You can do a lot more than just channel surf with the new TVs on the market. Here are just a few of the features that may be on your next TV, or could be sitting on your current set waiting to be discovered.
First, a quick word on TV types: generally, the difference between LCD and Plasma come down to screen size and viewing location. LCD screens are good from about 19 inches on up to 65 inches, consume less power than plasma and can be viewed well in bright rooms. Plasma TVs suck up more power but are the best choice for screens 42 inches and larger and best viewed in dark rooms. Plasma TVs can also suffer from burn-in, or image retention, if a game or movie is left on pause for too long using a player that does not have a screensaver or auto shut-off.
When checking out the specification, unless you are a videophile, you really won’t see the differences between refresh rate and contrast ratio. What makes the most difference is the overall picture quality, which can vary from model to model and person to person. The picture image you like might seem washed-out to someone else. My best advice is to visit a store where you can see the different models side by side so that you can pick the one you like best.
Now, let’s get to the fun stuff. There have been quite a few changes that have been added to our beacon of information and entertainment over the last few years.
3D sets require those special glasses to make the stereoscopic 3D images pop out of your 2D screen, but instead of red and blue lenses the high-tech glasses uses liquid-crystal lenses that alternately block each eye 120 times per second, providing full HD-quality 3D video. If you want to learn more about how the technology works, pop over to cnet.com and look for their 3D TV FAQ. What I can tell you is that 3D sets are expensive and only found in the high-end models.
If you are in the market for a 3D TV you are going to want to do your research, but here are some things to keep in mind. Everyone needs to wear the glasses; anyone who doesn’t will have a distorted picture. Unless you have a PlayStation 3, you will need to get a new Blu-ray player that is 3D capable; older Blu-ray players will not play 3D movies.
Some TVs will have a 2D to 3D converter, but the quality will not be the same as content not originally created to be 3D.
Internet on TV
Your new TV probably has a few new inputs you might recognize from your computer. An Ethernet input will let you connect your TV to your home network using either an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi adapter. Once connected, your TV becomes an Internet portal that can retrieve to Videos from Netflix, music from Pandora or pictures from Flickr. You will also be able to connect to media from Hulu, Rhapsody, Picasa, YouTube and Vudu. Newer sets have Twitter, Facebook and Skype built into them. If your current TV isn’t Internet-ready, you can still connect to most of these services using devices you might already have connected to your TV, including Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3, TiVo and more.
When you have a moment, take a look at the back of some of the devices to see what else you could be using them for. You might also want to clean the dust off some of them. Of course, if you prefer not to deal with the knotted spaghetti of wire behind your TV, or have allergies, you could go the easy route and thumb through the owner’s manual. You did keep it, didn’t you?
Internet TV Apps
TV manufactures have taken Internet connectivity one step further with widgets that make connecting and managing Internet resources easier. Certain models also include built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth QWERTY keyboard for easier use of Wikipedia searches and Web TV. Other models will let you connect a keyboard to the USB port on the TV or have a keyboard built into the remote. Besides the quicker access your Social Networking sites you can have instant access to stocks or weather reports without having to flip away from your favorite reality TV show.
Most of us are familiar with connecting a camera or camcorder to the TV with a cable or, better yet, sliding the memory card into the built-in SD card reader. It isn’t strange anymore to see TVs with a USB input letting you play just about any media file on your portable hard drive or flash drive.
Services from Your TV Service Provider
Your TV service provider probably offers some interesting add-on if you switch to one of their all-inclusive plans that bundles TV, phone and Internet. Caller ID on your screen is a nifty feature and the ability to buy something on the home shopping channel by just clicking the “OK” button is downright scary.