Television Buying Guide for Black Friday 2008

Introduction

One of the most sought after items this Black Friday is high-definition televisions. Purchasing the center-piece of your home theatre is not, and should not, be a quick and easy decision. There are many factors to consider before purchasing a HDTV and this guide should answer a majority of your questions along with a detailed list of our favorite HDTVs on sale this Black Friday.

The main focus of this article is value for your money. The "Our Pick" selections are not necessarily the highest rated televisions, but rather the televisions that offer the best performance relative to their cost.

Plasma vs. LCD
I'm not going to get into the technological differences between plasma and LCD televisions, the similarities and differences have already been covered numerous times in the following guides: Plasma vs LCD: Which is right for you?, LCD TV vs. Plasma and LCD vs. Plasma.

I have, however, summarized their benefits in the following table.

LCD Plasma
Picture Quality Tied - Both Have Benefits
Black Levels
Motion Blur
Susceptibility
to Burn-in
Viewing Angle
Lifespan Both have average lifespan of 60,000 hours.
Weight
Power Consumption

Over the years, LCD and Plasma televisions have grown increasingly similar in performance. You really can't go wrong with either one; the advantages listed above for each are slim in about every category.

One thing I do want to mention though is that while burn-in is no longer near the problem it once was with early generation Plasma televisions, there still is a potential for it to occur. In your first 100 hours of watching a Plasma television, try not to have static images on the screen for prolonged periods of time. A plasma television is most likely to experience burn-in during the first 100 hours of use.

720p vs. 1080p
A good overview of resolution and the differences between 720p, 1080i and 1080p can be found here: Plasma TV & HDTV Resolution


According to the above image, the benefit of a 32" HDTV having 1080p resolution is not noticeable for most people sitting more than 6-feet away from their television set. The benefit of 1080p for a 42" television starts at 8-feet away, a standard viewing distance for most households.

In a year-old CNET article, they come to the conclusion that unless you are sitting really close to your television set, "[it's] almost always very difficult to see any difference [between 720p and 1080p] -- especially from farther than 8 feet away on a 50-inch TV."

This also assumes that you will be playing 1080p content on your television. As a general rule, you shouldn't be paying extra just for 1080p on any television smaller than 42" because the casual user will be perfectly happy with a 720p set.

If you plan on using your television as a PC monitor or playing lots of 1080p programming, you are an exception and should be focusing on the 1080p sets, but I don't think too many people fall into this category.

60Hz vs. 120Hz

These two terms refer to a LCD's refresh rate: 60Hz means 60 frames-per-second; 120Hz means 120 frames-per-second. Film is shot at 24 frames-per-second - 24 does not divide evenly into 60. To compensate, of the 24 frames, the even frames are shown twice per second, the odd frames are shown three times per second. 12 odd frames * 2/second + 12 even frames * 3/second = 60 Hz. Because there is a 3:2 ratio of the frames (also called a 3:2 pull-down), in very fast motion (such as action movies and sports), 60Hz televisions will appear to "stutter."

120Hz eliminates the ratio because 24 goes into 120 evenly (5 times), so all frames are shown five times per second (24 frames * 5/second = 120 Hz).

The stuttering on 60Hz sets is noticeable if you're looking for it, but otherwise negligible. A set that offers 120Hz refresh rates will typically be better than its 60Hz counter-part because it will be newer and probably offer other improved features along with the 120Hz refresh rate. CNET has more commentary on the issue in their article, Six things you need to know about 120Hz LCD TVs.

Brand Names
It is bad to have blind faith in a company, especially an electronics company, but in general, you can't go wrong with the following brand names:
  • Plasma: Pioneer, Panasonic, Samsung
  • LCD: Sony, Sharp, Samsung, Toshiba

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Next Page - Televisions Smaller than 26"

November 20, 2008

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