Match your needs to the type of TV you're looking for
To study the recent developments in TV technology is to wade through masses of acronyms. DLP, LCD, LCoS are just the beginning. If you think the acronyms for the technologies that give you a picture are confusing, try delving into each companies proprietary video circuitry, video enhancements and other processes that supposedly perfect the images. Let's just strip it down to the basics. In this section of our HDTV shopping guide we've already done the homework and determined what we need in a new HDTV. Now let's match those needs with what's out there, today.
The "best" all around HDTV: LCD flat panel
One of the most common questions we get asked in the consumer electronics is this: What's the best kind of HDTV? Well, most decline to give a straight answer and favor using more inclusive politically correct answers, sensitive to individual opinions. Well, the time has come for that to end. There is a BEST and it's the LCD flat panel. Yes, that's right it is the Best.
The recent advancements in TV technology exist because we want TVs that are flatter, lighter, more energy efficient, and that have larger screen sizes. In the current HDTV market, circa mid 2006, the winner is the LCD panel which will give you the best of all these traits. So, if money is no issue and you're looking for the best possible picture, the most reliable set is an LCD panel.Consider an LCD flat panel if:
- Reliability is your primary concern. LCD is an established technology and the most reliable TV you'll find;
- You're prepared to spend a little extra for a larger screen size. If you're only looking for a screen size at 35" or less, an LCD panel can be found at a reasonable cost; and
- You require a set with a very small footprint, LCD panels and Plasma are as flat as they come.
What about Plasma?
Plasma TVs have very nice image quality and are very affordable these days. You can find plasma HDTVs for less than a comparably sized LCD. This gives you some insight as to where the market is going: Plasma is falling out of favor. This, however, should come as no surprise to people who are interested in technology and who understand the industry. Plasma displays use more energy than LCD and are susceptible to burn-in. Burn-in is a classic problem with CRT displays, and refers to an image that remains on screen for very long times. In extreme cases, an image can become burned into the screen permanently. Most plasma TV owners will tell you it takes an extraordinary long time for an image to burn in, but there is nothing worse than burn-in happening to your TV.
Plasma has always had the advantage in speed (response times) and screen size over LCD. Although LCD panel size has finally caught up, Plasma still has a faster response time. A measure of an LCD panel's speed is given in the rise/fall rating. That's the amount of time it takes for a pixel in an LCD panel to go from one color to another. You'll find this rating on LCD panels because they are slow compared to other display types. Newer LCDs are getting faster all the time and now have respectable response times, but they'll never provide as fast a refresh rate as CRT or Plasma. Even still, it's doubtful you'll ever notice the difference between an LCD panel's response time versus a Plasma panel's response time.
The term micro-displays refer to rear projectors that have images produced by micro components--usually either a DLP or LCD chip. Micro-displays use a lamp that illuminates a very tiny image that is projected onto a large screen within the confines of the TV. It uses a complex system of lenses and the lamp must be replaced usually between 2 to 6 thousand hours of operation. Incidentally, lamps cost about $200.
- Your footprint requirement is relatively small. You can fit a micro-display set onto a compact shelf even if the set itself is very large. A 65" micro-display rear projector may be about a foot deep;
- Your desired screen size is very large. At 40" or greater the micro-displays are a consideration;
- You're looking to save money. LCD and DLP rear projectors will save you a bundle on the price of a comparably sized flat panel HDTV; and
- You're prepared to consider an extended warranty. Micro-displays are the most complex TV systems. According to Consumer Reports, all micro-displays have the highest rate of failure in the first three years.