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What TV is Best for Me?
Written by Kevin Miller   
Tuesday, 08 January 2008
lcdvsplasma.jpgWhat TV is best for me is a question that everyone should ask. It seems like the answer should be fairly simple, but in fact there are a lot of variables in making the right purchase decision when shopping for an HDTV. The best place to start is to ask yourself some basic questions:

What type of TV do you want (LCD, plasma or rear-projection TV)?

Where is the TV going to be located?

Will there be control over the light in the room for daytime viewing?

How far away from the screen will you be sitting? 

What is your budget?

If you are looking at flat panels, then LCD direct-view sets and plasma panels are your only two choices in terms of display technologies. Where the TV will live and what that environment is like is a key to choosing the best set for your needs.
For rooms that have good light control like bedrooms, dedicated media rooms, and living rooms that have shades on the windows, plasma is the best choice. Contrary to popular belief Plasma panels, generally speaking, produce better more accurate pictures. However, since they have glass screens ambient, light tends to produce significant reflections off of the glass. Consequently bright rooms with little or no light control are not the best viewing environments for plasma sets. It is also important to note that because plasma is a phosphor based display technology like the old CRT (Cathode Ray Tube), they are susceptible to burn from static images, which make them a bad candidate for gaming.
On the other hand if your HDTV is going to be in a room with little or no light control then an LCD flat panel would be the best choice. Since LCD flat panel sets do not have glass screen surfaces, reflection from light is not an issue, and they are also capable of extremely bright pictures that can better compete with ambient light. Furthermore, LCD panels do not burn so if you are into playing video games, as well as, watching movies the LCD flat panel would be a better choice then plasma.
Rear projection HDTVs, or what the industry has termed “Microdisplays”, are a waning display technology. Like all mature display technologies the RPTV, whether it be DLP or LCD based, are at their pinnacle in terms of picture performance and quality. These lamp based HDTVs are capable of producing very bright pictures and do not have reflective screens, and consequently are not a bad choice for multi-purpose rooms like living rooms and family rooms where much of the TV viewing will be done with significant amounts of ambient light in the room. For serious viewing in the evenings when the lights can be turned down a 6500 Kelvin backlight is recommended to prevent eye strain and fatigue caused by watching a very bright picture in the dark.
Another key question is how big a screen do you want? The right size set is directly related to how far away from the screen the main seating area will be, and the resolution of the TV. A good rule of thumb is to have seating start at two times the width of the screen, and move back from there for anything below 1080p resolution. If you step up to 1080p resolution then you could go with the 1.7 times screen width specification the ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) has set forth for the close seating specification for HDTV for viewers with perfect eyesight.
Finally, what is your budget? You should be a little flexible depending on how much picture quality means to you. Sometimes you can get a better performer by increasing your budget only slightly. One major advantage of rear projection HDTVs is price. LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), and DLP RPTVs with 60 to 70-inch screen sizes range from about $2,000 to $3,500, which is far more affordable than either LCD direct-view or plasma panels, which in those screen sizes range from about $3,500 to $30,000 depending upon the manufacturer and the display type.
If you can live with the considerably greater real estate a rear projection set will occupy in your living space then you will save a lot of money over plasma and LCD flat panels. Choose the right RPTV set and the picture quality will be comparable to the best flat panels. But time is running out. Sony has just recently announced that they are discontinuing their highly regarded SXRD RPTVs as of March, 2008; Panasonic has confirmed the cessation of LCD rear projection manufacture, and other manufacturers are likely to follow suit as the flat panel business continues to grow and dominate sales.
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Adam Truelove   | | 2008-05-30 08:18:29
Wow, way to perpetuate the myth that Plasma causes burn-in. It's myths like those that are killing plasma in the market. I am a major gamer and have been gaming on my plasma for over a year without any burn-in. Yes, there is some temporary image retention, but that is not the same as burn-in. To get true permanent burn-in, you would have to have a static image on the screen for a VERY long time, we're talking like a week or more. And as plasma gets better and better (assuming these myths don't scare people away and consequently kill the plasma market), it will become even less of an issue.

If you're going to even mention the B-word (burn-in) at least try to educate people about what it truly is, what causes it, and why there's no real need to worry about it.
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