I recently bought a new big screen LCD TV for my condo. When I was living in my apartment, I was using my roommates’ TV, which was a 42″ Toshiba LCD. For two years I was spoiled with a big screen TV with HD. I thoroughly enjoy watching television. I watch anything sports, especially football. Also, I’m hooked on 24, prison break, heroes, terminator, lost, scrubs and the office. In order to watch all of my stories I decided I had to buy a big screen to replace my roommates’ TV. Below I will explain my search to find as good a deal as possible, while explaining some of the common TV buzz words.
Plasma Versus LCD
Both Plasma and LCD TV’s are flat screens. Plasma TV’s use varied electrical voltages to change the color of plasma gas cells. LCD TV’s use electric charges to vary the color of liquid crystals. Initially, plasma’s produced a superior picture quality, especially in regards to the darkness of the blacks. LCD sets are quickly narrowing the gap in terms of picture quality and blackness levels.
In addition to picture quality, plasmas have a better viewing angles. Also, plasmas have less motion blur during fast motion scenes. LCD’s are narrowing the gap in these areas as well, especially with the new smooth motion technology and ever decreasing refresh rates.
LCD’s tend to have a higher native resolution, which essentially means there are more pixels per area. LCD’s consume less power than a plasma, which is a huge advantage for the frugal minded. The life span of a LCD is most often greater than for a plasma. LCD’s are not usually associated with the burn-in phenomenon, which is the result of a static image left on the screen for too long.
I opted for an LCD TV for power consumption reasons and a higher native resolution.
1080p Versus 720p
1080p was the buzz word for big high definition televisions as recent as last year. 1080p and 720p refer to the screen resolution. A 1080p resolution equates to a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel structure. 720p refers to pretty much every pixel structure below the 1080p, but more specifically it refers to a 1,280 x 720 pixel structure. 1080p televisions are capable of displaying every pixel of HD broadcasts, which is why they were being touted as the latest and greatest. The only problem with 1080p being the latest and greatest is that no HD broadcasts output source material that is 1080p. Even hardcore gamers familiar with the XBOX 360 and PS3 do not experience 1080p outputs. Pretty much the only 1080p output is from Blu-Ray players.
The difference between 1080p and 720p TV’s is hard to notice unless you’re looking at TV screens that are 52″ and larger when viewing non-1080p material. The main benefit of a 1080p TV comes from the ability to sit closer to the TV and still get a high level of sharpness.
As I am a huge movie fan and will be a future owner of a PS3, mostly for it’s Blu-Ray capabilities, I opted for a 1080p television. Also, I wanted a larger screen and wanted to make sure the sharpness is maintained under closer viewing scenarios.
The current buzz word for LCD TV’s is 120 Hz, which refers to the refresh rate. As I mentioned before the early LCD suffered from motion blur during fast-motion content. 120Hz refresh rates are twice as fast as the standard 60 Hz. The main benefit occurs because the 24 frames per second conversion to the TV is an even multiple of 120 and is not an even multiple of 60. This means that each frame is on the screen for the exact same amount of time. Additionally, scrolling text is significantly more crisp.
Anti-judder technology is starting to permeate into the LCD technology. This new technology basically interpolates as to what the intermediate frame would look like if the frame actually existed. It’s almost like averaging the two frames together and guessing at what the middle frame would look like. Most brands have a different catch-phrase for this new technology. Sony calls it Motionflow, Samsung calls it Auto Motion Plus and Vizio calls it Smooth Motion. Most first attempts at this new technology leaves artifacts that are fairly obvious and can ruin the picture. Sometimes the anti-judder looks amazing, and when it doesn’t you can always turn it off.
The top two brands in my opinion are Samsung and Sharp. Sony follows not too far behind. Toshiba, Panasonic, JVC, Pioneer, Vizio, LG and Westinghouse are other common brands. There are even some more obscure brands like Olevia and Sceptre.
Vizio is known as an up and coming brand that first took a foothold in the flat-panel industry by offering budget priced TV’s that provided good bang for your buck. Vizio can not match the quality of a Sharp, Samsung or even a Sony, but the price is significantly less. Most of my information on brand and model quality comes from CNET and AVSforum.
The Winner Is…
I decided to buy one of the new Vizio models, the SV470XVT. It’s a 47″ 1080p 120 Hz LCD TV. Almost every 1080p 120 Hz TV that’s 46″+ will cost you more than $2,000. I paid $1,399 (plus tax), which is an insanely good deal for the most recent LCD technology. Additionally, I bought my TV at costco, which extended the manufacturer’s warranty to 2 years and I paid for it with an AMEX card, which extended the warranty to 3 years.
I highly recommend the Vizio XVT series. I am very happy with the picture quality, bezel design and standard sound. Vizio will be offering wireless 5.1 surround sound speakers, which could make for an awesome A/V setup. The XVT series is Vizio’s first foray into the upper echelon of flat-panel technology, yet they were able to keep the price down. That’s how you frugally purchase a HUGE LCD TV.