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What Television Shoppers Need to Know

With all the changes in technology and program content, buying a tv set is not as simple as it once was. While it is easy to be tempted to buy the one that looks prettiest in the advertisement or on the showroom floor, it's not always the best fit for your circumstances. The following will help you make a better informed decision, and using you can make detailed comparisons between set sizes, different technology, brands and vendors.

TVMeasure where you will be watching.

It's important that the set you buy will fit in the space where you want to put it, and that it's visible from where you want to sit. Therefore, it makes good sense to measure the space where the set will go. You need to measure the width, the height and the depth of the space, so that you can choose a set that will sit comfortably in that space, with sufficient ventilation and edge space for installation and cleaning. You should also measure the distance to your cable socket if you have an external aerial, and be sure to allow sufficient space for rear panel audio and video cable connections so that they can be easily connected and disconnected.

Getting the right sized screen is a balance between the dimensions of the room and your viewing habits, and your choice of technology. A regular tv has a screen aspect ration of 4:3, (that is, the dimensions are four units wide by three units high) and its size is given as a diagonal measure across the screen. The most comfortable viewing range for a regular tv is to be a distance away from the screen that is three to six times its given size. For example, a 48cm regular tv is best viewed further away than 116 cm and closer than 232 cm.

Watching high-resolution DVD and digital TV on a wide screen set however, provides much sharper images than regular sets, and this means you can sit closer and experience a more immersive, theatre-like picture. With a wide-screen tv, you can sit as close as 1.5 times the screen's diagonal measurement and not notice any loss in quality. Sitting farther away than three times the screen however, means you're likely to miss out on the immersive 'theatre' feel, even though image-wise, the sharper pictures will be clearer from a greater distance. Conversely, what this means, is that for the same given room space, you can install a significantly larger tv if it's wide screen. So in today's market, you are faced with one major deciding factor:

Regular TV or Wide Screen

While the regular tv dimensions are 4:3 (see above), a wide-screen set has an aspect ratio of 16:9 (16 units wide, 9 units high) and this is the same shape as many cinema screens and movies. Wide-screen sets are more expensive per square cm of screen than a regular tv, and more regular TV is watched than DVDs and movies, so 4:3 sets continue to be a popular choice. However standards a re changing rapidly and almost all digital, flat-panel and rear-projection tvs are wide screen. While television stations frequently broadcast many movies in digital/wide screen format, a large amount of station-produced content is in regular format, but this too is changing. So it makes some sense to seriously consider wide screen.

Either way, there is some compromise to consider because one rectangle doesn't fit exactly into another. Wide-screen program shown on a standard tv has black bars, known as letterbox bars, above and below the wide-screen image. The alternative to this is to sacrifice some of the picture at each edge of the screen, and get the full depth of the picture. When you watch a program formatted for regular tv on a wide screen, black bars, known as windowbox bars, appear on either side of the picture. One alternative to this is to lose some picture at the top and bottom of the screen.

But one of the features of a wide-screen tv, is the ability to stretch, crop, or zoom the regular 4:3 image so that it fills the screen, ultimately distorting the image or losing some of its content.

Picture Quality, Audio Quality, Connectivity

Using an online shopping comparison such as doesn't give you the personal feel of looking at the tv set on the showroom floor. However, once you've narrowed down your choices according to size and manufacturer specification, it may pay to look at some sets so you can judge picture quality for yourself.

So what makes a good picture? One of the first considerations is contrast: in order to have clear sharp and bright pictures, the screen itself must be dark. Screens that are two 'green' or 'grey' will not produce high definition images. Do this with any surrounding televisions turned off and an even light in the room.

A second consideration is the flatness of the picture tube. If you are looking at an LCD or Plasma screen, this is already flat, but with picture tube technology, flatter tubes result in less glare from windows and lamps, and less shape distortion. A flat tube screen will give you a better viewing experience.

If a tv doesn't have a comb filter, its resolution will be limited to about half the full potential of a DVD. While comb filters affect only composite-video or RF connections, sets with a comb filter can usually provide all of the resolution of DVD and will not have distracting 'rainbow' images where highly contrasting colours coincide. Comb filters include glass, digital, and 3DY, and different types provide different levels of quality, but ultimately, it's better to have one than not.

Digital and High Definition TV means that the ability for a tv to display a progressive scan image is also factor that affects picture quality. A progressive scan image is a feature of digital tv broadcasting and DVD imaging with a more film-like look to it than normal video.

For optimum television watching, you need to consider the quality of the sound too. It is now quite common for people to integrate tv and hi-fi equipment into a more complete home entertainment system, giving a more dynamic home theatre experience. Digital and High Definition tv and DVD, sound quality is similar to that of CDs, so it makes sense that audio connectivity allows you to connect into surround sound or other hi quality sound systems. It's worthwhile to check to see that the tv has a least one set of stereo audio inputs and one set of stereo audio outputs, as well as video input and output connectors. On the input side, check for RCA-composite, S-Video, and component video inputs. You can frequently find an additional set of audio and video inputs and/or outputs on the front or at the side of the tv, a very convenient location for more temporary connections, such as game consoles, web tv or video camera equipment. It can be terribly inconvenient if you are limited to only connections at the rear of the set, or only one set of inputs and outputs, which can often mean unplugging and reconnecting permanently installed equipment.

If you are intending to use a set-top digital receiver, make sure the tv has the correct connections, and that they are compatible with the receiver equipment. Using you can search through a great number of brands for the correct specifications. Ideally such connections should be made with Fire Wire, DVI-D with HDCP or HDMI connectors.

Plasma or LCD

While there are still quality CRT televisions (tube style) being manufactured, the current television technology being pursued by manufacturers is Plasma High Definition or LCD (Liquid Crystal Display). The main advantages these two technologies offer includes the smaller space taken up (mostly in depth) for a bigger picture, less heat (and therefore less electricity consumed) generated for a bigger picture and the appearance of compactness through digital technology. But what are the differences?

In the Plasma tv over a million tiny glass cells are charged with a mixture of neon and xenon, behind which are coloured phosphors that emit light when energized. Each cell has a red, blue and green phosphor. When Plasma cells are charged, they emit invisible UV light. that strikes the red, green and blue phosphors on the back of the display, creating the pixels that form the image you see on the screen. LCD however, is a suspended liquid between two transparent panels that, when activated by voltage, re-position themselves so that they either allow the light to pass through the panel and or block the light, a similar process to turning on and off millions of light bulbs. The light source is provided by fluorescent tubes behind the panels. Both the lit and unlit crystals create visible pixels composing the image on the screen.

Many independent reviewers believe that manufacture's specifications of Plasma tv is not accurately portrayed. LCD appears to be both brighter and offer more contrast, whereas Plasma appears to have higher definition colour, superior viewing angles and faster response time providing crisper screen movement. Plasma uses more power than LCD, but may provide a more theatre-like viewing experience. Use to compare the latest brands of Plasma and LCD televisions.

Remote Controllers and Accessories

All tv sets come with remote controls. Some come with what's known as the Universal remote control, a remote control that can control all of your media hardware. The remote control should be easy to use and it should address all of the tv set's functions. Many sets do not have function controls on the tv itself, which could cause problems if the remote controller is lost. Also, not every universal remote can control everything. Most are pre-programmed with a set list of codes, and if the codes don't match your older or off-brand gear, then you're out of luck. A few are learning models that can accept the IR codes from your other remotes and, thus, control any kind of gear.

A number of other features can be taken into account when considering your tv purchase. These might include picture-in-picture (PIP), or picture-outside-picture (POP), commercial skip timers, channel blocking (called the V-Chip), and tuner extras to make channel selection and switching easier. Additional accessories that you might need include additional cables, a good power surge protector and a stand. Service may also be a consideration and in some circumstances, an extended warranty or service package may be a good investment.

Search for the different specifications and price ranges of the latest tv technology, where you not only compare the world's leading brands, but also the service and support of the people who sell them.

About the Author: Andrew Gates is a writer for Australian comparison shopping site helps you compare television (TV) and buy online from top-rated online stores. You can also read television (TV) reviews and specifications.

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