Flat-Panel Televisions

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

If you're finally ready to trade your old CRT television for a sleek, flat-panel screen, you may need to do some research to get comfortable with all the new technology. Here's a little info to help you get started.


The Basics

  • The advantage of buying flat-panel televisions is that the picture is usually better than the old CRT (cathode ray tube) televisions, and they also take up a lot less space in your living room. 
  • Flat-panel TVs can hang on the wall using a special bracket (which should becarefully or professionally installed) and so it doesn't take up muchfloor or shelf space.

  • If you're going to mount your TV on a wall, also take into consideration the width (or depth) of the mounting bracket, which can make the TV stick out from the wall further than you'd like. For the ultimate sleek unit, consider an in-wall mount, which is built directly into the wall between the studs, and drywall is installed around it. This is very expensive, but worth it if you're after a super sleek look.

  • Screen size is always measured diagonally. Typical sizes range from 19" to more than 50". If you sit 10 feet or less from the TV, a 27-32" screen should be fine.

  • Picture quality is measured by counting the lines of resolution. The more lines, the better the picture. Standard TVs have about 270. LCD/Plasma around 480, and HD 1000+ lines. Don't mistake brightness for picture quality.

  • There are two main types of flat panel televisions: liquid crystal display (LCD) or plasma display.

    • LCD (liquid crystal display):

      • Similar to laptop screens, televisions range from around 20" up to 50" and beyond.

      • LCD offers a thin and flat-screen surface for brighter, sharper viewing.

      • LCDs can also double as computer monitor (for example, if you play PC games, you can usually hook your computer up to your larger LCD television screen if it has the right connections).

      • A narrower viewing angle means that you can’t sit too far off to the side.

      • Prices have come down over the last couple of years and you can often find some good deals. It's best to keep an eye out for sales so you may not even have to pay full price.

      • LCD and newer DLP (digital light processing) technology require that you replace the lamp periodically, at a cost of several hundred dollars. Be sure to read the manufacturer's warranty.

    • Plasma display:

      • Plasma gas is used in larger flat-panel models. This format relies on ultraviolet light emitted by highly ionized gas to activate phosphorus. Each panel consists of a few million tiny glass cells that contain gas along with red, green or blue phosphor. Three cells combine to form one pixel.

      • The screen is very thin, only 3-4 inches deep and has a wider viewing angle than LCD.

      • Plasma televisions tend to be more expensive than LCD.

      • You can hang this model on walls or mount it in units that have lifts to raise and lower in and out of view

      • These sets can magnify flaws in reception, so it is best to have high definition digital cable or satellite.

      • Usually require custom installation and set up.

Terms to Know

  • HDTV
    • Uses digital broadcasting signals to provide a picture with a resolution of about 1,080 lines (nearly triple conventional models).

    • "HD-ready" sets offer a standard tuner, but a decoder must be purchased separately. "HDTV sets" include an HDTV tuner and decoder but these may be even more costly.

    • If your antenna or cable connection provides a good strong signal, an HD-ready set can noticeably improve picture quality compared with an analog set.

    • HD technology also provides better picture quality when connected to a progressive-scan DVD player.

    • The availability of HD programming is growing every year. Many popular channels offer HD-versions as well.

  • Composite Video

    • Another name for standard RCA-jack video output.

    • Outputs mix together colour as well as black and white signals

    • This means the image is not as sharp or as clear as S- and component video.

  • S-Video

    • A small, round jack with a pin in the centre that separates video from audio.

    • Provides better video quality than composite outputs by isolating colour portion of video signal from the light factor

    • The s-video approaches the quality of component video.

  • Component Video

    • This delivers the highest level of video by splitting the signal into three digital parts.

    • Higher-end DVD players and receivers offer this connection.

    • For this to work, the source (DVD player) and TV must have the same outputs.

  • Comb Filters

    • These improve the overall picture quality.

    • Less-expensive models may cut costs by omitting a digital comb filter.

  • PIP

    • Picture-in-picture technology allows you to view two sources at once, with one appearing as an inset in a small window on the screen.

    • This is great for keeping eye on a second program or surfing during commercials. It does add to the cost of the television set.

  • V-chip Technology

    • This technology allows the user to control and block content. It allows parents to select which programs, channels, and ratings are allowed to be viewed in the home.

  • TV/VCR Combo 

    • This is a VCR packaged with TV in single unit. There are no wires to connect and the TV and VCR share single remote.If one component breaks down, you have to get the whole thing serviced.

Other Considerations

  • If you want to create the ultimate home theatre, you may want to purchase a special surround-sound speaker system to go with it your new television.




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