Consumer Tips for big-screen TVs at 40"
Televisions with a viewing area of 40 inches or higher is where rear-projection sets come in at reasonable prices. There are a wide variety of direct-view CRT tubes available up to the 42" size. But any larger and the picture tube is simply too big and heavy so CRTs are usually found in a rear-projection method to produce 50" and larger. Rear-projection CRT, LCD, DLP and LCoS TVs can be found all the way up to 65", but very few are made beyond this size.
Rear-projection TVs are the most reasonably priced way to get a fantastic high-definition display to anchor your home theater. Rear-projection CRTs at the 40" size require the most space, as these are the monsters of the TV world. The fixed-pixel display methods (DLP, LCoS and LCD rear projectors) are all much smaller and can get as narrow as 8" deep at the widest point of the TV. Although CRT RPs have come a long way in shallow design, they'll require a larger footprint in your living room and could weigh well over 200 pounds. Like all rear-projection TV types they're not perfectly flat like a flat-panel TV; for flat panels you must seek out a direct-view LCD panel or plasma.
Because rear projectors project light onto a lenticular screen, they are designed to be viewed straight-on; too sharp an angle will lose considerable brightness and detail. This means if you sit too far to one side or even stand up so you're looking down toward the screen you're going to lose most of the brightness in the display. This is the drawback of the rear projection and a huge strength in any direct-view display - direct view will look just as clear and bright no matter how steep an angle it's viewed from. In certain situations, a rear projector might not be suitable, but for most living rooms viewing at a sharp angle is only a theoretical concern. If a 50" TV is sitting in the middle of your living room, facing outwards, you'd need a very large room for any viewers to be forced to view from such an angle they'll lose brightness in the images. Advances in lenticular designs have made the viewing angle much wider than it used to be, so if you're considering a rear projector and are concerned about viewing angle, you should test it first. Take exact measurements of your room, where the screen will sit, where viewers are liable to sit. You might be surprised to see that the set you're looking at might be big enough so that nobody is really sitting outside the viewing angle at all. The workaround for the limitations of the rear projector is, of course, the direct-view LCD or plasma, but for either you'll pay a premium price. If cost wasn't enough of a deterrent each display type has its own drawback so you'll want to research direct-view LCD and plasma carefully before making a final decision.
Direct-view plasma and LCD can reach the 50" mark these days and as technology advances they'll get even larger. The biggest plasma made today has an 80" viewing area, but don't expect to see anything that large on display at your local TV shop. Even a 50" plasma might be hard to find unless you live in a major urban area and can hit up the specialty shops. Name brand 50" plasma go for around $4K, but you can save about $1K going for a direct-view LCD panel. A direct-view LCD might cost around $3K for a 50". For plasma, you don't have to be concerned with dead pixels when they're brand new like you would for LCD. But plasma's most significant potential pitfall is the potential for burn-in. There are some questions about their longevity, that plasma TVs start to fade in a short period of time, but this is largely a myth. Although we can't provide figures that say exactly how long any plasma set will last, there is no reason to believe it's any less than a CRT.
For direct-view LCD there are potential problems right from the manufacturer. The dead or "stuck" pixel is a problem that can affect a brand new LCD panel where one or more pixels are stuck on a certain color. LCD panels blemished in this manner stand out when the afflicted pixel is closer to the middle and there are significant contrasts between the shades of the dead pixel and the rest of the screen. Since it's a manufacturing defect, you're not likely to have one simply pop up in a good working panel. So, it's important to know the dead pixel/return policy of your manufacturer and retailer when buying LCD. Many manufacturers won't refund an LCD panel with dead pixels as they retain a policy that says a certain number of dead pixels is acceptable. Sony for one calls the dead pixel a "feature" of the LCD panel's manufacture. The dead pixel is no more prevalent in a larger displays than smaller ones, but panels in the 40" range are more likely to show horrible results due to one.