Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : November 2006

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 TECHNOLOGY TALK:

BY JOHN ANDERSON  

Choosing a New TV

Once considered a luxury item, big-screen TVs are becoming more and more common. Once you decide to seriously start looking at large-screen TVs, you find out that you have a range of types to choose from: CRT, DPL, LCD, HDTV. But what does it all mean, and which one is right for you? Let’s find out.

CRT
Cathode ray tubes (CRTs) are the TVs we’ve used for the last 50 years. CRTs are also used for the big, boxy computer monitors (not the flat-panel ones). CRT technology is not yet obsolete, and you can actually get a great picture – and in some cases, an even better one than a plasma TV or an LCD TV. However, two things a CRT set cannot be is thin and big (screen size, that is). For thin sets you can hang on a wall or screen sizes that really put you in the action, you need to look elsewhere.

Flat Screens
When you think of buying a new TV, the first thing you probably think of is a sexy flat screen. Not only do they look good, but even the large-screen versions are easy to hide if you don’t what the TV to be the rooms’ center of attention. There are two types of flat-screen televisions on the market today, LCD and plasma.

-  Plasma. Plasma TVs have a larger screen size with a higher contrast of color, offering a clearer, brighter picture. They also tend to be a little less expensive than their LCD counterparts.

-  LCD. Liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs are more energy-efficient and don’t suffer from “burn in”, which will permanently burn an image on the screen if it is displayed too long. LCDs also absorb light instead of reflecting it, providing a better picture in brighter rooms. If you are seriously considering a flat-panel TV, the best thing to do would be to visit the store and look at them side be side. If possible, sample movies and sports on the sets and decide which is best for your type of viewing.

-  DLP. Dual light processing (DLP) TVs are rear-projection TVs. They have great color accuracy, low power consumption and high contrast and brightness. The greatest advantage that a DLP TV has over Plasma and LCD screens is that you won’t run into the problem of pixelization. Pixelization is sometimes called the “screen door” effect. It happens when you are able to see the outline of the pixels that make up the picture. Pixelization can also cause some images to seem jagged. This is not such a problem with better, more expensive plasma TVs. Another big advantage of DLP TVs is price; DLP TVs are generally less expensive than a plasma TV or LCD set. While a DLP TV isn’t going to be as thin as a plasma TV, it will cost less, and it will provide a film-like quality to movies at a very affordable price.

HDTV
High-definition television (HDTV) is not a type of TV but rather a feature of the TV, or the future of TV, depending on who you talk to. It has been labeled the ultimate TV experience. Television stations transmit richer, brighter, deeper and more clearly-defined, high-definition broadcast signals. But you need an HDTV set and be watching an HDTV program to benefit from HDTV. Don’t be confused. Some people who think they are watching an HD signal on an HDTV are just watching a regular signal.

Price
If price is an issue, here are a couple of ideas to help work your way up to the TV of your dreams. Begin with a starter TV. Buy a smaller, high-quality LCD that you can use later in life on the kitchen counter or in your bedroom. Or combine tasks by buying a large LCD monitor that you can use as both a TV set and a monitor for your computer. (Make sure it has inputs for all of your TV and computer needs.)

Size
If you have a small room, 32 inches may be perfect. There is a mathematical equation that says to measure the distance from the couch to the screen, that it should be three times the diagonal size of your screen.

Well, that’s fine, I guess . . . unless you’re a movie buff like me. For me, the bigger the better, but be warned: if you have a big screen and you sit too close, you notice more imperfections.

If you are unsure of the size or need to come up with a compromise with the denizens of the household, here’s a way to figure out the best size. Choose the three sizes of TV screens you could buy and cut out three pieces of cardboard to those sizes. Tape or lean them in the prospective TV location. Go sit on the couch. Is it too big? Too small? Do you want it on the wall, on a stand, on the ceiling? Let the cardboard be your guide, then go buy the set.

Compare
Compare features, not just prices. One of my favorite places to go to compare prices on TVs is ConsumerReports.org. Once you have narrowed your choice of size, type and price, go to the store and compare them side by side.

With all the different choices choosing a new TV may seem daunting, but knowing the differences will definitely pay off. You get the picture.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: November 2006

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