Looking for info on HDTVs.

I apologize that my blog posting has been lighter than usual lately. It’s not so much that I’ve been overly busy as much as it’s the simple fact that I’ve not found much that inspires me to write about it. So I’ve been putting up entries like this one where I pick your guy’s brains for stuff I want to learn about.

In this case it’s HDTV sets. There’s no big rush on this, but I want to know where you guys go to learn more about HDTV and what are the suggested specs one should look for when shopping for one. Anne, Courtney and I will be moving out of the in-laws place and back into an apartment sometime around the end of June or start of July after Courtney graduates from high school and one of the things we’ll eventually need is a new TV set seeing as our old one died just before we moved in here. Back then I asked for some advice as well, but it’s been two years since then and a lot has changed.

My questions run along the lines of should we go LCD or Plasma? Is there really a huge difference between 720P and 1080P that I should spend the extra bucks to get the latter? That kind of stuff. It’ll probably be some time before we get around to buying a TV, which means we’ll have to make do with the old 15 inch Sony TV/Monitor I got way back in 1988 with my Amiga 2000 as a TV set for awhile, but I figure now is the time to start educating myself so I’ll have a clue of what to shop for when the holiday sales season rolls around. If you’ve got some favorite websites with HDTV info then be sure to include links to them in your comments.

33 thoughts on “Looking for info on HDTVs.

  1. Considering the fact that both SEB and his daughter have very nice, new(er) flat pannel LCD monitors; I suspect when we move that we might be watching televion via computer, lol.  Which I have “heard” is a growing trend, especially with the teenage/early 20s crowd.

  2. Having recently purchased an HDTV I would say this all depends on a few things.

    First, the location of the television dictates how large you go… I think the rule is you take the measurement of the TV (in inches) and multiply it by 2. This is how far you will need to be, at a minimum, to see a rather lovely picture. Any closer and you’ll get a really awful effect. To test this, go to any megamart and stand very close to one and stand away a fair distance…

    Also, if you’re going under the 37”-40” inch mark, stick with 720p. I read in a few of the electronics websites that it’s difficult to differentiate between 1080p and 720p on a screen that size.

    Lastly, since all networks only broadcast in 720p (or 1080i) at the moment (with no forseeable change in the future), you really do not “need” 1080p unless you get yourself a pricey blue ray player or similar entertainment system capable at outputting at 1080p.

    As far as LCD over plasma? I recall reading an article somewhere where they say plasma television purchases are on the decline over their LCD counterparts.

    Of course you should do as much research as you can, but all I can really recommend is to research a good 3-4 models, and go to the store to visually check them out.

    For me, it was between a 37” Vizio and a 37” Samsung… It wasn’t until I went to the local Costco and saw the televisions that my choice was as clear as day. Hope this helps somewhat… 😀

  3. hi Les,
    As you have a PS3, you have a nice 1080p unit, that I imagine will dominate your tv viewing. I was informed back when I was shopping for my unit that you can suffer burn in with plasma, so if you game a lot LCD is the way to go. Unfortunately at the time I bought my flat screen I got a 1080i, not knowing any better. The difference between i and p is very noticeable, and from visiting friends with 1080p screens, the upgrade from 720p or 1080i is really worth it.

    Go for the 1080p and enjoy your blueray movies at the best resolution, and your games too.

  4. I would say go with 1080p because if you (like me) plan on not having to buy another TV for a long time it would be better to go 1080p.

    I’m still holding off for 1080p prices to drop further, but you don’t have that option it sounds like.

  5. I’m looking into this next year (gonna use my education and tuition amounts on my tax refund rather than pay it against my debt)

    I’d go with 1080p. The difference is noticeable.

    That’s not to say that you should care, though. If you’re a few metres away from the screen, it won’t matter that much because it’ll be hard to notice the difference in detail, especially with live-action film. Gaming, 1080p will be noticeable, but not so much that you have to lose yourself over it. If you’re used to playing games at 1280×1024 or less, scale:

    – increase in resolution
    – increase in distance from the screen
    – increase in size of the screen

    if the TV is twice the diagonal size (ignoring the aspect ration switch) and you’re sitting twice as far away from it, it won’t matter, really.

    I prefer to look for color quality, low-latency refresh speed (4ms if I can get away with it), and high dynamic contrast ratios (pref. 2000:1 or better).

    I intend to use mine as a computer monitor, then pull back from the screen so my focal distance is something much healthier than the 2 or so feet I am from the monitor at present.

  6. Definitely go with LCD. They are much more efficient, Plasmas generate a huge amount of heat.

  7. When I was shopping for my HDTV, I checked them out in the store to compare pictures.  Since you have the PS3, I’ll also have to go with the 1080p.  LCD, since Fujitsu dropped their plasma line due to cost.

    Doesn’t Consumer Reports sell a copy of its buying guide at bookstores?  Go browse one at B&N;.

    Crutchfield.  Maybe not the cheapest prices, but a damn good place for info on electronics. 
    http://www.crutchfieldadvisor.com/S-UraUSg6h2Vc/learningcenter/home/tv.html

  8. Go with Samsung no matter what, LCD or Plasma. I bought a 1080i Samsung 40in LCD and it is the shit!! My close friend that knows wayyyyyy more than me with HDTVs recommended Samsung. After seeing my TV he bought an Open Box Samsung Plasma from Newegg with free shipping. Was really cheap.

    It will cost you anywhere from $200-500 for the 1080p, so my recommendation is to go into BestBuy, find two TVs, one 1080p and one 1080i. See if you can tell the difference. If not, I doubt you will care about the 1080p and therefore not want to spend the extra money. No matter what an expert says, if you cannot distinguish the difference between quality, what is the point of spending the extra dough?

    I also agree with Dave on looking into the distance you will be from the TV. This makes a HUGE difference and should also make you think about how your living room will be arranged.

  9. Surely the first question is: Are you planning on receiving HD.  The expert on the radio said you will get no benefit if you only receive normal TV.

    Personally I can not see what all the fuss is about- unless it is specially shot promo stuff I have never noticed the difference. Indeed HDs look blurry to me- I wonder if it is because for a long time my eyes were ‘6/5’ – ie ‘better than perfect’, and are only now (as I approach 40) approaching those of you lesse mortals (my next eye test is after my 40th birthday, but the optician said I still might not need glasses).

    Back to HDs- I find the whole effect that of a digital rather than optical zoom.  We get digital TV through the aerialm onto a CRT, and though if you do a rapid compare you can see the difference, the idea of being able to see every blemish hardly enthralls me.

  10. Thanks for the comments so far. We’re going to be in an apartment to start so I imagine the TV won’t be that terribly far from where we’re sitting. I wasn’t planning on getting anything super huge until we manage to someday purchase an actual house. I was hoping for something in the 30 to 40 inch range, but I’m not set in stone on the size. Basically trying to get a good deal without breaking the bank in the process.

    I don’t know if we’ll bother paying extra for HD cable service, but I do have the PS3 and will be watching Blu-ray movies on it so having something of decent quality would be nice.

    I’m also leaning towards Samsung as the flat panel monitor I just got is a Samsung SyncMaster 2053BW which I’ve read is the same as their LCD TVs with the TV bits removed and it’s got a pretty nice display.

  11. I would check out the Consumer Reports website.  Even if you don’t have a subscription, they have a few nice videos discussing the difference between Plasma (brighter colors, deeper blacks, possibility of burn-in) and LCD (lighter, brighter picture) as well as a discussion of 1080p.

    The PS3 also upscales DVDs to take advantage of an HDTV, so even your DVDs will look better.

  12. I agree with Webs that you should compare TVs at Best Buy or Circuit City if you can, but make sure that both TVs are receiving a 1080p signal.  Most channels either broadcast in 1080i (mostly nature shows and dramas) or 720p (sports).  Comparing a 1080p TV vs. a 1080i TV using a 1080i signal won’t show you any difference between the sets.  Also, make sure you see action or sports scenes as well as the beautiful nature vistas on both sets, as a high resolution still shot will look the same on a 1080i and 1080p set, but any motion will look better on the 1080p set since it is not interlaced.

  13. LCD is better for sharp things, like text.

    PLASMA is better for colorful things and black
    it actualy shuts of pixels to make black.

    if you like lots of movies, go plasma.
    if you like news and text and precise things (how is it made, etc) choose LCD.

    good luck.

  14. It seems to me that Samsung is working the decent quality for the lower cost thing.  I’m running a SyncMaster 220WM I got for $200 on the last Black Friday, and I’m pretty happy with it.  Zero dead pixels.  I’m sure it’ll be even better when I get it running off of DVI instead of analog.

  15. 1) Plasma is still bad news and way more expensive than it’s worth. LCD isn’t quite “better” but you will likely be happier with it.

    2) If you’re under the 36” range, don’t bother with 1080p. You won’t notice the difference – even on a PS3 you’ll be just fine with 1080i/720p. That’s because screens less than 36” compress pixels. Right about the 24” range is where 1080i starts to matter.

    3) Make sure the damned thing has an HD tuner built-in. You would be surprised what doesn’t come with one these days. HDTV’s only need to have the capability of displaying HD signals – nothing says they need to have the tuner to carry the label. If the price seems too good to be true, check the specs and make sure.

    4) There are sad-sack HDTV’s out there, and most of them are the inexpensive ones. One notable exception is the Sony BRAVIA – that’s inexpensive because it’s extremely popular. Again, just make sure you get the one with the HD tuner or you’ll be sorry.

    5) Some HDTV’s are very nearly multimedia centers these days. This is not a bad thing, but it’s not cheap. Some are capable of being used as monitors – like the BRAVIA I mentioned. If you like the idea of playing games in near-HD resolution on your computer, you might wet your pants with glee when you see this actually happen.

  16. That’s because screens less than 36” compress pixels. Right about the 24” range is where 1080i starts to matter.

    I’d like to see a reference for that statement. It depends on the technology of the TV. You can find TVs under 36in with high resolution and contrast ratio, and you can find 40in TVs with lower resolution and contrast ratio.

    There are sad-sack HDTV’s out there, and most of them are the inexpensive ones.

    Not always, but I would generally agree with this. Most cheapo Walmart TVs are pieces of junk and so generic many universal remotes cannot control them. But comparable Samsungs are cheaper than the BRAVIAs and still have about twice the contrast ratio.

  17. My extensive research has led me to Panasonic plasma. Better picture quality and no annoying motion blur found in lcd’s..the power consumption argument is overblown as the plasma does not run at peak power, it depends on what it is displaying. Also, LCD’s are more prevalent because they are cheaper to make, no necessary a better technology. You can also get a nice 40 panny plasma for under 1k..

    Now if you are looking for anything less than 40 inches you will have to go LCD..

    A good place for research is the AVS Forums..the HT guys have a semi-informative podcast also that talks about hdtv…

    http://www.avsforum.com/

  18. I’d like to see a reference for that statement. It depends on the technology of the TV. You can find TVs under 36in with high resolution and contrast ratio, and you can find 40in TVs with lower resolution and contrast ratio.

    True, it’s not really about the size of the screen, but about the number of pixels the screen is capable of. There are smaller sets out there capable of 1080p, but most of them you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference in anyway.

    It’s because the 1080 part only refers to the number of scan lines per image, not to a specific image size. The “p” part refers to the fact that the scan lines are sequential and all are drawn in the same pass. (Interlaced resolutions only draw every other scan line and alternate lines between sweeps.)

    Since smaller TV’s tend to have shorter scan times at the expense of higher dot pitch and some pixel distortion, you really won’t be able to tell the difference between a progressive and an interlaced mode because there is less time for the fact that scan lines have been interleaved to register. And you won’t be able to tell much difference between 1080 and 720 scan lines because of the greater dot pitch and pixel distortion. I mean, you probably could, but you won’t get the WOW effect you would with a larger TV.

    So it’s probably not worth the extra expenditure for the extra detail on a smaller TV.

  19. My extensive research has led me to Panasonic plasma. Better picture quality and no annoying motion blur found in lcd’s..the power consumption argument is overblown as the plasma does not run at peak power, it depends on what it is displaying.

    All true – in addition, “black” is much better and contrast is much better. The problem, though, is their longevity is pretty poor, they run much hotter, they aren’t very durable, and LCD screens tend to be brighter – and a good LCD doesn’t have a noticeable motion blur. It’s all about scan refresh time, and the better-quality LCD screens are more than adequate.

    If you get a good quality LCD, a comparable plasma screen will be only marginally better and will cost quite a bit more. After a certain size, a plasma screen will indeed be better for the price, most likely, but by then you’re spending some real money.

    Besides which, I have yet to see a plasma screen that can also be a monitor like an LCD screen can be.

  20. LCD TVs vs. Plasma TVs vs. Projectors
    Most of the stuff matches up with my latest inquiries into the subject to see if the technology has matured/changed. Bottom Line? Plasmas look better and still require a bit more special handling/installation, but they’re nowhere near the technological death traps some of these posts have made them seem. On the other hand, I haven’t seen any top end LCDs that made my head hurt from motion blur or “pick out the dead pixels” recently either.

  21. Plasma TVs are certainly not “technological death traps” and in certain apsects they outperform LCD TVs.  The main negative for Plasma TVs (in my opinion) is the danger of burn in.  This effect is especially worrisome when using the TV to play video games (as I am sure Les will do with his PS3).  In most video games there are portions of the user interface that always remain on the screen at the same spot (health meters, mini-maps, reticles, etc…) which will increase the likelihood of these images being burned into the screen.  The same effect can be seen if a Plasma TV is always tuned to a channel with some constant feature, like a scrolling stock ticker on CNBC. 

    Of course, LCDs can have bad pixels, but this is becoming much more rare as the manufacturing of these devices is constantly improving.  Also, bad pixels tend to show up early in the life of the set, so it may be possible to return a TV that develops (or starts with) any bad pixels. 

    Note: Les, make sure you discuss (or read) the return policy.  Pay specific attention to the policy regarding bad pixels.  Some stores will only return a tv/monitor if there are more than X bad pixels (at least, this was Sam’s Clubs policy a few years ago when I bought by 21” Samsung LCD monitor from them).

  22. I bought my Samsung LCD monitor from Newegg and they had an 8 dead pixel before return policy. Fortunately I’ve not noticed a single dead pixel so far.

  23. Plasmas look better and still require a bit more special handling/installation, but they’re nowhere near the technological death traps some of these posts have made them seem.

    If I have made Plasma screens seem like “technological death traps”, it wasn’t my intention. They’ve come a long way since breathing on them would void your warranty. You can likely get a few years out of the ones around these days, but the point I wanted to make is that an LCD screen is simply easier on the pocketbook all-around, including on maintenance. Plasma screens are really great – better than LCD screens for picture, if not always in features for the price – but an LCD screen is a better buy for people who don’t need/don’t want/can’t afford the “best”.

  24. I bought an acer AL1715 monotior in early 2005 and I lost 2 pixels right away (red in the bottom left, blue in the top right). It’s almost impossible to see them because of the size of the monitor and the colors I typically display.

    However, on a larger system I imagine this could be a nuisance. For sure, check to see if the TV you’re getting will offer returns on burned out pixels.

  25. The worst is when it’s just a couple dead pixels in the middle of the friggin screen!! Nothing will bug the hell out of you more than that. angry

  26. The problem, though, is their longevity is pretty poor,

    Not really an issue anymore.  From what I’ve read, most plasmas are rated for 60,000 hours, and will still have about 80% brightness left after 20,000 hours (which works out to 9 years of TV usage of 6 hours per day).  CRTs generally had half brightness lifespans of 25,000 hours, which plasmas should comfortably exceed.

    Burn in could still be an issue if you’re watching the NFL draft or having marathon gaming sessions, but in the case of gaming, you should probably be taking breaks every few hours anyway.

  27. I bought a Samsug 4071F back in November from Amazon.  Without a doubt, it has the best picture I’ve ever seen.  No dead pixels.

    Full 1080P, 3 HDMI 1.3, 120Hz, VGA input, etc, etc, etc.

    Movies look amazing.
    HD Satellite looks amazing
    360 games look amazing
    Regular TV looks – well – ok

    Only drawback – fingerprints show up very badly.  Easy to work around if you just use your remote.

  28. I bought a Samsug 4071F back in November from Amazon.  Without a doubt, it has the best picture I’ve ever seen.  No dead pixels.

    That would be one of the other models I have been keeping track of. The BRAVIA is just more famous. Just make sure you actually adjust your LCD for best picture – that’s what gets most people on that front. Don’t trust what you see in the stores because you can bet your ass those haven’t been adjusted. Oh – and I think we can put the “dead pixel” issue to rest, since not even the PSP I bought a couple of months ago has one.

  29. I thought plasma “burn in” was one of those things you “fixed” by turning it off for a few seconds and letting the electrical activity in the set discharge completely, or turning it to a channel where there was more movement?

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