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How to buy an HDTV?

frankie (91710) writes | more than 5 years ago

Television 2

With the scary switchover fast approaching, L has expressed interest in replacing our 15yo tube. We are not big TV watchers, somewhere about halfway between typical well-educated suburbanites and annoying no-TV guy. We only buy limited basic cable, and mainly use the TV for DVDs and Wii (which I luckily scored on eBay).

My requirements:

With the scary switchover fast approaching, L has expressed interest in replacing our 15yo tube. We are not big TV watchers, somewhere about halfway between typical well-educated suburbanites and annoying no-TV guy. We only buy limited basic cable, and mainly use the TV for DVDs and Wii (which I luckily scored on eBay).

My requirements:

  • 1080p - we plan to keep this set a long while, eventually need the rez
  • 40+" - so it provides as much SD visual area as our old 32"
  • decent contrast & speed - for DVDs & Wii respectively
  • well under $1k - we're not trying to build a stadium theater with popcorn holders

This one looks promising, but I wonder if I should just ignore it and wait for big sales later in the year. Perhaps Black Friday? Suggestions would be appreciated.

p.s. Just a funny thing I ran across while researching HDTV.

cancel ×

2 comments

Contrast more important than resolution (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 5 years ago | (#25283507)

It's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to tell the difference between a 768p (funny how virtually no 720p TVs exist these days) and 1080p from any non-eye-bleeding viewing distance, but the contrast ratio is more visible, so if it's a choice, go for a lower resolution set with high contrast. That said, it's not easy to find a sub-40" TV that's not 1080i/p these days.

Ok, on the subject of 1080i/p:

In theory, there's no practical difference between an LCD/Plasma TV that's 1080i and one that's 1080p. That's because neither TV actually uses those as a base refresh method, so when such a TV is described as "1080i" it just refers to the data transmission format. Using a technique called reverse pulldown, all 1080i TVs should be capable of taking an incoming 1080i60 signal based upon a 1080p24 movie, and turn it back into a 1080p24 movie. Likewise, they generally can play the same trick on a 480i60 signal based upon a 480p24 movie, and turn it into a 480p24 movie. As virtually every feed these days is based upon content originally scanned at p24 or i60, this means you're unlikely to ever get a signal that would look better if put into the TV at p60.

That's the theory, and pretty much all flat planel TVs do the trick without problems for 480i60, but most apparently have problems with 1080i60.

But that's not the end of the story, you don't really want the TV limited to p60 input either to get an ideal signal, as 60 doesn't divide cleanly by 24. What you want, ultimately, is a TV that can receive a 1080p24 signal, and high-definition media devices that support 1080p24.

So, in short, don't just look for 1080p, look for something that accepts 1080p24 or that does a good job reverse pulldowning a 1080i60 signal. Otherwise you might end up with a TV that accepts 1080p60 without any real advantage in having that.

If I were shopping for a better TV right now, here would be my list of "must haves":

  1. 1280x720, or better (not going to turn down 1080, but it's not critical)
  2. High contrast ratio, there's no magic number here but 10,000:1 is fairly common.
  3. Supported incoming resolutions and refresh rates of 480i50, 480a60, 720a60, 1080p24, 1080p30, 1080i60 ("a" means both i and p here)
  4. 16:9 (shouldn't need to say it, and pretty much all large flat panels are), aspect-respecting zoom mode (for letterboxed content.)
  5. HDMI inputs (I'd like three or more, though if I were out to buy a new TV I'd probably consider getting a new receiver at the same time, one that does HDMI output based upon multiple HDMI, component, and composite inputs), a couple of component (progressive DVD player, Wii), and maybe a couple of composites (VCR, camera). Oh, and ATSC, naturally.

My list of "nice to haves" would include:

  1. Pseudo "p120" mode. Many TVs have this now, where they'll do a kind of time-based upscaling to insert additional frames based upon surrounding frames. Apparently the effect is extremely lifelike
  2. Firewire inputs and outputs. Relatively rare, but they exist and where they exist there exists external devices capable of recording the signal. HD recording options are a little restrictive right now.

While you're buying the TV consider getting an updated receiver, one that is capable of upscaling component and composite input and outputting everything through a single HDMI output, it'll make hooking everything up a lot easier as you can have the receiver control everything. Be careful what you get as a large number of receivers are advertised as supporting HDMI, but just have a crude switch in them that means you still need to fiddle with the TV for non-HDMI stuff.

And finally be aware that your SDTV feeds will look like crap - they'll almost certainly look worse than they did on your CRT, largely because the poor quality of the signal is less disguisable on a high definition TV. Digital artifacting from our satellite service that was never visible on our CRT was very visible on our first LCD TV. If your cable or satellite provider does HD, you will want to subscribe to that service and should factor in the cost of doing so into your purchase. It'll drive you nuts otherwise. The other option is to get a roof top antenna and an HD TiVo. I'd have done the latter, but L. likes satellite/cable.

Good luck!

Arigato, Squiggle-san (1)

frankie (91710) | more than 5 years ago | (#25283901)

Score: 5, Informative. Many thanks for the advice.

Expanding the search to 768 models lowers the price point by a lot.

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