How to Choose the Right TV
With Technology advancing so quickly how do you know which TV is right for you? LCD, LED, OLED, Plasma, 3D… 32 inch, 42, 50… ?
The latest TVs will give you much greater detail, better, sharper picture, more realistic colours and true life detail. So let's have at look at all the options and hopefully help you make the right choice.
All new TVs are now flat panel. There are no longer big bulky cathode ray TVs being produced. Everything is thin, sometimes very thin. They take up less space, look very modern and can be wall mounted. One problem with these very slim TVs is sound. There is just not enough depth in them for good speakers. That is why you will now find a good selection of sound bars that can be placed in front of the TV and take the audio signal and reproduce it in real hi-fi.
Many TVs now have Freeview HD built into them. This will give you four HD channels, BBC1 HD, BBC2 HD, ITV 1 HD and Channel 4 HD. The BBC will be launching more HD channels in 2014, including BBC 3 HD and BBC 4 HD. Another way to get HD TV without subscription is Freesat. You need a satellite dish for this. If you want a much greater range of HD TV then subscription packages are available from Sky and Virgin cable. Monthly costs vary depending on the number of channels you subscribe to.
If you have a Blu-ray player you can watch Blu-ray discs and get even better HD than any TV broadcast.
All Freeview HD TVs also have all the standard def TV channels.
So let's have a look at the different types of TV available.
This is probably the most common type of TV these days. LCD screens are everywhere, in computer monitors, mobile phones, cars etc. They are cheaper than Plasma and is the only option if you want a smaller screen. There are no small Plasma screens. Some of the early LCD screens had rather washed out "grey" black, and the viewing angle was quite narrow. You had to be more or less directly in front of the TV to get a decent picture. The picture would fade if viewed from the side.
LCD technology is improving and the latest models do not suffer so much from these problems.
Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) have been around a long time but only recently have they started to appear in TVs. They are similar to LCD with one big difference. The number of back lights in LCD have been replaced with a much greater number of smaller LEDs.
In both LCD and LED TVs light from behind the screen is shone through a matrix of small coloured liquid crystal cells in the screen. Each cell is controlled individually allowing varying amounts of light and colour through and the picture is built up in this way.
OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) TVs are the latest development in display technology. They are much thinner, brighter, have greater contrast and are more efficient than LCD or Plasma. They have superb picture quality, very fast refresh and response rate and a wide viewing angle. They are made by placing thin films of organic (carbon based) material between two diodes. When electricity is applied they emit a bright light. No back light is needed, unlike LCDs. Every pixel is a small light emitting diode. At present OLED screens tend to be small and are most often found in small devices such as phones, cameras and mp3 players. Making larger OLED screens is difficult and expensive. Some OLED TVs are available but this is new technology so it is hoped that they will become more affordable in the future.
Plasma has always been the more expensive option for flat screen TVs. Until recently they were the only option (besides projection TV) if you wanted a large screen. They produce very solid blacks and produce a great Hi Def picture on a large screen. They are not as good as LCD and LED TVs at showing standard def TV. They also use more energy than LCD TVs.
The latest thing (fashion, fad, gimmick?) is 3D TV. Many LCD, LED and Plasma TVs all come in the 3D variety if that is what you want. These usually come with special glasses that are necessary to get the 3D effect. They can be active (better but more expensive glasses) or passive (cheaper). Sky TV offer the greatest range of 3D TV. The BBC has some 3D but if this is your thing then a Sky TV subscription will be needed. There are quite a few Blu-ray films available in 3D if you have a 3D compatible Blu-ray player. 3D TVs can be switched to 2D, which is good because you might not be watching much 3D!
Glasses can be heavy and uncomfortable and could prevent 3D ever becoming widely popular. TV manufacturers are trying to develop 3D without the need for glasses. So with technology developing so quickly it might be wise to "wait and see" before spending a lot on a big 3D telly.
Many TVs are now described as smart! So what does that mean? It simply means that they connect to the internet in one way or another. The services on offer will vary from one TV to another. But they should all have the BBC iPlayer and maybe other catch up services, probably give you You Tube and other video and social networking sites. They will have an Ethernet connection to hook up to your broadband and probably wi-fi, although you may have to get a usb wi-fi dongle with some TVs. Some of them will let you connect a keyboard and mouse.
TVs, like most other electronic goods, have come steadily down in price. If you don't want some of the more advanced features like internet access then you should be able to get a good HD TV (probably LCD) for less than £400. There are many good technical review sites to guide you. Look for well known brands such as Sony, LG, Samsung, Panasonic. Be wary of obscure makes that you have never heard of. Manufacturers replace TVs so quickly that you could easily get last year's TV at a bargain price. Look at the back of the TV for a good range of audio connections to external equipment. Sometimes the audio is not great in budget TVs.
Most portable TVs are bought for the bedroom or kitchen. You can get Freeview full HDTVs in the 15" to 22" size for less than £200. Some of the smaller ones do not have great audio. You should check the viewing angle if you are using it in the kitchen and will be moving around the room. All the major brands like Sony, Panasonic, LG and Samsung have portable TVs.
Look for 32" or 42" LCD, LED or Plasma. Those sizes show good standard TV and great HD TV. Listen to the audio. It can vary depending on the quality and size of the speakers built into the TV. Look at the menus and the user friendliness of setup etc, and the Electronic Program Guide (the EPG) should be 7 days or more. Either Freeview HD or Freesat HD (dish needed) will give good results for standard and Hi Def TV.
TVs get bigger and bigger. Many people want to see the latest blockbusters in HD Blu-ray on a large screen to get the cinema experience in their own homes, as well as live sporting events. So we are talking about screens of at least 46" for a really immersive, involving viewing experience. TVs just keep getting bigger. There are now many 50" and larger screens to choose. Picture quality is paramount at that size so look for full 1080p HD. You should bear in mind that standard def TV may not look so good in these large screens.
For a real Home Cinema experience sound is almost as important as the picture so look for dedicated audio outputs to connect to an external home cinema sound system.
Future Proof TVs
With technology advancing so quickly it is hard to be certain that any TV will be future proof. Smart TVs that connect to the internet are good as the online services that they offer may be upgraded by the manufacturer with new firmware etc. 3D technology could change considerably in the future. TVs that need glasses for 3D may become a short lived thing of the past.
Full 1080p HD is the standard now but 4K HD is just around the corner. This will give twice the vertical resolution and twice the horizontal resolution so it has four times the number of pixels of 1080p HD.
TVs don't just show pictures anymore. They are clever and can do all sorts of things. We have already discussed 3D TV and Smart TV.
An other innovation is Video Recording. Some TVs will allow you to connect an external hard drive via USB and record programs just like a PVR. But the features and convenience of this are certainly no match for a real PVR.
Some TVs are more economical than others. Of course larger TVs consume more power than small ones and Plasma more than LCD and LED. But within each group you may find differences that over a year could be significant in the amount of power consumed. The most popular ECO mode is an ambient light sensor. This detects the level of light within the room and adjusts the screen brightness to suit the conditions. So in a darkened room brightness is reduced. The effectiveness of this system seems to be better in some TVs than others.
Many TV programs now have audio description. This is an additional commentary for visually impaired viewers. It might give extra information about body language, movement, location etc. Most of today's TVs have this.
USB Video Playback
Many TVs can now connect to an external usb hard drive or flash drive and play video content. Look for a good range of formats such as DivX, MKV and AVI.
Finally look for a free extended warranty on your new purchase. There is one major retailer who gives a free 5 year warranty on all their TVs. Worth having!