What HDTV is right for you?

Three steps that will help you decide what display is right for your home

In this section of our HDTV shopping guide, we'll look at what you can do before you even set foot in a big box store to look for the HDTV that's right for you.

The three most important factors to consider for your upcoming HDTV purchase are: Screen size, footprint and budget. These are three factors that will have explicit numeric values and will dramatically affect your choices by automatically eliminating most of the TVs you'll see at the store.

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What screen size is right for you?

Are you looking for a really big 50" - 65" picture or something more modest in the way of a 32" inch set. Size does matter! According to an independent survey by Consumer Reports of HDTV buyers, screen size is directly proportionate to satisfaction. The most common complaint from new HDTV buyers is that they didn't get a screen large enough.

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To determine acceptable screen size first measure how far back from the screen you'll have to sit. The most satisfying viewing experience comes from a TV that covers as much peripheral viewing area as possible. However, remember that HDTV is finite, which means the larger the TV the larger the pixels. Sitting too close to an HDTV will expose imperfections in picture quality. If you're sitting 10 - 15' from the TV, a 50" is a very big TV set. Anything larger will expose graininess to someone with 20/20 vision. (Note: when measuring how far back your couch is from the TV include the distance from the wall to the back of the TV. You'll want to be able to reach behind your set periodically and see how connections are marked. This measurement will vary depending on our next factor, footprint.

So, once you've decided on a range of sizes you've eliminated every other size from your search.

Footprint: How much room do you have for a TV?

The amount of floor space the TV will take up is also called the TV's footprint. If you have enough room for a refrigerator on your living room's floor then you can include a CRT rear projector in your search. CRT rear projector TVs are huge and are the heaviest display technology. However, they're a lot cheaper than any other HDTV and have comparable picture quality. Most HDTV's will need to sit on a stand, so don't forget to include a few inches or more from the back wall in your measurement. You'll save yourself aggravation later if you give yourself room to comfortably reach behind the set and see the back. (Note: You should expect the HDTV to take up its screen size plus a few feet to compensate for the TV's depth and to allow of a bit of room to reach behind the TV.

Hanging a flat panel HDTV from the wall (shown in the marketing image above) is generally a fantasy. A flat panel LCD or Plasma TV can weigh almost 100 lbs. This will require a worthy anchor job to mount into the wall and you'll still have cables running from it. Only if you're handy with running wires through your wall and mounting good anchors should you even consider hanging a set from the wall. Remember, manufacturers won't honor a warranty for a broken set that has fallen from your wall due to poor anchors!

Budget: Decide what you can afford

Even if you have a bit of flexibility, it's always best to decide on a budget before anything else. Decide on a budget and stick to it. If expectations from your budget are blown out of the water when you finally look around at prices, make it a rule never to alter your budget on the showroom floor. Give yourself a day to reconsider. We know you're impatient and that your blood runs hot thinking about the new HDTV that will sit in your living room. Of course, you want it NOW!

If this is how you are feeling, this is gut check time folks: time to see if you really have advanced beyond the age of two. You may be surprised how many adults will knowingly make poor decisions because they're impatient. If a sales representative knows that you are excited and impatient, you may be vulnerable to their devious charms.

Give your whole shopping process a month at least. Remember, on average, you're going to spend between $2 - $5 thousand dollars on something that will be the focal point of your entertainment center for the next decade. This is a serious decision, so don't take budgeting lightly.

HDTV

Financing options are often favorable to the consumer in our age of easy credit and 0% APR. But remember to read the fine print. A 6 month same as cash deal may look nice on the first day of the agreement. However, if you haven't paid off your TV the day the six month is reached, you'll likely pay an outrageous interest rate on the entire cost of the item.

The next logical question is: What kind of display technology should I look for? You'll find that the three answers you give will speak directly to one or more exact display technologies. This means the kind of HDTV you should be looking has already been decided based on the answers you came up with from the three questions of Screen Size, Footprint and Budget. Let's take a closer look at the technology that is right for you.

Front projectors offer an alternative to TV. They're the only display device that will give you a varying image size depending on how far you place the projector from the screen. Projectors provide the largest screen you can get, although it's much more complicated to setup than a regular TV. For the true theater experience read more about front projectors.