Manufacturers and retailers often refer to HDTVs as simply ‘TVs’ or ‘TVs with a built-in digital tuner.’ However, there’s more to a TV than just its definition.
There are two major types of TVs available: LCD TVs and Plasma TVs. Plasma screens use gas plasma as their lighting source, resulting in deeper colors. The downside is that they don’t have very good viewing angles. LCD TVs use Liquid Crystal Displays as their lighting method, which means they have better viewing angles but produce less vibrant colors. In addition, the coloration of LCDs changes as the screen changes from landscape to portrait mode (LCDs cannot be viewed vertically). In general, LCD panels have around twice the lifespan of plasmas (typically 60,000-100,000 hours for LCDs vs. 30,000-60,000 hours).
The size of the TV is measured in inches diagonally. The diagonal measurement refers to how big the screen would be if it were drawn on a piece of paper and then folded in half (the size you would see through your front door if it were showing that image). A 42″ TV means that if you draw an image that is 42″ tall or wide on a piece of paper, then fold it over to view what’s on the other side, that image will appear on your TV screen. TVs range from about 20″ at their smallest to well over 100″ for extremely large home theaters (although TVs larger than 60″ are uncommon except in very high-end custom installations).
Other important considerations include the TV’s resolution and how many pixels it has. In general, a 720p HDTV is adequate for all but the most critical of users. Meanwhile, 1080p screens have over twice as many pixels as 720p screens and look cleaner. The higher number of pixels also means that a 1080p screen can fit more on the screen at any given time, which allows for less scrolling when browsing websites or other text-intensive tasks.
Finally, there’s LCD vs. Plasma to consider – Plasma TVs have thicker bezels because they must contain a gas plasma display system that requires an electrical current to run. Because of this, LCD TVs are much thinner – sometimes over 1″ vs. the 2″ or more average bezel width of Plasma TVs.
When buying a TV, you should consider what you will use it for before making any purchases. A 1080p Plasma may look great, but if you only plan to use your new TV to watch news and sports broadcast at around 720p, then why buy an expensive 1080p unit? Just go for one with 0/720p resolution instead. With 0/720P screens being perfectly acceptable for watching standard definition broadcasts, they represent an excellent value because their price is lower than full HDTVs.
Also, remember that most cable companies now offer digital cable boxes that will provide a 1080p signal from their cable box to your TV. Cable companies are slowly phasing out the analog cable boxes; however, if you regularly hook up cable to more than one TV in your home or regularly watch programs broadcast at 480i, it would be wise to consider a new digital cable box anyway.