HDTV Features That Matter Most
Black Fridays come and go and HDTVs keep getting cheaper. For $600 you can get a good 42-inch LCD TV, for around $1,000 you can move up to a 50-inch plasma and if you want to go all the way to a state-of-the-art 50-inch HDTV or even a new 3DTV you might have to shell out $2,000 or more. Whether you're shopping for your first HDTV to replace that old CRT or a new TV for your bedroom, here's a list of features you should be considering in order to future-proof your purchase.
What Type of TV is Best?
LCD TVs Are the Most Popular
Before you start considering features you need to determine what type of TV you want. LCD TVs are the most popular type of TV and offer bright screens and accurate colors at affordable prices. Some reviewers say LCD TVs don't have as wide a viewing angle as Plasma TVs but LCD TVs have greatly improved over the years and now offer very good viewing angle along with bright images and plenty of contrast.

The Warmth of the Plasma TV
Many TV owners prefer the warm colors and deep black levels of Plasma TVs, but Plasma TVs have become less popular than LCD TVs. On the other hand, because of their high refresh rates, they are seeing a resurgence of popularity as 3DTVs like the Panasonic Viera. Although some Plasma TVs have implemented anti-glare features, they are still made of glass, which can create glare problems in brightly lit rooms.

Rear Projection TVs (RPTV) Fading but Still Here
Rear projection TVs (RPTV) have always offered the most screen area for the money but the image quality doesn’t come close to LCD or Plasma and they are typically bigger and bulkier. These types of TVs are less common today but may still offer some of the largest sized screens for the least amount of money. In particular, the new Mitsubishi 75-inch 3D RPTV is getting positive reviews.

Features That Matter
Now let’s take a look at some of the more important features you need to consider when shopping for a TV.
Screen Size Matters
Despite all the advice that would have you consulting charts and performing calculations to determine the best screen size, we say get the biggest TV that will fit in your room and with your furnishings. Don’t forget Very some standard definition programming may be displayed with black bars on the sides or top and bottom which makes the picture look smaller than the screen size. A larger TV would show a larger version of these “reduced” pictures.
Bottom Line: Forget the charts and algorithms. Get the largest TV that fits with your room.

High Definition Means High Resolution
These numbers and letters are pretty familiar; 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. They all indicate the number of scan lines and whether or not they are “interlaced.” Interlaced has the "i" after the number and doesn't look as smooth as progressive displays that have a "p" after the number. The best resolution for commonly sold TVs is 1080p which does not interlace scan lines. Most new TVs support 1080p even though most programming still comes in at 720p or 1080i however, Blu-ray players and game consoles provide true 1080p content. 3D content is another reason to go with 1080p even though most 3D programming will come in through cable or satellite at a lower resolution or “Half HD.”
Bottom Line: For TVs smaller than 37-inches you can probably get away with less than 1080p, otherwise we say go for 1080p

Minimize Blurring With High Refresh Rates
Higher refresh rates like 120Hz or 240Hz present more images on the screen per second. The more images your eye sees the less likely you’ll notice blurring of fast action programming. High refresh rates will also be required for 3DTV.
Bottom Line: You don't usually pay much of a premium for 120Hz so if you're not on a tight budget invest in a higher refresh rate.

Fluorescent Lamp Backlights Are Out
Like CRTs, Plasma TVs don’t require backlighting. New LCD TVs use LED backlighting (no, they are not “LED” TVs) instead of the older cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL). The LEDs are placed either along the edges (edge-lit) of the TV or behind the TV (direct backlight). LED backlights offer brighter displays that can save energy. Some newer TVs use tri-color LED backlights instead of white LEDs.
Bottom Line: LED edge-lit on an LCD TV would be our recommendation for brightness, reliability, and energy saving that is, until direct backlight LED HDTVs become available (see below).

You Can’t Have Too Many HDMI Connections
An HDMI connection carries high definition video and audio in the same cable. The more connectors on the TV mean you can connect more devices like Blu-ray players and game consoles. The newest standard is 1.4a that will be compatible with “full HD” 3DTV.
Bottom Line: If you want to have the latest technology or want a 3DTV then HDMI 1.4a is a must however, most TV owners will never miss it and can get buy with 1.3. We do however recommend getting a TV with three or more HDMI ports (the more the better).

In the Future, All TVs Will Be Connected
TVs with Ethernet connectors or built-in WiFi allow you to connect your TV to the Internet through a home Internet connection like your WiFi router. Some TV manufactures also offer services like Netflix and Pandora (your TV becomes your music player) on their TVs through the Internet connection.
Bottom Line: This will become increasingly more important. If you don't get Internet connectivity through your Blu-ray player, game console or set top box then try and get a TV with networking (WiFi would is best) built into the TV.

What Does 3D Capable Mean?
If you’re not ready to pay the premium for a 3DTV then looking for a 3D “ready” TV might be a smart move however, it could be tricky because it's not clear what a TV will need to be truly 3D-ready. HDTVs that can receive and display 3D will not only need a high refresh rate but will need enough processing power to decode and display 3D programming and of course it will need some way to synchronize the glasses through an add-on box or something built into the TV.
Bottom Line: A truly 3D capable TV would be a good compromise to future-proof your TV purchase.

Features to Watch
These are some important features to also consider when you’re looking for a new HDTV.
This is a home connectivity standard that allows devices like TVs, laptops, and phones to share information. Samsung calls their DLNA-based application “All Share” which allows you to move data between devices like laptops, computers, and smartphones. It’s a pretty cool feature.

Direct Backlight
LEDs are replacing CCFL backlights at a fast rate. Most LED backlights work with a strip of LEDs and mounted on the edge of the screen and light guide to get backlight the screen. Another LED backlight technique involves an array of LEDs placed behind the screen. These can be turned on and off to increase contrast and create a faster refresh rate. There are even some “tri-colored” LED direct backlights which can help create an even better picture but you’ll only find these in higher end TVs.

Light and Presence Sensors
“GreenTV” features like ambient light sensors that look at room lighting and adjust the TV brightness accordingly, can save energy and lower your electricity bills. Presence sensors can detect when no one is watching the TV and put it into “sleep” mode. We're picking on some grumbling from users who have been turning off ALS (ambient light sensor) but we still think it's an environmentally-friendly feature.

HDTV Quick Picks from Retrevo
Whether you’re staying home or travelling, here are some quick picks of gadgets that could make your summer more fun:
• Top rated 1080p LCD TVs
• Top rated 1080p Plasma TVs
• Best HDTVs for Watching Sports
• Best HDTVs on a Budget
• Newest HDTVs
• Best Selling or Most Popular HDTVs
• Latest Deals on HDTVs
• Best HDTVs for Bedrooms
• Top TVs, HDTVs under $500
Retrevo Can Help You Find the Right TV
Whether you’re shopping for a new TV or looking for the latest gadgets, don’t forget to check out Retrevo where you’ll find reviews and manual for all the latest gear and gadgets including HDTVs laptops, digital cameras, GPS and more.

Retrevo.com is one of the largest consumer electronics review and shopping sites in the world, helping people decide what to buy, when to buy, and where to buy. Retrevo uses artificial intelligence to analyze and graphically summarize more than 50 million real-time data points from across the web to give shoppers the most comprehensive, unbiased, up-to-date product information they need to make smart, confident purchasing decisions for electronics.

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DLP rear projection gets a bad rap

The article says that rear projection gets you the biggest screen but not as good a picture, however, I would have to disagree. My 65" Toshiba DLP is surpassed only by plasma. The picture quality, color balance and saturation, brightness and contrast, etc. are all better than every LCD set I've seen, and I looked at every set on every showroom floor in the Memphis area for months before making my decision. And the Toshiba was better than the Mitsubishi 65" DLP which is mentioned in the article.

I still have to laugh at all of the people who bought tiny little 42" LCD and plasma sets and paid 3 to 5 times what I paid for my garishly huge 65" monster. (cue the penis size jokes) My TV was under $1500; full 1080p, 3 HDMI connections, 2 component, 2 standard video + VGA out, digital audio, etc.. etc. In other words, all the features, very low price and better picture quality than everything except plasma.

DLP is the victim of people wanting the "it" thing; in the case of TVs, it must not be good unless it's flat and can hang on the wall. It's very much like all the sheeple who have to get an iPhone, even though the new 4G EVO from Sprint is better in every way imaginable.

Toshiba models

Hi Big Mook,

I was wondering what Toshiba model you bought and how long ago the purchase was. Also, did you notice any other Toshiba models that were as good as the one you bought? Can you recommend a specific series? Thanks!

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CCFL in 40" KLR Sony

Our Sony KLR is going on 4 years old (don't want to talk about what we paid for it :-( . The set operates perhaps 5 hours a day and wondering if we should be thinking about replacing the CCFL in anticipation of it's ultimate demise or inevitable slow degradation. Is anyone making an LED retrofit for CCFL apps?


HDTV frame rates

In your criteria for picking the best large screen TV, you recommend a frame rate of at least 120 Hz. does this make sense? Our persistence of vision let us watch movies at 24 frames/sec, with no problems of flicker or discontinuity of motion. Even silent movies at 16 frames/sec are at least acceptable. What, then, is the advantage of such a fast frame rate?

Isn't this just a replay of the hi-fi fads which sought to reproduce frequencies far beyond the audible range, and distortion levels far below the detection limits of any ear? The result then was just to induce ignorant customers to waste their money.

Fast frame rates do matter

You are correct that the human eye stops seeing a flickering image at 24 frames but LCD pixels can be slow to react and when you have a scene that changes fast from frame to frame viewers often notice blurring. Increasing the refresh rate from the TV standard of 60Hz to 120Hz and even 240Hz can reduce the level of blurring. 120Hz also has another benefit in that unlike 60Hz ii is divisible by 24 so movies can be converted without having to discard frames and introducing "judder" (jitter/shudder) in the process. Not only that but 3DTV requires a separate frame to be presented to each eye so you need at least 120Hz to present 2 x 60 frames.

120hz/3D/LED backlight

I agree that size and resolution matters. 37" and under will do fine with 720p. 40" and above, go with 1080p.

I have 3 LCD TV's (32", 37", and 52"), all from 1st tier manufacturers. All are 60hz, non LED, and I've not noticed any objectionable issues with motion blur, even with sports programming. I've seen 120hz sets at the store, and can still see motion blur. Essentially, it doesn't make a material difference since a lot of viewing material has built-in blur. The 120hz feature has to be implemented well, or it will introduce unnatural effects/artifacts (just what I read, I haven't seen enough 120hz sets to notice).

LED backlight? The edgelit variety is neglecting one of the biggest benefits of LED backlighting, which is its ability to be turned off when needed to enhance dark contrast. Edgelit LED's are on all the time, just like a fluorescent backlight. However, it is way cheaper than a full-panel LED backlight, and should be an improvement over the fluorescent, but again, implementation is important.

3D TV? You need a premium priced TV, expensive 3D glasses, and program material is gosh-gimmicky bad. It might be the future, but unless you got money burning a hole in your pocket, stay away from it for now. Buying the current crop of pioneering 3D TV's to future proof yourself is expensive insurance. Once people get over the novelty aspect, they'll just use the TV for regular viewing. I would love to see 3D TV, but not unless it's without the glasses (something being worked on by Sony). Definitely pass on this for now.

Connectivity? Why pay to have this included in a TV? You can get this worthwhile feature in a great number of Blu-Ray players (and any serious HDTV owner should be getting one sooner or later), the PS3, or a media box.

My advise is to get the LARGEST LCD TV you can afford (or for which you have space), go with 120hz and LED only if the price difference is small, forgo 3D TV/connectivity, and get a good Blu-Ray player with a good home theatre sound system. The latter two will enhance your viewing experience much more so.