By Andrew Eisner
It's that time of year again; sixty five men’s college basketball teams in four regions around the country begin playing on March 20th . The women’s teams start their playoffs on March 23rd . More importantly though, is this going to be the year you watch the games in HDTV ?
By March 27th it’s down to the sweet sixteen teams, the final four on April 5th and finally the championship game on April 7th in San Antonio , Texas . There's still plenty of time to use Retrevo to help select the best value in HDTV , find an HD provider, install your set, and sit back and enjoy the games.
Who's Broadcasting in High Definition?
CBS has held the broadcast rights to the games since 1982. They provide a “constant” feed that stays focused on one game and a “flex” feed that can feature many games being played at the same time. The “flexible” feed allows them to switch from a less interesting game to a more competitive one.
Starting this year CBS will broadcast all games in the men’s tournament, both constant and flex, in HDTV . If you can receive CBS HDTV over the air or via cable you should be in good shape. For the women’s games you’ll have to get ESPN which will be broadcasting many games in HD.
DirecTV offers a "Mega March Madness" package for $69 but only broadcasts "select games," in HD. DirecTV is also not allowed to broadcast games available on local stations and uses the subscriber’s zip code to black out those games.
The Right TVs for Fast Action Sports
Basketball can be very demanding for HDTV . A fast moving foreground (the action on the court) against a complex background (people in the stands) make it challenging to compress, decompress, and difficult to display without artifacts and blurring.
The very latest LCD sets that offer features like MEMC (motion estimation, motion compensation), 120 Hz refresh, and fast pixel response can help minimize problems. Sets with these features are just starting to show up and may cost a few dollars more.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to put up with a few possible annoyances for a much superior experience than your old standard definition set has to offer, you can get some great values in LCD, Plasma, or even Rear Projection sets for under $2000 and even under $1000.
You might even consider a front projector that can turn a wall in you house into a virtual movie theater with a 100 inch screen. The top rated $4500 Mitsubishi HC5000 is one of the latest 1080p projectors while the lower priced, $1200 Epson Powerlite Cinema 720 which gets good reviews but only goes to 720p.
|Mitsubishi HC5000||Epson Powerlite Cinema 720|
Higher End LCD and Plasma TVs
If you have the money we’d recommend taking a look at the brand new 40 inch Samsung LN-T4081 which is the first LED backlit LCD TV to hit the market and costs around $2500. The Sony BRAVIA KDL-52XBR5 52 inch LCD offers 120 Hz refresh and 1080p and goes for around $3200. The Toshiba 46LX177 offers 120 Hz refresh in a 46 inch LCD TV that gets mostly good reviews and is priced a little on the high side at $2400.
|Samsung LN-T4081||Sony BRAVIA KDL-52XBR5||Toshiba 46LX177|
The 50" Panasonic TH-50PZ700U is a highly rated Plasma TV that will cost you around $2500. This is the Plasma TV that Consumer Reports said was the "best flat screen ever tested."
Pioneer dominates the Plasma TV market. The Pioneer PDP-5010 is part of their new KURO line that features 1080p resolution, 4 HDMI ports, and anti-glare treatment. The Pioneer PDP-5010 will cost you around $3200 but received high marks from reviewers for great black levels and colors reproduction.
Good Values in HDTV
Rear Projection TVs still offer some of the best values. They continue to fall behind LCD and Plasma TVs in image quality, viewing angle, and they are much bulkier than flat panel sets. Toshiba sells a 72 inch RPTV that displays 1080p and can be purchased for a very reasonable $2000 Compare that to the 70 inch BRAVIA LCD TV that sells for around $30,000. Mitsubishi offers a 65 inch RPTV the WD-65731 for well under $2000.
|Toshiba 72HM196||Mitsubishi WD-65731|
Syntax Olevia Dominates Value List
Out of the top 10 values in LCD TVs, three are Syntax Olevia. They are all 720p/1080i but then again all the games will be in either 1080i from CBS or 720p from ESPN. In fact, pretty much the only reason to get 1080p aside from future-proofing your purchase is to play 1080p Blu-ray DVDs or 1080p games on consoles like the Sony PlayStation 3. Otherwise all programming is currently in 1080i or 720p.
The Syntax Olevia 242T is a 42 inch LCD TV that gets very high ratings and good reviews and can be purchased for a little over $700. Syntax has a brand new 1080p version called the 242T FHD that features fast pixel response and motion processing and sells for under $1000. Syntax Olevia recently started selling a 52 inch LCD TV, the 252TFHD with features to handle fast action sports. It’s selling for under $2000.
|Syntax Olevia 242T||Syntax Olevia 242T FHD||Syntax Olevia 252T FHD|
Vizio has a 47 inch 1080p LCD TV, the Vizio GV47LFHDTV that you can buy for a little over $1000. The 42 inch version, the Vizio VU42LF, gets better reviews than the 47 inch version and can be purchased for well under $1000.
|Vizio GV47LFHDTV||Vizio VU42LF|
|Hitachi P50T501||Pioneer PDP-4360HD|
New HDTV Sets Coming Soon
In case you decide to suffer through this years March Madness with standard definition there are some TVs worth waiting for that may be available in time for the summer Olympics.
Philips showed its new 7000 series LCD TVs at CES. They use LED "Ambilight" backlight technology, MEMC, and 120 Hz refresh which should help reduce blurring. The 42 inch 42PFL7403 LCD should cost around $1,700 and is due out in March. They will also offer a 47 and 52 inch version that should ship a month or two later.
Rear Projection TVs may get a boost when Mitsubishi ships their 65 inch laser based RPTV sometime in 2008. Viewers who got a sneak peek at CES were impressed by its great color and contrast.
Philips 7000 Series TV
Big Summer For Sporting Events
With more sports programming available in high definition and the 2008 Summer Olympics on the horizon, there are many reasons to buy into HDTV . In case you have an old analog set, you may want to replace it for a digital version when the big DTV switchover happens next year.
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