Buying an LCD TV


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With great power comes great responsibility -- an uncle of mine once said (OK, not my uncle, but A uncle said it). Today's power is in the form of the all-mighty buck that helps companies decide what to manufacture. TVs are no exception to this rule and especially LCD TVs. What I want to know is what features are actually useful on these TVs and what's marketing fluff.

My findings...

  • The latest and greatest in video quality is 1080p, but to really get the most out of a 1080p TV, you need 1080p quality content. Since the whole Blu-ray/HD-DVD thing is still not settled, I am ignoring 1080p all together. Another point with 1080p is you need a large screen to really see the quality that quality video's bring. The XBox 360 and PS3 both support 1080p (I actually dont' know this for a fact, but I'm assuming they do) so if you really want to leverage your systems, a 1080p TV is the way to go.

  • A high contrast ratio seems to be a good thing to get sharp images rather than blurry ones. I actually don't know if this is true but Samsung's marketing material seems to indicate this.

  • HDMI is the latest and greatest in video connection methods. You WANT a TV with HDMI so when the whole Blu-ray/HD-DVD battle settles you can use the best connection (this is like buying a Ferarri and using Octane 87 gas instead of Octane 94).

  • A viewing angle of 178 degrees seems to be the new standard. This is just the horizontal viewing angle and the vertical viewing angle is usually much worse. So if you can go and see your TV in a store, check above and below the screen to make sure it still looks decent.

  • You want as many bits of colour processing as you can get. 10-bit processing is the highest available today and this just gives you a larger number of colours the TV can accurately reproduce.

  • Response times are a poor indicator of what an LCD TV can actually do. Most of the these numbers are based on a single pixel changing from one shade of grey to another shade of grey. However, if a TV can't even do this fast, I don't want to see how long a colour to colour transition would take. This is important so you don't get something called "ghosting". Ghosting is basically the LCD TV creating a blurred image during scenes of quick motion. It seems like 8ms response times are what the better LCD TVs are claming.

Keep on adding to the list of known things to look for/avoid or just general buying tips.
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That's a pretty good list right there, I don't really have too much to add to that to be honest, here are some things off the top of my head:

  • ghosting - don't take response rate or anything like that for granted, go to the store and check out the tv yourself.  If you can detect ghosting then stay away as that can seriously ruin the entire tv watching experience.
  • screen size - for LCDs the sweet spot is in the 32-50 inch range.  Bigger than that and the $/inch starts to go up dramatically, plus if your viewing distance is close then the bigger screen will produce a worse picture.  Don't just think bigger is better, find the right size of tv that fits your space and your viewing distance.
  • Resolution - most LCDs have a resolution of 1366x768, this is pretty close to the standard of 720p so scaling isn't a big issue.  Just make sure that you're getting an HDTV and not an EDTV, the difference being the native resolution as EDTVs aren't real HD and have way worse image quality.  720p, 1366x768, 1280x768 are all good native resolutions.
  • Scaling - depending on how much standard definition content you watch make sure your tv has a good scaler so that normal tv doesn't look like absolute garbage.  Look at what kind of zoom and stretch modes are available and make sure your tv has one that makes standard def content look good.  Most tvs nowadays are pretty good at this, so it's not such a big deal, this is more for people in the market for older used HDTVs.
  • Brands - brands usually have an indication of quality, not always, but in LCD there are some great brands out there.  Samsung has become a leader in the LCD TV biz providing a lot of the panels and screens to the rest of the industry.  So it's obvious that they produce quality sets.  Sony's Bravia line has been a raging success with fantastic quality for an affordable price.  The Sharp AQUOS is also a very good line that a lot of people love.
Conclusion, depending on the price, I'd have to recommend a Sony Bravia.  I've heard absolutely nothing but good things about them, and Sony seems to have done a bang-up job with those sets.  If you're looking for something different then keep all of these points, and the ones given by David in mind.
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Here's the list of Sony Bravia's on ProductWiki: Sony Bravia LCDs
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I just wanted to add that HDMI by itself is great, but it's not the entire story.  The number of inputs in general is extremely important, the more inputs the better.  You should look for sets that have at least 2 HDMI inputs, and 2 Component inputs, that way you don't need to buy a VERY expensive switcher.  Of course if you get one of those cool A/V receivers then you don't really have that problem either.  But still, it's a big pain in the butt when you have a bunch of devices that you want to connect and can't because of a lack of inputs, it's very easy to fill them up.

DVD player = 1 Component (1 HDMI if it's upscaling)
1 Video game console = 1 Component input
Your cable box = 1 component input (MAYBE an HDMI if it's new)

Then you want to connect your computer to your TV, where are you going to put it?  Most computers don't have HDMI output, so you're stuck with low-res S-Video/Composite or taking up yet another Component input.

This is one of the nice things about next-gen consoles, the PS3 (the high-end version) has HDMI out, and upscales DVDs, plays Hi-Def Blu-Ray content, AND the normal PS3 games.  So you can free up quite a bit of inputs with that $600 beast.  Even the 360 gives some outlet as you can hook it up to your tv with VGA (if your tv has the input).  This has the extra-nice side effect of allowing the 360 to perform DVD upscaling, as it can only upscale through VGA output and not over Component, thank you Hollywood /sarcasm.  As for the Wii, it will be able to play DVD movies as well, but no upscaling, and it's not even going to be hi-def.  Lame Nintendo, very lame.
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Ok, after looking around at prices of LCD TVs, I want to know if 1080p is really worth the extra dough. What readily available video sources are there that are actually 1080p? I know I won't be buying anything other than DVDs until the whole Blu-ray/HD-DVD stuff is sorted out (who knows, another format may trump both of them).

As for gaming, I only plan on buying a Nintendo Wii in the short term. I know the Wii only does 480p so 1080p is pretty useless in that regard.

What is the signal quality of HDTV that you can get from cable companies? Is it just 720p or do they actually have 1080p channels these days? Is this a standard thing with different cable providers (or will switching providers allow me to receive 1080p signals)?

Are there plans for something other than 1080p in the next 5 years? Am I REALLY missing out if I just get a TV with just 720p/1080i (btw, is 720p better in quality than 1080i still?) vs. 1080p? Will I be kicking myself in 3 years wishing I splurged 3 years ago?
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The whole 1080p is so ridiculous that I wish television wasn't even invented so that this issue would have never come up.  1080p is nothing more than a super lame marketing trick that companies are trying to pull on the hi-def early adopter crowd so that the super-geeky will rebuy even more expensive tvs, and the not-so-geeky will spend more than they have to.  At any reasonable viewing distance and screen size the change in resolution isn't going ot make a lick of difference in any way whatsoever.  Even at the larger viewing sizes you'll be hardpressed to see a difference.

And that's IF you can actually find something that sends out 1080p.  Right now the only sources of 1080p content are Blu-Ray players and HD-DVD players, except the 1080p version of the HD-DVD player isn't even OUT yet (the discs are 1080p though).  Other than that, you're only going to find 1080p in professional A/V situations where you're looking at the tens of thousands of dollars.

720p and 1080i are more than perfect for everything you're going to watch.  And the hilarious thing is that there's actually no difference between 1080i and 1080p for video content.  With 1080i you're getting a 1920x1080 image ever 1/30 of a second, same goes for 1080p.  The only difference would come at 1080p at 60FPS, which will only happen with the next-next generation of videogames (6 years down the line).

The real question is, should you go for a native resolution of 1080i or 720p?  And in that regards, it STILL doesn't matter!  Both resolutions are fantastic and give an ultra-clear and crisp picture.  Some tv stations broadcast in 1080i, and others in 720p, so no matter what you go with, there's going to be some scaling going on.  That's why one of the most important aspects to the tv is the scaler, since it WILL be used.

Now let's never talk about 1080p again.
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kuyuy76tgu
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So after doing all the research on LCD TVs, I've turned to DLP TVs instead. The price to screen size ratio of DLP is too great to ignore. I can get a comparable 50" DLP for the price of a 32" LCD. I'm not looking to hang anything on a wall, so the size of a DLP doesn't really matter. I just wish they good get the weight of DLP TVs down a bit more so moving won't be such a hassle.
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I don't know if this affects your decision or not, but Sharp and LG announced that they expect prices for LCD's to drop between 20 and 30 percent next year due to overproduction. Here's the link.
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i am sorry.i don't know.

This post was edited by hololo on 6/19/2008 1:13 AM

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