Thursday, December 27, 2007

What will my budget get me?

As a rough guide we have listed some of our 'best buy' choices for LCD and Plasma screens. Our selection represents what in our opinion are the flat panel TVs which offer the best combination of price and performance.


Small Screen: Panasonic TX-26LXD70

Medium Screen: Panasonic TX-32LXD700

Large Screen: Samsung LE46M87BDX


Medium Screen: Panasonic TH-37PX70

Large Screen: Pioneer PDP-508XD


The number of different connections available with an HDTV are truly mind boggling. Salespeople, written Reviews and promotional material will often compare Plasma or LCD TVs by making reference to their connections.


When we talk about connections, we are referring to the differently shaped sockets that you will find at the back of an LCD or Plasma screen. The sockets we feature exist to connect a Visual or Audio / Visual (i.e. a DVD player) source to your screen.

Why so many different connections? Partly historical, Composite connections for example are now largely obsolete but remain on a new HDTV to provide backward compatibility - there are a lot of older products out there that you could not connect to your screen otherwise.

Competing formats, S-Video didn't really take off in the UK but is more popular in the US. Some IPOD docs (allow you to display IPOD content on your HDTV) use S-Video.

Again, with Scart and Component connections we had the introduction of an improved format. Scart is still popular in the UK and provides medium quality video.

HDMI and DVI are the latest digital formats for video /audio (HDMI) or video (DVI) carriage.

So where does this leave us? If you can use an HDMI connection to hook up a video source (DVD etc) to your screen then do so, the results are invariably better. Make sure your HDTV has at least two HDMI sockets.

Remember the other connections are there for a reason. Your old VCR may only be able to connect to your new HDTV through one of them.

Typical connections are described below in order from poor to best quality.


Composite connections are Low quality video for Cable and satellite boxes, VCRs, DVD players, game consoles. Composite Video combines the entire video signal into a single channel losing picture quality in the process. Best avoided if possible (remains a feature of new HDTV's for backward compatibility purposes - hooking up older equipment to your display etc).


S-Video provides Medium quality video. S-video is commonly used to connect VCRs, game consoles, or camcorders to a TV. S-video splits the video signal into two channels, luminance (Y) and colour (C). S-video is a higher quality video signal than Composite Video.


Scart provides Medium quality video. A common way of connecting TV and video equipment. The SCART delivers video and audio signals.


VGA provides Medium quality video. It is used primarily to hook up a PC to your HDTV.


Component provides High quality video. Component Video provides a high quality video connection between components such as DVD players and HDTV televisions. The three conductors use standard RCA connectors color coded green, blue, and red. Component Video is higher quality than S-video and Composite Video.


DVI provides High quality video. DVI delivers high definition video between components such as digital cable boxes and digital displays. While DVI provides comparable video quality to HDMI, audio must be carried on a separate connection.


HDMI provides High quality sound and video. For the best quality digital, HDTV audio/video connectivity use HDMI. HDMI carries high-definition video and multi-channel digital audio on a single cable, so no need for aditional audio and video cables.

HDTV - What size screen should I buy?

The first thing you need to decide is how large a screen you want. Usually, the largest screens cost the most, but regardless, the TV should deliver the right-size picture for where you'll sit relative to the screen.

Sitting closer to a smaller TV means you won't have to spend as much on a big screen. But if you sit too close, the picture will look poor.

Regular TV-viewing distances

Most viewers feel comfortable sitting away from the set at a distance that's between three and six times the width of the screen. The following chart can give you a rough estimate of the minimum and maximum viewing distances for normal 4:3 televisions.

4:3 TV diagonal screen size Min. viewing distance (in metres) Max. viewing distance (in metres)
13 0.8 1.6
19 1.2 2.3
20 1.2 2.4
24 1.5 2.9
27 1.7 3.3
32 2.0 3.9
36 2.2 4.5
40 2.4 4.9

Wide-screen TV-viewing distances

You'll notice that we said normal televisions. Wide-screen TVs showing high-resolution DVD and HDTV look better than normal sets, allowing you to sit closer and experience a more immersive, cinema-like picture.

With wide-screen sets showing DVD or HDTV, you can sit as close as 1.5 times the screen's diagonal measurement and not notice any loss in quality, while sitting farther away than three times the screen size means you're likely to miss out on the immersive feel. Here's a rundown of minimum and maximum recommended viewing distances for wide-screen sets.

16:9 TV diagonal screen size Min. viewing distance (in metres) Max. viewing distance (in metres)
26 1.0 2.0
30 1.2 2.3
34 1.3 2.6
42 1.6 3.2
47 1.8 3.6
50 1.8 3.8
55 2.1 3.9
60 2.3 4.6
65 2.5 4.9

Size and your room

Generally, 24-inch and smaller sets are perfect for bedrooms or guest rooms, but too small for the main living room. Sets with bigger screens are large enough for the whole family to enjoy and will probably be too much for most small bedrooms. Remember that traditional tube TVs are also fairly deep and get bulkier as the screen size increases. You'll want to choose a deep enough spot for the TV so that it doesn't protrude awkwardly into the room.

If you're mounting the set inside an entertainment centre, be sure it fits in every dimension; also, leave several centimetres on all sides so that the TV has enough ventilation. If you're getting a bigger set, you may want to consider a dedicated stand; many TV makers sell matching stands that increase the aesthetic appeal of their hefty boxes.

What HDTV technology is right for me?

You've decided that HDTV is for you and you're ready to hit the high street. You've heard about LCD, Plasma, and Rear Projection, but what are the differences? what are the pros and cons of each technology? and which one is right for me?

Plasma TVs

Plasma TV’s screens are perfectly flat. They produce natural, vibrant colours while maintaining a very high level of detail. Pixels on a Plasma screen are ‘lit’ at once, unlike normal TVs, where the image is scanned across the screen. The image is therefore sharper and brighter.

This is great for regular room lighting and can be watched from most distances and angles without affecting your viewing experience. Even as you get closer to the screen, you will not be affected by changes in picture or colour quality. They are only a few inches thin which provides a lot of options when it comes to installation.

In addition to stand mounting, they can be hung on a wall or from a ceiling. All plasma TVs are designed in widescreen.

Plasma displays do not use electron beams, as conventional TV displays do. They are therefore immune to the effects of magnetic fields. This allows for speakers to be placed quite close and will not compromise your home cinema set up.

Main advantages of Plasma over LCD are:

Larger screen size availability – Plasma screens range from 37" up to 60".
Better contrast ratio and ability to render deeper blacks.
Better colour accuracy and saturation.
Better motion tracking (little or no motion lag in fast moving images).

Main disadvantages of Plasma over LCD include:

Plasma TVs are more susceptible to burn-in of static images.
Plasma TVs generate more heat than LCDs, due to the need to light of phosphors to create images.
Does not perform as well at higher attitude.


LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. This means that the screen is made up of millions of tiny liquid crystal molecules, called pixels. These function like a camera shutter, allowing light to either pass through or be blocked as voltage is individually applied so they change state to create an 'image'. The colour is added to the LCD display through three filters (red, green, and blue) that are applied to each pixel. LCD TV screens always maintain sharp, clear pictures without reflection from artificial lights or bright sunlight through windows.

LCD technology is extremely lightweight therefore products are both highly portable and versatile. With screen sizes ranging from 13" (4:3) to 40"+ widescreen, this means you can watch LCD TV wherever you want!

This means flicker-free images for a more comfortable viewing experience with less eyestrain, even when viewing close-up. Also, since no static electricity is generated on a LCD screen it remains virtually dust free and clean for perfect viewing all the time.

Main LCD television advantages over plasma include:

No burn-in of static images.
Cooler running temperature.
No high altitude use issues.
Increased image brightness over plasma.

Main disadvantages of LCD vs. Plasma televisions include:

Lower contrast ratio, not as good rendering deep blacks.
Not as good at tracking motion.