The next step in preparing yourself to purchase a HDTV (after understanding the different types of HDTV’s) is figuring out what all the features and specifications listed on the box are and how they apply to you. These little details can have a huge impact on the quality of your potential TV and an even bigger impact on the price. Understanding some of these basic features will help you know where you can cut down and save money or where you should make sure you don’t skimp.
HDTV Features to Consider
The resolution of your HDTV is what makes the television a high definition television. In order to be classified as a HDTV, the minimum resolution must be 720p. While you’ll still find some HDTV’s with a maximum resolution of 720p, 1080p has become the new standard. 1080p resolution is what high definition video players like Blu-ray require for the maximum picture.
Resolution isn’t the only factor to consider in terms of picture quality but you’ll typically want to stick with a 1080p resolution HDTV unless you’re looking at smaller screen TV’s like the 32-inch or lower range. With a small screen, the visible difference between 720p and 1080p is almost impossible to detect.
Many experts believe that the contrast ratio is the most important factor to consider when you are evaluating picture quality. Contrast ratio is a measurement how well a TV can display the brightest whites and the darkest blacks.
Unfortunately, there is not a standard way to measure this specification so it is typically inflated by manufacturers. When you go to the store, you’ll find contrast ratios anywhere from 10,000:1 clear up to 10,000,000:1.
The numbers published by manufacturers shouldn’t sway your decision too much. The best way to compare this specification is to view the calibrated HDTV’s next to each other.
Ever watched a football game on an older HDTV? If you have, chances are you noticed some blurring as the camera constantly moves to keep up with the game. This is often affected by a poor refresh rate. Many older TVs have a low contrast rate of 60hz while many of the newer HDTV models go up to 240hz or more. Plasma TVs typically perform better in terms of blurring and refresh rate but LCD manufacturers are quickly catching up.
Again, one of the best ways to evaluate this is to tune into a channel with a lot of movement (sports events, action movies, etc.) and see for yourself.
Although not as critical, many people overlooked the connectivity options that their potential HDTV offers. You need to consider how you are going to use your HDTV and what kind and how many inputs you’ll need. You may be connecting a cable box, game console, laptop, digital camera, DVD player or any other number of external devices. Many of these devices use HDMI (which is typically preferred) but if you’re using an older DVD player (or an even older VHS player) you’ll want to make sure you have enough traditional RGB input options.
Another often overlooked feature is the quality of the built-in speakers. If you’re going to go all out and install an additional audio/video system, this might not be a big deal but if you intend to rely on the included speakers, you’ll want to make sure they are loud and clear enough for your use.
While in the store, make sure to crank up the volume and see if the audio works for you. You don’t want to end up taking something home that doesn’t meet your needs. Or if you do, it’s a great excuse to go shopping for surround sound systems!