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A Guide To Purchasing a Television

June 5th, 2008 Posted in Purchases   Print This Post Print This Post   Email This Post Email This Post

Get rid of that anchor weight you call a TV
After looking at the anchor weight that was previously referred to as the “Tube”, you finally decided that it is time to purchase a new TV, but after flipping through the Sunday circulars you realize that you are shifting through an overwhelming amount of information. What does it all mean? What should you buy? How much should you spend? Where should you buy it? I will try to answer these questions and more. I will look at the steps and approach I take in purchasing a TV, starting with creating a budget all the way to understanding the physical unit.

Before we start, you must first realize that you are the one that has to live with this purchase; regardless of the quality and price, you must ensure that it will be visually appealing to you.

Step one: Determining the usability

The first step in purchasing a television is figuring out exactly how and where it will be used. A television for the bedroom wall will be different than one for a home theater room. Additionally, depending on what you plan on watching will also determine some needs. Things to consider:

Placement

  • Wall Mounted
  • Free Standing
  • Projection
  • Shelf Mounted

Type of Media Being Used

  • DVD Player
  • Blu-Ray Player
  • VHS
  • Cable
  • Digital Cable
  • High Definition
  • Computer Monitor

Step two: What do all the specifications mean?

There are a lot of specifications when looking at televisions today. Although I would love to explain them all in great detail, I feel that I should keep it simple enough for you to be able to remember when you are ready to purchase your television. I will look at the specifications that I feel are most important: resolution, aspect ratio, viewing angle and contrast ratio.

Resolution

This is the craze of television advertising today. Everywhere you turn you see things saying 1080p, 1080i, full HD, etc. Simply put, the resolution of a television tells us how fine the picture will look; there are 2 ways of looking at a television when it comes to resolution. The first it will be a measurement of the number of horizontal pixels by the number of vertical pixels. I would recommend a minimum of 1280 x 720; however, I would suggest moving to 1920 x 1080. The standard that you will see advertised will be vertical resolution in combination with interlaced or progressive scan. The vertical resolution will be 480, 720, or 1080; and then this is further denoted with the letter “P”, progressive scan, or “I”, interlaced: progressive scan will produce a better picture than interlaced. If this is the resolution standard that is being advertised, I would recommend a minimum of 720p. And of course, if possible go up to full HD, which is 1080p.

Aspect Ratio

There are typical two choices when it comes to aspect ratio, 4:3 or 16:9, is simply the Width divided by the Height. The 4:3 aspect ratio is the standard television ratio; however, as we move towards the HD revolution, 16:9 is the standard format for HDTV. In addition to being the standard for HDTV, 16:9 will also be better suitable for Widescreen DVDs. To conclude this section, I would recommend buying a television with an aspect ratio of 16:9

Viewing Angle

A television’s viewing angle is the maximum “visible” angle. The best possible viewing angle would be 180°. If you plan on purchasing a TV that will only be used in a head on type environment, then don’t worry about this spec; on the other hand, if the TV is to be viewed from all around the room you will want a viewing angle of at least 160°.

Contrast Ratio

To me this is one of the most important specs; the contrast ratio determines how black the blacks will be on the screen. The official measurement is the ratio of White to Black. I would say to be satisfied with your purchase you should buy a TV with a minimum of 1,000:1; however, the higher the better. My ideal contrast ratio would be 8,000:1.

Inputs

When purchasing a television, there must be enough inputs for your intended use. The main types of inputs are:

  • Coaxial – I hope no explanation is needed for this
  • Composite – Typically for VHS, DVD, Digital Cable…..consist of a Audio (Red & White) and Video (Yellow) cable leads.
  • S-Video – A step above Composite, you still need to use Audio cables (Red & White) in conjunciton with this
  • Component – This is more for entry level High Definition….consists of Audio (Red & White) and Video (Red, Blue & Green) cable leads.
  • HDMI – This is the good stuff. Blu-Ray, HDTV. This connection is uncompressed and will give you the highest quality picture. To save a TON of money on the price of cables purchase them through MonoPrice.

Step Three: Purchase and Enjoy

This may be the easiest of the steps. The first thing you want to do is ensure that you are getting the best price possible; although some people don’t mind paying more to have additional comforts like in store warranties. I personally do not believe in purchasing an extended warranty. If you are on a tight budget, I would look at purchasing a refurbished television, Refurb Depot is a great resource for finding factory remanufactured televisions. If you are comfortable purchasing you new television online, I would suggest looking at Buy.com and NewEgg. If these options aren’t appealing to you, there are always the brick and mortar stores like Circuit City and Best Buy. If you choose to go into the store, please note that Circuit City will not be undersold, Unbeatable Price Guarantee, and if you can prove it they will lower the price to beat another competitor with a brick and mortar store in the area.

Summary

Here is a quick overview of what to look for in a television

Specification Minimum Recommended
Resolution 1280 X 720 1920 X 1080
720p 1080p
Aspect Ratio 16:9 16:9
Viewing Angle 160 178
Contrast Ratio 1,000:1 8,000:1
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