FutureFive NZ - How to buy a TV

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How to buy a TV

1. Do I need an HD TV? Why?
As more and more programmes are being shot and broadcast in HD, the reason to purchase an HDTV becomes even more compelling considering the marked improvement in picture quality. Certain programmes are now being broadcast in 1080P via Freeview’s high-definition digital broadcast system. The picture quality is much better through an HDTV than a conventional standard definition TV such as a CRT tube TV.
2. When it comes to price points, how do the cheapies stack up these days?
As in most consumer goods, you tend to get what you pay for and this certainly applies with TVs. There have been significant improvements and new innovations in TV technology, particularly in the past three years. What you will find from many brands is that a lot of the technology usually reserved for high-end TVs is trickling down to the rest of their product range. Most consumers will be surprised how vastly superior the latest flat screen TVs are today, compared to the traditional CRT glass TVs of old. The latest generation LED TVs, for example, are not only brighter, sharper and slimmer than a regular CRT TV (Samsung offers a TV at just 7.98mm slim – slimmer than a pencil); they are more power efficient, even with larger screen sizes.
3. What do I need to consider when thinking about my viewing area and how it affects the TV I should buy?
You should definitely consider your viewing environment in your own home before you buy a TV. A common mistake consumers make is buying a TV that is too small (or occasionally, too large) for their living area. As a rule of thumb, the diagonal viewing area of the TV you are looking to buy should be no less than 1.5 times the distance your couch is from the TV’s location. So if your couch is around 8 – 10 feet away from your TV cabinet, you should be considering a 40-inch or equivalent TV.
Lighting also plays a big part in the type of TV technology you should consider. In general plasma TVs tend to perform better in dimmer environments as they are capable of producing a more natural image in lower light levels. In brighter environments, or if you have a lot of lights in your living area that cannot be controlled, the advantage shifts over to LED TVs because they are much brighter than plasma and are therefore capable of overcoming the ambient lighting.  Some manufacturers also incorporate special filters on the front of their screens to further improve the picture quality in bright environments. Samsung LED TVs, for example, have an Ultra Clear Panel filter that deepens the colours as well as reducing glare from a well-lit room.
4. Plasma, LCD, LED, OLED - what’s the difference?
They may all physically look the same but the way they create the beautiful picture you see is far from different.
LCD or ‘liquid-crystal display’ televisions are flat-panel displays that contain millions of liquid crystal pixels that work at high speeds to selectively filter light from a backlight light source. In the case of LCD TVs, the backlight or light source is a cold cathode fluorescent tube (CCFL) that is much like the fluorescent tube you find at home or in the office building. With LED TVs, the backlight uses a bank of efficient LEDs as the light source. LED TVs tend to be slimmer and brighter than LCD TVs because the LEDs are much more compact than the regular CCFLs and they have more light output.  
OLED (organic LED) is different again and it is a  flat-panel display that uses a film of organic compounds which emit light in response to an electric current and functions without a backlight. OLED TVs are uncommon as they are very expensive to make but OLED screens on compact devices such as Smartphones are already available.
5. Contrast ratio? Aspect ratio? Resolution? Are these specs important to understand?
Of these, the resolution is probably the most important.  Just like a digital camera, the sharpness of the picture is defined by how many megapixels you have on the screen. The more pixels you have on a screen, the more capable it will be at defining the picture detail, particularly from higher-quality sources such as Blu-ray. HD Ready TVs are typically 1280 x 720 in resolution and have around 1.3million pixels on-screen. Full 1080 HD TVs, however, have a resolution of 1920 x 1080 equivalent to just more than 2 million pixels.  This is why a TV with a Full 1080 HD panel will always look sharper with high definition signals than a conventional TV.  
Contrast ratio is the ability of a TV to differentiate the whitest whites and the blackest blacks. The bigger the difference and the more precise the steps in between the whites and blacks, the more realistic the picture will seem.  If you have a picture where the whites are grey, and the blacks are grey, the picture and the contrast, is not particularly good. The contrast ratios of most TV technologies have markedly improved over the past few years.
The aspect ratio of an image is the ratio of the width of the image to its height. The standard aspect ratio on new TVs is widescreen, otherwise known as 16:9 (aspect ratio). The old standard TV format was 4:3 aspect ratio.
6. Will I need to buy a separate Freeview receiver?
New TVs now come with a built in Freeview|HD digital terrestrial tuner which enables you to view digital signals. Most TVs should already have a Freeview|HD tuner built in, but double check.  Although no formal date has been set, the current analogue television broadcasting is set to be turned off between 2013 and 2015.
7. Which inputs should I use to get the most out of my TV?
HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) has already become the standard for both picture and sound transmission to a TV. The interface is able to support any uncompressed TV or PC video format, including standard, enhanced and high-definition video. The latest version of HDMI – version 1.4, is also capable of supporting 3D signals, and as more and more products incorporate HDMI from cameras to laptops connecting devices to TV will become a plug and play affair.
8. Should I consider 3D-capable sets? Will I get any use out of them?
3D is definitely something that needs to be experienced because, until you see it, you will never know what it is capable of. The visual experience is downright amazing and is vastly superior to what you would get from the local 3D cinema. 3D provides an immersive experience and an added dimension to how the movie producer wants you to feel when you are watching their show. More and more content will become available in 3D as movie producers find new ways to recreate an immersive experience.
In addition, broadcasters are looking to shoot as well as broadcast in 3D. Sports and 3D go well together and must be experienced as is the case with games – more and more titles will become available in 3D in 2011 and beyond.
Some TVs may also have a built-in converter that can turn regular 2D into 3D content so you can watch just about any content in 3D.
9. What are some common mistakes people make when buying a TV?
The most common mistake people make when purchasing a new TV is buying the wrong size.
The right formula to use when buying a TV is: screen size x 1.5 = viewing distance.  In addition, some consumers regret not spending that little bit extra to purchase a ‘future-proof’ HD TV.  As a general rule, I recommended choosing an HD TV at the higher-end of your budget with key features and specifications that will be commonplace with time, such as HDMI input, built-in Freeview tuner, 3D capability and more.
For an in depth guide to digital television and what it means for you, check out this article at the NetGuide website: tinyurl.com/48v3k2g

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