HDTV Special Report Including Features, Trends, Recommendations, and Links to HDTV Reviews
By Andrew Eisner
Its a good time to buy an HDTV television. Prices on flat panel televisions are at an all time low and for some models may go even lower. HD programming is readily available from most providers for a reasonable fee, and youll probably be helping the planet by trading in that old power hungry CRT for a greener TV. Your choice will most likely come down to Plasma or LCD however, dont write off projection TVs. Rear projection TVs (RPTVs) dont provide quite the image quality and viewing angle of LCD and Plasma TVs but you cant beat them for price and screen size. Front projection devices can sit on a table or hang from the ceiling and throw a very large, high definition image on a screen or living room wall. To make the process of selecting the right HDTV display for you we'll provide an overview of the market and link to reviews and more information.Retrevo selects LCD TVreviews and Plasma TV reviews from some of the most respected reviewers of HDTV displays.
LCD vs. PLasma
By far the most popular TVs sold today are either LCD or Plasma. LCD TVshave enjoyed pricing benefits from using the same screens manufactured for computers but only up to a moderate size. Plasma TVshave the pricing edge on displays in the over 50 inch department. Bruce Berkoff who heads up the LCD TV Association advises consumers to buy 32 and smaller sets today before they become less available and more expensive later this year. At he same time Berkoff predicts that 47 to 52 LCD TVs will come down in price in time for the holiday shopping season. LED backlighting is starting to show up in laptop LCD displays like the MacBook Pro, replacing fluorescent backlights. White LEDs provide a brighter screen with increased contrast. Future TVs will not only offer white LED backlights but willalso add red, green, and blue LED backlights that will enhance the whole image quality. Bruce Berkoff adds a dose of reality, I wouldnt expect to see LED backlights in affordable LCD TVs for at least a year and maybe two.
Best Plasma TVs with links to Plasma TV reviews
Pioneer still leads the market with the highest rated Plasma displays. The Pioneer Elite PRO-FHD1, incorporates all the latest plasma technology like Deep Encased Cell Structure to produce images that reviewers say are artifact-free, rich, and natural. This 50 inch display can be purchased for well under $4,000. All the reviews for the Pioneer Elite PRO-FHD1are onRetrevo. The new Panasonic TH-50PX77U uses an antiglare coating to reduce one of the objectionable problems with plasma displays. This TV gets high marks from reviewers and users for accurate colors and deep blacks. It costs less than $2,000.
Best LCD TVs with links to LCD TV reviews
Youll pay about $2,500 for the Sharp Aquos LC52D62U, a 52 LCD TV but youll be buying one of the top rated models that gets high marks for image quality, contrast levels, and shadow detail. The 40 inchSony BRAVIA KDL-40XBR2 costs a little over $2,000. It offers a very wide viewing angle and has been consistently mentioned among the top rated LCD TVs for over a year. Read the reviews for the Sony BRAVIA KDL-40XBR2at Retrevo. At $800, the OleviaSynrax Brillan is one of the best values on the market for a 37 inch LCD TV. It doesnt support 1080p resolution but on a TV this size, that shouldnt be a big issue
Best Rear Projection Sets with Links to Reviews
Rear projection sets have slimmed down and now use better and more reliable light sources than expensive replaceable bulbs. They incorporate third generation DLP chips (Darkchip3) or use the latest LCD or LCOS shutters. The Samsung HL-S5679W rear projection DLP TV is one of the first TVs to swap the color wheel and replaceable lamp with a red, green, and blue LED array. Unfortunately it received mixed reviews with high marks for color accuracy but some issues with picture quality. This TV is now selling for under $2000. The Sony Grand Wega KDS-60A2020 uses the SXRD liquid crystal display to drive a 60 inch high quality 1080p television that sells for under $2000. The Mitsubishi WD-65831 costs more than the Sony Grand Wega at $2700 but gets good reviews for picture quality, features, and design. It uses DLP technology with a special six segment color wheel for better color accuracy.
Best Front Projectors For that in-home movie theater experience you can install an HD projector on a ceiling mount, run an HDMI cable to it, buy a roll down screen or paint the wall white, and you have a 100 inch plus display to rival any home theater. A better quality front projector can set you back over $10,000. You can also get something with good image quality and features in the $3,000 range or even under $2,000 if youre willing to settle for "very good." The current leader in this category is the Sharp XV-Z20000. Reviewers rave about its exceptional color reproduction and image quality. Incorporating a dynamic iris for improved contrast, the three-chip Epson Powerlite Cinema 1080p gets high marks for color accuracy and good black levels. You can by it for just under $3,000.
Important Features HDMI The High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is perhaps one of the most important features to look for in an HDTV set. HDMI allows you to transfer high definition video and digital audio over one cable. All versions support the full HD video standard of 1080p but youll need the latest version which is 1.3 to support the latest audio standards. HDMI switch boxes The current crop of HDTV sets rarely have more than two or three HDMI ports. Unfortunately you can use those up connecting the cable box, the DVD player, and the Play station. Peter Putnam reviewed the Radiient Technologies, Select-4 4x1 HDMI switch which sells for $299 and was happy with its performance
A deregulation ruling that took effect on July 1, 2007 forced cable operators to decouple their boxes from their service. One result of this ruling will be more CableCARD slots appearing on TVs. A CableCARD is a small credit card sized device that will allow your TV to receive scrambled channels that would normally require a set-top box . Unfortunately the first versions have some shortcomings like no pay per view or on demand, no picture in picture, and may require a cable technician to install it.
Native resolution indicates how many fixed pixels are available to display images and is represented by two numbers where the first is the horizontal dimension and the second vertical. The latest Full HD standard or 1080p means 1920 x 1080 pixels displays 1080 lines in ones screen unlike 1080i which interlaces two screens to form one picture. Progessive or non-interlaced displays usually appears smoother especially on larger displays. That said the fact is most programming coming from cable, satellite or from an antennae is 1080i or even 720p. At the moment youll probably only need 1080p for Blu-ray or HD DVDs.
The ability of a pixel to turn on and off or go from active to inactive in the shortest period can help reduce many artifacts that can be very distracting when watching the fast moving pictures of sporting events. When pixels dont respond fast enough you may notice unwanted effects like trailing, streaming, smearing, ghosting, or jittering. These can appear like streaks or comet tails following moving objects or even as a momentary loss of focus. Often youll see response time measured in milliseconds (ms.). A smaller number is better. Many sets are now achieving 5ms. response times which greatly help reduce these artifacts. The next generation of LCD TVs incorporating LED backlights will virtual eliminate this effect since LEDs can turn on and off faster than the LCDs themselves.
Most conventional TVs refresh the screen 30 times a second (30Hz). Film displays refresh at 24 frames per second which was considered fast enough to fool the eye. However many of the newer sets are boosting much higher refresh rates. In fact, several LCD TVs were announced at 2007 CES that claim refresh rates of 120Hz. A higher refresh rate should also help reduce many of the artifacts associated with response time.
Rear projection TVs have the greatest viewing angle limitations often requiring the viewer to sit just so in front of the screen to get the best picture. Viewing angle is almost a non-issue with LCD and Plasma TVs. The new LCDs have been edging out Plasmas with angles as high as 175 degrees. We dont know anyone who is going to be watching their TVs at these angles. However, for sports viewing, when you have the gang over for the big game, viewing angle is much more critical than when its just you seated on the lounger in front of the tube.