Following a call to my Radio show last week from Patty, I undertook to re-educate myself on the TV Market as it stands today.
Not so long ago the options were down to Plasma vs LCD.
Today, and over the coming months, the TV buying experience is going to get much more confusing for the average buyer.
I don’t pretend to have all the knowledge, but I certainly hope this helps you understand some key points when buying your next TV.
Firstly, the easy one – Is it HD?
Thankfully the retailers and manufacturers have got their act together on this one so it is hard to get sold a dud when it comes to HD. Here’s what to look for.
There are TWO types of HD. Anything advertised as HD will most likely be 720p. This, by the book, is High Definition. The problem is, it’s not FULL High Definition. FULL HD is 1080i/p
If you are looking to get a new TV, and want a ‘flatscreen’ but simply don’t have the big bucks to spend, and don’t have any interest in the simply amazing quality of Blu-Ray movies or HD Gaming, you will be quite satisfied with a HD TV. Moving from an old CRT TV (the big bulky TV’s we’re all used to having), and perhaps an analogue reception (ghosting pictures, snowy screen) you will be blown away by the quality.
However, if you want a TV that is going to offer the best in quality, and really last you through lots of new technologies over the coming years, you should ensure you get a FULL HD set.
Essentially, HD has just 720 lines of pixels making up the picture. While FULL HD has 1080, so the FULL HD TV has the ability to show more detail in your picture!
Make sure you ask “is it HD or FULL HD?”
Built In Digital Tuner?
Another area where loads of retailers have done the right thing has been with regards to the ‘built in tuner. A TV that does NOT have a built-in Digital TV Tuner will most likely only be able pickup the Analogue TV stations, which, in 2013 will be switched OFF. So you’ll need to buy a separate Digital TV Set Top Box, which will set you back anywhere from $50 to $150!
Make sure you ask “does it have a Built-In Digital Tuner?”
Does Size matter?
Well, the eternal question! The answer is YES!
A TV is no good if it’s too small to see.
The industry recommendation is that you need to look at the distance between your couch (or the spot you watch from) and the TV itself. Divide that by 2.5.
So, if you are 2.5 meters from the TV, you need a 100cm TV.
Now personally, I think there is a bit of industry salesmanship in that. My TV is around 3.5m from my Couch. And it’s an 83cm TV. It’s fineJ But I can see how if I had a much larger TV the experience would certainly be better. However I have to take into account my toddler who likes to sit a bit closer – not really the healthiest thing with an even bigger TV!
Sport is King!
This one’s a more difficult one to shop to. What you hope to avoid is motion blur. That is, when a racing car screams across the screen, you want your TV to limit the amount of blur around the area. Same applies to a fast paced rugby league game or anything like that – where the camera moves around a lot, the blur can be quite obvious.
For this, you need to look at the Refresh rate of the TV – something “hz” – The higher the better. Essentially LCD TV’s are 50 or 60hz. Plasma’s are 100hz.
Make sure you ask “what is the refresh rate?”
Which is Which?
This is where I think consumers are in for some real trouble over the coming months and years.
All of the above has applied to Flat Panel TV buying for some time.
However, there is a LOT of buzz about LED lately.
So lets take a look at it.
LED is a new addition to an existing panel. There is actually no LED TV – apart from the mega-screens you see in Tokyo and New York’s Times Square (and there is the OLED range SONY have which is a super thin but small screen technology that might make this an even more difficult article in 2-3 years). The LED Tv’s being referred to today are actually LCD/LED’s. That is, they are LCD TV’s with an LED Backlight.
So they produce a brighter picture which is most certainly an advantage. You’ll get a better contrast in the colours from an LCD/LED TV to a standard LCD. However it does come at a price.
To make matters worse, and really much worse, there are TWO types of LED Backlighting in LCD TV’s. Direct LED and Edge LED.
Direct LED Backlighting has hundreds of LED ‘lights’ behind the entire LCD panel, providing a consistently bright picture.
Edge LED has one third the number of LED ‘lights’ built into it, and they are located around the edge of the screen, behind the LCD panel, and provide a large amount of backlight to the panel . To the naked eye – perhaps no difference, but to the discerning eye, and when sat side by side with a Direct LED – a visible difference.
So as I see it, there is likely to be FOUR Types of TV panels available, and therefore FOUR choices, and FOUR price levels. Even more when you consider the HD vs FULL HD option.
Looking at each of the types of panels, Plasma will provide you with better blacks and darker areas as well as the higher (Faster) refresh rates and also provide you with a much wider viewing angle. However because of their glass front, they suffer in areas of light where there can be a glare, and are also the worst when it comes to energy efficiency.
LCD panels will provide you with a better bright colour picture, don’t have problem with Glare so can be better in rooms with more windows etc, and they use less electricity. However they don’t have the detail of a plasma in dark images, and can blur when watching faster moving shows.
LED/LCD TV’s are by far the most energy efficient, so with the new star rating system coming in you’ll really notice this in 2010. They have the best contrast ratio which means the best blacks and colours. However they are quite expensive.
Make sure you ask “what sort of panel is it?”
Also for anything ‘LED’ make sure you ask “is it EDGE LED or DIRECT LED?”
Here’s where it gets interesting, and frankly, this is what makes most people’s minds up.
Once you’ve decided what SIZE Screen you what (because don’t kid yourself, that’s what you really want – something a certain size – you’ll end up with a few options which might seem to be quite a price range despite the comparable size, but the devil or surprise is in the detail.
The price range will be something like this (for like sized units):
Cheapest first down to Most Expensive
LCD (FULL HD)
LED/LCD Edge LED
LED/LCD Direct LED
- What Size might suit the area?
- What is the Lighting Condition in the area?
- Do I want FULL HD or just HD?
- Does it have a built-in Digital Tuner?
- Do I watch a lot of fast paced sport?
- Is an LED/LCD at the Size you want within your price range?
For what it’s worth – Personally, I think a FULL HD LCD or PLASMA is a fantastic investment, and it will be a very small portion of the consumer market who go for the LED Variety.
A big thanks to Bill Crichton from SANYO for taking a lot his time to talk me through all these amazing things!
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.