May 20, 2008
The transition to digital television is just ten months away. You probably already know that your old analog television set will still work with a converter box, but if you want to get the most out of the new digital broadcasts, you'll need to get a digital TV. If you've shopped around for a new set, you've no doubt discovered that picking out the right TV isn't as easy as it once was.
The good news is, you no longer have to worry about whether or not the TV you're buying is compatible. All television sets now on sale in the US are required to be compatible with DTV broadcasts. But, these TVs all have different specifications that may be unfamiliar.
The two main types of flat-screen DTVs are LCD and Plasma. From a technical standpoint, plasma screens are superior to LCD. They provide a sharper picture and show fast movement, such as sporting events, much clearer. One of the downsides to plasma is their tendency to "burn in" images which are left on the screen for too long. This problem isn't as bad as it used to be, but it is still an issue. Plasma TVs also tend to cost more money, are heavier and can have issues with glare on the screen in well-lit rooms. LCD TVs are cheaper and provide sharp, bright images and tend to last longer than plasma TVs. LCD televisions do have a slight amount of lag when there is a lot of motion on the screen.
Of course, there are other options including non flat-screen TVs and projectors which all have their strengths and weaknesses.
Without going into too much detail, let's look at resolution. Resolution is broken down by a number followed by either the letter "I" or "P". These letters stand for "Interlaced" and "Progressive". Interlaced means the image is made up of two different images that are brought together by your TV. To see what this means, hold both of your hands out so your palms face your body and spread your fingers. Now, bring your hands together, keeping your hands flat, and interlock your fingers. This is what an "interlaced" TV does. Each of your fingers represents a "line of resolution" and each of your hands represents an image...each of those images is refreshed about 30 times per second back and forth providing a full image. Now, imagine one image making up all of the lines of resolution refreshing about 30 times per second. That is "progressive." The number before the "I" or "P" tells you how many total lines of resolution there are.
Most TVs being sold today are 1080p, 1080i, 720p or SDTV. SDTV stands for Standard Definition Television. They provide a 480i image and often do not come in widescreen models. SDTVs cost much less, but do not display full HDTV resolution. This is the most cost-effective way to get a digital television set.
1080p televisions are the highest resolution available, but there are very few video sources that provide that high of resolution. Over-the-air HDTV is broadcast in 1080i and it is highly unlikely that it will ever increase to 1080p.
In many cases, you'll find 720p televisions provide a beautiful picture and are quite practical. They often cost much less than 1080 models but provide a better picture than SDTV. Of course, the larger the screen, the more likely it is that you will notice the differences in resolution.
The last thing to look for when selecting a screen is the contrast ratio. This is the ratio between the brightest white and the darkest black the screen can display. Simply put, higher contrast ratio will provide a brighter picture. This is especially important if you are putting the TV in a room that has a lot of windows or light. You'll find lower contrast models will be difficult to see in brighter rooms.
Do some research before you purchase a new television set. Search online for different models at different stores. Compare prices and value and look for reviews from other people who already own that TV. Look at the dimensions of the TV and compare that with the area you have in your home. Have a good idea of what you need before you go to the store. If you don't know what you want...you are more likely to buy something you don't need.The bottom line, no matter your choice - you'll see a remarkably better picture than you did with your analog set.
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