HD MADE EASY
With high-definition televisions flying off the shelves at ever-lower prices, you don’t have to be wildly adventurous or wildly extravagant to become a high-def household. Still, deciding which TV to buy and setting it up can he daunting. Almost everything about TV is in tumult, including display technologies, prices, service providers, and the programming and bundles they offer.
This section will help you make sense of TV’s changing picture and guide you through the decision-making process. Let’s start with the important trends: LCD, plasma, and rear-projection TVs have their own characteristics and strengths, but each has also had certain weaknesses. As manufacturers address those shortcomings, more sets of each type are earning excellent picture-quality scores in our Ratings. But there are still plenty of mediocre performers, so it’s more critical than ever to be picky.
One reason for the improved picture quality is the movement to l080p, the highest form of high definition. More new LCD and rear-projection HDTV’s have a native resolution of l080p and the first plasma sets of that type have appeared.
TVs with 1080p resolution have more pixels than other sets, giving them the potential to display all the detail in a high- definition signal, including the new high-def DVDs. Many of our top-scoring sets for picture quality are l080p models. You’ll pay more for 1080p though, and advantages aren’t easily noticed on types of programming or on 42-inch and smaller screens unless you’re up close
TV prices hit new lows as 2006 closed out, and the bottom could drop lower still this year. “There’s no question that prices will continue to fall says Tamaryn Pratt, principal analyst at Quixel Research.
Pratt sees the most aggressive pricing for LCD’s. She believes that some manufacturers will try to price their 40- and 42 inch 72Op LCD models at slightly less than 42-inch plasmas (which have the same resolution) and price their 1080p LCD sets at slightly more. “Their message will be that consumers can future-proof their purchase by buying a l080p LCD HDTV for just a little bit more than a similar-sized 720p plasma model,” she says.
Choose your type; Each type of TV has pros and cons that make it suitable for different viewers, rooms, and programming. LCD and plasma sets now come in sizes that were once the domain of projection TVs. Rear-projection sets are taking a cue from flat panels and adopting thinner profiles. Some can be wall-mounted.
Whichever you choose, heed the advice of the HDTV owners we’ve surveyed: Buy the biggest screen your space and budget allow. If you plan to spend about $1,000, you’ll find mostly LCD sets with 32 inch screens. A budget of $ 1,500 or so gives you a choice of 37 or 40 inch LCD or 42 inch plasma. For roughly $ 2,000 or so you can get a 40 inch or larger LCD, a 42 or 50 inch plasma, or a 50 to 56 inch rear-projection set.
These slim, light flat panels now come with screen sizes from le than 20 inches to 50 inches and larger. Better black levels and with viewing angles have addressed traditional concerns with LCD technology. There are a growing number of models with l080p resolution which can potentially display the finest detail. An LCD set is a good choice for a brightly lighted room, because reflections are minimal.
Plasma sets are known for accurate colors, deep blacks, and minimal blurring of fast motion, making them a great choice for action movies and sports. Their wide viewing angles ensure that no one in the room has a bad seat. More 50-inch and 60-inch models are joining the familiar 42-inch screens. The first 1080p plasma TVs have arrived and more are expected soon.
Projection sets using DLP, LCos, and LCD technology provide the least expensive, easiest way to get a big screen experience. Today’s micro-displays are slimmer than the hulking projection TVs of a few years back. Most have screens 50 to 65 inches and up. Many new models have 1080p resolution.
MARCH 2007 www.ConsumerReports.org 20