The dooyoo guide to trends in televisions 2009 - HDTV, CRT, LCD or Plasma, there was a time when a television was just a television. However, with the rollout out of digital services and the switching off of the analogue signal over the next few years (not to mention the competing High Definition successors to the DVD player) the choices facing a potential purchaser have mushroomed.
Fed up with adjusting the coat hanger to get a better signal? Bored with terrestrial schedules that consist of wall-to-wall Big Brother? Don't know your Scart from your elbow? dooyoo's buying guide will outline the available choicesof television, bust some of the jargon and steer you through the process of replacing your old set.
The dooyoo buying guide offers insights into the exciting new technology behind the latest televisions from Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba, JVC, Samsung and Philips to name but a few. Combining customer reviews and opinion in an informed mix we hope to make your purchasing decision a little easier.
The dooyoo website combines consumer reviews and price comparison in an intelligent mix. We offer tests, opinions and the best prices all in one place and constantly updated. We show you current products and offer advice and information on selection and purchase.
Analogue switch off (are you ready for digital?) - If you live in Whitehaven you have already seen the news, or perhaps found yourself staring perplexed at a blank television screen. The analogue signal is being turned off. Digital TV is coming, soon, to a new TV or set top box, near you.
Television programmes are currently transmitted on UHF with each broadcaster assigned a channel, or channels, numbered between 1 and 68. The available spectrum for these transmissions is threatened with overcrowding and so a new digital technique known as 'multiplexing' is being introduced and will eventually supercede the current method, a process which is due to be completed by 2012.
As well as providing a wider range of channels, 'multiplexing' also promises crisper pictures and a range of interactive possibilities. It is also available right now and for free (well at least to the majority of UK households) in a variety of different flavors and you do not necessarily have to buy a new TV to enjoy it.
Digital terrestrial - Freeview, Digital satellite -Sky TV, Digital Cable - NTL and Telewest can all be accessed on your existing set using the appropriate set-top boxes, satellite or cable decoders.
So What is HDTV? - Despite the fact that you can receive the new digital signal with a set top box, to enjoy High Definition Television (HDTV) in its full glory you will need a HD ready television.
Though the majority of digital programming is currently only broadcast at standard resolutions, the main terrestrial channels are all already offering some HD content across an ever growing number of platforms and Sky is currently offering 12 HD channels.
So what is HDTV? A standard television picture is made up of 480 lines, updated one at a time. HDTV comes in three distinct formats, all of which display a far higher number of lines and vary in the way they are updated.
720p is the HD format currently used by most UK broadcasters. As the name suggests the picture is constructed from 720 lines but, additionally, the image is scanned progressively (as opposed to the interlaced method of the 480 line picture). This means that the whole picture is loaded at once, rather than line by line, resulting in an image which is both far sharper and freer of flicker.
1080i is an even higher resolution but the image is interlaced (updated one line at a time) and 1080p is the most detailed of all, deploying a progressive scan technique. As you may have guessed 1080 resolution T.V.s tend to command premium prices.
If you are considering investing in a HD-DVD or Blu-ray DVD player or want to hook up your PS3 to your television then the highest of these resolutions will deliver truly spectacular image quality however, as previously stated, broadcasters are only currently using the 720p format and 1080 ( 'i' or 'p' ) format signals can still be accessed using 720p televisions (albeit 'downgraded' to the lower resolution). High Definition is not going away and if you are considering the purchase of a new television then HD capability is a widely recommended option. All of the televsions we mention in this guide are HD ready.
CRT - Reports of the death of the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) televsions have been a little exaggerated but, whilst manufacturers continue to release new models with flatter screens and crisper pictures, it is clear that the future belongs to LCD, or perhaps Plasma.
CRTs are far cheaper than their more up to date relatives and still present an option worth considering for a second television (though in many cases an additional digibox will be required to access the new digital transmissions and HD compatibility is rare). Models incorporating digital tuners and/or DVD players might still be an appealing choice where budgets are tight and they are available in widescreen formats. HD ready models (generally under 32") are few and far between but if space isn't an issue they are well worth considering if you can track them down.
LCD - The increasingly ubiquitous Liquid Crystal Display consists of a layer of molecules set between two transparent electrodes which are polarized. This twisted crystal technique, originally produced with computer screens in mind, produces pin sharp detail and flatter screens and is ideally suited to (and formulated for) the conversion of a digital signal into an image, as each pixel that builds up the image is controlled uniquely.
LCD televsion sets weigh far less than their CRT forebears but are more expensive. Whilst the pictures they produce can be of stunning quality they may disappoint when used to view PAL (analogue) material, either transmitted or from a VCR.
Despite this misgiving it is important to remember that the PAL format is soon to be consigned to the dustbin of history and with the arrival of High Definition Television (either transmitted or from the new generation of recorders, hard drive, Blu-ray or HD-DVDV) the LCD reigns (almost) supreme.
The limited viewing angles and occasional digital artifacts that plagued earlier generations of this technology are now largely a thing of the past as the built in chips used to refresh the picture increase in their speed and accuracy. Power consumption has also been addressed, good news for both your bank balance and the environment.
At between £200 and £500, small LCD televisions (up to 32") generally have picture aspect ratio of 4:3 (though widescreen models with a 16:9 ratios are becoming more common), lower refresh rates and basic Nicam Stereo. These budget models are ideal as a second set but still deliver a clarity of picture that can be startling.
Good examples of these budget models are: Samsung LE-19R86BD, Philips 26PFL5403D
For between £500 and £1000, picture quality and sound improve dramatically with screen sizes up to 42", faster refresh rates, Dolby stereo and a wider range of inputs and outputs.
Good examples of medium range sets are: Philips 32PFL7603D,LG 32LG5700, Sony KDL-40W4500.
At the top of the range, for between £1000 and £3000 you can find enormous screens, on sets which feature the best the technology has to offer, Dolby virtual stereo and the highest possible image quality. If you are considering spending this kind of money you might also want to take a look at the Plasma options.
Good examples of of High-end models include: Panasonic TH-42PZ80B and the Samsung PS-50A556.
Plasma TVs - Whilst LCD televisions currently dominate the market, there are a number of reasons for considering a Plasma television. Larger screen sizes, higher contrast ratios and richer images, as well as a lack of some of the digital glitches which occasionally disturb the image quality of LCDs, can make this technology an attractive choice especially if you are looking for a larger screen model. Fans of plasma TVs argue that despite lower resolutions than LCDs, Plasmas have better contrast ratios resulting in deeper blacks and they handle violent movement without the occasional digital glitches this can produce with LCDs.
The downside of Plasma TVs is that they tend to be more expensive, heavier, consume more power and have (slightly) shorter lives. Image burn in (as a result of static images being displayed for long periods) can also be a problem. In truth, at least at the higher end of the price range, there is an increasing convergence of specifications and performance to price. Up to 40" LCDs probably represent better value for money (indeed you will be hard pressed to find a plasma below this size) but beyond that the Plasma still has much to recommend it.
Best Plasma TVs: Panasonic TH-42PZ80Band theSony FWD-50PX3/B
Projection TVs - If you are looking for a big screen home cinema experience there is a cost effective alternative to the plasma television, the rear projection TV. As the name suggests, rear projection TVs use CRT, LCD or DLP (Digital Light Processing) to project the image onto the screen using an array of tiny mirrors. The angle of the mirror, in combination with a colour wheel, determines whether the individual pixel is light or dark as well as its colour.
DLP sets tend to be cheaper than flat panel options, delivering excellent sharpness and colour fidelity and they are immune to screen burn. On the down side they are much bulkier, offer restricted viewing angles (in smaller sized sets), the colour wheel can produce a rainbow effect visible to some viewers and as they are not as bright as LCD or Plasma TVs are consequently best viewed in a darkened room. Despite these misgivings if you are looking for a truly gigantic screen but balk at the cost of a Plasma set they are certainly worth a look.
Key features to check when buying a television - Resolution:
Unlike their CRT predecessors, LCD monitors have a native-supported resolution for best display effect (this is why analogue sourced pictures can look a bit odd on an LCD as they are stretched or compressed to fit the native resolution of the monitor). The horizontal and vertical size is expressed in pixels (e.g., 11920 x 1080 expressed as 1080). Domestic digital TV in the UK (even HD) is currently transmitted at 480i but 780p is the already a common HD format and plans are afoot for even higher picture resolutions (1080p, currently available only from a HD source like a Playstation or HD DVD player).
The ratio of the width to the height of the image (for example, 4:3, 16:9 or 16:10). The majority of analogue T.V is currently broadcast in 4:3 ratio - LCD television with a 16.9 ratio will compress or distort the image to fit with varying degrees of success - a problem which also effects widescreen CRTs and Plasmas. Widescreen broadcasts (in the digital format) are becoming more commonplace and will eventually replace the old format offering a more immersive viewing experience.
LCD screens are generally a little dimmer than CRTs and Plasma televisions, which can have negative implications for the quality of the viewing experience in a dimly lit environment. Luminance is measured in Candelas (Cd/m≤) 1 Candela being equivalent to the light of a single candle). LCDs generate 400 Cd/m≤ or more, the higher the number the greater its luminance. Technologies like Philip's Ambilight have asignificant impact on the perceived brightness of the image.
The minimum time necessary to change a pixel's color or brightness. Faster response times eliminate the noise generated by rapid camera movements. The latest LCD televisions should have a response time of 20 milliseconds or less and this is one of they key areas in which they are distinguished from some LCD computer monitors.
LCD screens initially suffered from restricted viewing angles, this is no longer the case but the wider the viewing angle the better. When buying any television it is important to take into account where you will be watching it, is the room bright or dark? Can you sit comfortably at the optimal viewing distance and angle from the set? Put a huge televsion in a small room and you may find yourself too close physically to the screen to appreciate the image at its best quality. Viewing distance is also a key factor in deciding which television is right for you.
|2.4m - 3m||23"-32"|
|3m - 3.6m||36"-42|
The ratio of the intensity of the brightest bright to the darkest dark. As previously discussed the LCD Television does not work to its fullest advantage in brightly lit spaces, the contrast ratio determines how effective it will be. Unfortunately there are a variety of different ways of measuring this and few take into account the impact of ambient lighting which means that the figure stated by the manufacturer should be treated with a healthy degree of skepticism. Plasma TVs generally offer higher contrast ratios and though its measurement maybe elusive, contrast ratio is probably the most important factor in determining the quality of the viewing experience. Obviously the highest ratios are better.
At the very least your new television should have a couple of scart sockets and component video inputs. To get the full picture quality from HD-playback devices or to be able to hook up a computer or Playstation, you will need the appropriate input ports (HDMI and DVI). A PC input is also handy if you want to hook up your computer to an LCD television. Even if you are looking at budget option, do not economise on cables.
Digital TV also means a vast improvement in the quality of the sound as well as the image. It is worth considering the various options that can greatly enhance the viewing experience.Nicam Stereo is the standard format offered by the majority of built in speakers on televisions and, if your television is equipped with the right outputs, feeding it out to an external amplifier and speakers will provide decent quality stereo sound. Virtual Dolby, as the name implies, uses the internal speakers on your television to simulate a basic surround sound experience. As with all systems that rely on the television's built in speakers, it is at its most effective when the viewer is situated directly in front of the TV. Dolby ProLogic is a five speaker system which the majority of television is currently broadcast in. Dolby Digital 5.1 delivers five separate channels of sound and is the official standard for HDTV, currently available on DVD, Sky Digital's Sky+ boxes, PlayStation 2 & 3 and X-box. Obviously to make the most of digital sound a home cinema system (amplifier and speakers designed for this specific purpose) is well worth considering.
It is important to be aware of the fact that some very high end televisions, in common with video projectors, actually have no built in speakers and assume that you will use an additional audio set up. The other thing to be aware of is that (along with the visual signal) the cable along which it is transmitted can make a huge amount of difference and, even if you settle for budget speakers, cheap cable is invariably a false economy.
Summary of buying advice - There are a number of key factors in choosing the televsion which is right for you, but in the end they boil down to your budget and the likely viewing distance from the screen.
The largest televisions tend to be more expensive, though multiple HDMI inputs, proprietary filtration, image enhancing and integrated tuners will also have an impact on the price. We would certainly recommend that you buy a HD ready model as this will greatly enhance your viewing pleasure and the future compatibility of your new set.
LCD and Plasma technologies both have things to recommend them. Plasma scores highly in contrast ratio with deep luscious blacks, as well as having very fast refresh rates which mean fast moving images never produce a problem. LCDs are fast becoming ubiquitous, they are cheaper, lighter (a factor if you are considering mounting the set on the wall) and have very high resolutions - excellent for hooking up the PC or the computer - they are also easier to watch in brightly lit rooms than Plasma sets.
If you are looking for a small to medium sized model LCDs probably represent better value for money than Plasma screens but if you have the room (and deep enough pockets) for a monster set then Plasma may well be your preferred option.
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