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HDTV buying guide

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A Guide to HD TV - An Introduction

High Definition, or hdtv tv sets are big news in home entertainment systems because they allow you to watch films or broadcasts and view videos and photos at the same quality they were made in.

This is a big step up in terms of quality viewing and the range of choices is wide and exciting, since new technology is bringing the better definition (think vastly improved picture quality) sets, such as those with widescreen hdtv and flat screen hdtv into the reach of all consumers.

Just how much better are the new hdtv pictures? The numbers tell us a hdtv set offers five times more resolution than a standard TV, because the picture has more information per screen inch than the older kinds. To understand this difference, look at a colour photo printed in a newspaper, then compare it to one from an expensive glossy magazine. The top hdtv sets offer at least that much of an improvement.

Everyone agrees the new hdtv television sets look great, but what confuses many customers is the buckets of jargon used to sell these hdtv televisions. After a few minutes of research, consumers can find themselves up to their ears in technical terms.

We understand all this new stuff gets a bit confusing, when all you want is to get a better picture on your tv set. Our guide aims to inform you about the best choices and ensure you are hdtv ready when you choose your first full hdtv television.

For a simple and straightforward guide, see our section on Types of HD TV, and if you need definitions of terms, the Jargon Buster section will explain common abbreviations and expressions used for HD TV.

Tips to consider before buying HD TVs

  • When scouting for models at local stores, be aware some salesmen tune their sets up to look better than they are, by boosting the settings for colour and brightness.
  • All the devices that you use with a hdtv tv must be compatible. Some newer appliances such as the Sony Cybershot DSCW270 Digital Camera already have the correct cables and slots to connect up.
  • hdtv lcd tv sets now come in sizes as small as 15 inches, while plasma hdtv sets start at around 37 inches.
  • To make sure you can use your new hdtv television right out of the box, check satellite receivers, home cinema systems, cable links, media players and any games or cameras you may want to connect up, to see if new cables are needed, then order these at the same time you buy your hdtv tv.
  • High Definition can also be referred to as HD, H D, High Def and Hi Def.
  • If you try to watch hdtv on a new set and find it is over bright, the colour is too saturated and its generally not what you saw on the model you examined, know that factories ship these sets out with controls turned up very high and an adjustment will calm it down nicely.
  • The ideal distance for viewing a TV is its size in inches multiplied by two.
  • The ideal distance for viewing a TV is its size in inches multiplied by two.
  • If you, or a family member likes to snap away with a digital camera, make sure your purchase has a slot that lets you view photos straight from the memory card, or a place to plug in link to the camera.

Types of HD TV

The best hdtv choice for you depends on available space and funds. This part of the guide shows you how to compare the common types and sizes to help you choose the right option. The main kinds are lcd hdtv, rear-projection and plasma hdtv, each with its own set of advantages and drawbacks.

plasma hdtv sets come in sizes ranging from small hdtv sets at 37 inches (measured diagonally) to medium sizes, like a 42 plasma hdtv or large models at 65 inches and insanely huge and expensive ones at 100inches and up. They are all hdtv tv capable, and the picture quality difference between the less expensive 720p and more expensive 1080p models is hard for most of us to notice at viewing distances more than 10 feet away. (The small p stands for pixel, and refers to how many of those little dots make up the picture, per inch.) However, Blu-ray Discs do use the 1080p format, and video enthusiasts may want it, if their cameras support it.

The troubles older models experienced with “burn-ins” have largely vanished due to pixel-shifting technology which you don’t see, but moves the picture around. Reducing the resolution of the picture by turning down the brightness and contrast settings also helps prevent this problem.

The latest plasma hdtv sets should have speakers and an integrated hdtv tuner built in, check these are offered to avoid extra expense when buying one.

lcd hdtv sets come in smaller sizes than their plasma hdtv big brothers, with the smallest at 15 inches, a typical medium size 32 lcd hdtv and the largest sizes at 55 inches and larger.

The price gap between hdtv lcd tv and plasma models has narrowed enough, with internet prices dropping by over 20% in the last 12 months, to allow shoppers a choice between either kinds, if they suit their needs.

Although lcd hdtv sets receive some criticism from gamers and expert home video buffs, because they are slower to display the picture leading to a slight blur, (fixed in newer sets with anti-blur systems) they do offer some significant advantages over plasma sets in running cooler and quieter and having no burn-in problems. Viewing their screens in a bright and sunny, or well lit room is no problem, a place where plasma sets really don’t do well. If moving the location of your set is likely, a typical hdtv lcd tv is 25 to 33% lighter than a comparable plasma set.

Features and Brands of HD TV

Like all major electrical appliances, the name brands of hdtv tv, such as Samsung and Panasonic offer more security, since you know their warranties will be honored and parts available. Names from other countries sometimes have no service support and you may find yourself left with an expensive bookmark, months down the road. ToshibaSamsung and Hitachi are also trustworthy household names, for which you may pay a few more pounds, but with the numbers of models flooding the market at present, causing prices to fall, small savings on hdtv tv sets from unknown companies are just not worth it.

Features to look for include:

  • The resolution, (or how good a picture you will get), should be at least 720p.Anything lower can be disappointing to view.1080p is important for owners of Blu-ray Discs and high definition video cameras.
  • One or more HDMI inputs, the best way to connect up, since it is 100% digital, or a DVI with HDCP, which gives the same quality, or component, which can take HDTV signals.
  • A widescreen hdtv tv set gives the kind of view you see when going to watch a film at the local theater. The ratio is 16:9, compared to a standard set of 4:3.You see this difference when a Tv displays black edges above and below the picture.
  • HDMI means “high definition multimedia interface”, a complex way to express the standard format used for inputs, outputs and cables to hook up your hdtv tv to other devices.
  • SCART, another clunky standard format term, is the older, non- high definition system for hooking things up.

Best buys on HD TVs

Our picks start with the popular SONY KDL19S5710 19 INCH LCD TV that gets a well deserved 5 star rating from consumers. At a very portable 5.8Kgs, it’s a great second lcd hdtv set to take to any room in the house or a main one in crowded quarters. Features include the” must-haves” we discussed above and some nice extras such as a USB port for connecting to digital cameras, video camcorders and media players or anything else you can think of, while the 2 HDMI ports connect to a Blu-ray Disc players and gaming tools like Playstation. This model supports the Sony name for great picture definition, comes in at just over three hundred pounds, representing great value in a small package.

For a medium size plasma hdtv the Samsung LE40B650T2W - 40" Crystal TV LCD TV is hard to beat, since all the usual plasma issues have been resolved by Samsung hdtv with a superior motion blur system to satisfy sports fans and great saturation in the darker tones. Offering 1080p and widescreen viewing, a USB port, input and outputs for HDMI, SCART and Component devices, its patented Crystal TV screen gives a true and pleasing picture. The Samsung lcd hdtv is a good looking set to grace any room and while a bit higher in price than the popular 32 model it replaces, well worth it.

A larger luxury plasma hdtv model to fit the whole family around or to watch the big game in style comes from Panasonic, who along with Sony seem to benefit from also being manufacturers of highly rated Digital Cameras, since they offer the best quality pictures we have seen. This Panasonic TH50PZ80B 50 inch VI has drawn rave reviews from some of our customers with no previous experience of larger size plasma sets The difference in visible details and the natural skin tones are two of the most remarked upon features on this model. As you might expect from a top of the line model, USB ports, 3 HDMI and 2 SCART connections, plus 1080p, widescreen view and anti-retention system to prevent burn-in comes as standard.

Jargon Explained

lcd tvlcd tv: One of the two types of HD TVs
plasma hdtvplasma hdtv: The other type of HD TV.
Contrast ratioThis is a measurement of the brightest and darkest shades a TV can display.
“burn-ins”“burn-ins”: An issue with plasma sets that is solved by picture moving systems, which twitch the picture, in a way that is not viable to the eye.
DVIStands for digital video interface, a term often found on a connectors for HD TV.
HDCPHigh-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection, designed to prevent copy write issues.
HDMIStands for “high definition multimedia interface”, the most advanced system and information you need to know when buying connectors and cables.
hdtv receiverhdtv receiver: This picks up broadcasted signals transmitted in the HD format.
FreesatA satellite TV company broadcasting free HD TV which requires the purchase of a compatible TV top box, or device with one built in.
hdtv cablehdtv cable: Connector used to hook up a hdtv.
hdtv monitorhdtv monitor: A monitor which can to become an hdtv if you add a hdtv tuner.
hdtv tunerhdtv tuner: A receiver for HDTV signals which can be built in, or sit on top of the TV, also known as a HDTV receiver, hdtv box set-top box or HDTV decoder.
hdtv dockhdtv dock: A device for connecting up devices with memory cards, such as a Digital Camera to your TV.
hdtv outhdtv out: Refers to the cable or port for connecting to HD TVs.
wii hdtv cablewii hdtv cable: The Wii HDTV cable lets you to connect a Wii console to a HD TV.
integrated hdtvintegrated hdtv: A TV with a built in digital turner.
hdtv pvrhdtv pvr: A “personal video recorder”, with high definition capabilities.
1080p hdtv1080p hdtv: A TV set with the highest definition picture currently available. 

Buying Guide to HDTV
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