi support HDCP.

What is DLP?

Digital Light Processor (DLP) creates a very high quality projected image by the use of millions of little mirrors, one for each pixel. DLP is widely used in rear projection or front projection units and can be HD-ready.

Freeview HD

Despite the fact that millions of homes have televisions which are HD ready, they continue to watch programmes in standard definition. However, this has changed since Freeview HD has arrived. This is a service that aims not only to provide the usual SD channels as Freeview has always hosted, but it will allow people to watch programmes from Channel 4, ITV, BBC and, eventually, Five, in HD. This upgrade in definition will be entirely free of charge with no additional subscription necessary, though anyone who wishes to be able to see the new HD channels will require purchasing HD set top boxes. Alternatively, a television with a new HD receivers can be purchased instead, when it becomes available. Old tuners cannot decode the HD signals and, therefore, will only be able to receive the previous SD channels.

High Defintion Freeview

December 2009 saw the Granada TV region adapt to the Freeview HD service and it initially saw only two new channels - ITV1 HD and BBC HD. The latter channel already shows a number of its popular programmes in HD as per Freesat, such as Being Human, Hustle, Mad Men and Survivors. ITV1 HD will take on the form of a sort of upscale simulcast of the SD channel that previously existed. Channel 4 HD, on the other hand, is to join the service towards the end of 2010, with Five joining the service sometime in 2012.

HD Freeview Box

Humax Freeview HD is the first compatible box that has been shown on the market. Humax currently is known for manufacturing a Freesat STB and has most recently finalised the HD-FOX T2 box, featuring HDMI output, and Ethernet jack, an MPEG-4 decoder, as well as a USB port. Other such hardware is available, such as Panasonic Freeview HD and other set top boxes from , LG and Grundig. It is vital to obtain new bits of hardware when making the move to Freeview HD, considering it is based on the newest European DVB-T2 standard of transmission. This uses MPEG-4 compression, as opposed to the old format used by DVB-T, the MPEG-2 compression that hogged plenty of bandwidth. Unfortunately, Freeview HD does not show its programmes in the complete 1080p resolution, though, because the BBC HD and C4 HD channels do transmit its programmes as such, it will come in a 1080i resolution instead.

HD services

Before the arrival of Freeview HD, only a small handful of other options existed for those who wished to obtain HD channels. However, two of the three different options required a new subscription, the third option being Freesat.

Freesat Receivers

Freesat users needed only pay for a box and for installation, though HD services were limited overall, only showing BBC HD, as well as a red button service calling for certain programmes at certain times to be viewed in HD on ITV. Virgin Media has expanded on its HD offerings quite significantly, offering BBC HD, FX HD, MTV HD, Living HD, Channel 4 HD, ESPN HD and National Geographic HD, not to mention a rather extensive library of HD programmes. This does, however, all cost extra.
Likewise, Sky offers around 34 channels of HD programming, including movie channels and premium sports, though this too requires extra payment and is subscription based. One other option include utilizing services on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, both of which offer a library of HD content, which is far extensive and offers numerous popular shows, though they can only typically be rented for a fee.

As it can be seen, the best option to work with is Freeview HD. In time, it will likely grow to be as extensive in its choice of programmes and will retain its specially low cost of free. All it takes to obtain the convenient services that Freeview HD has to offer is as simple as getting one of the newly developed HD set top boxes, either by Panasonic, Humax, Grundig, LG or Pace.