With several HDTV choices on the market today everyone is weighing their options. An important consideration is whether this entertainment investment is going to last. The old-style standard - definition televisions seem to last forever, moving from the living room to the family room to the den or a grown child's apartment and they seem to keep on playing their four or seven channels forever.
Newer HDTVs haven't been on the market long enough for anyone to have tested them against that kind of lifestyle longevity. Based on anticipated component performance, all of the major types of HDTV are expected to last for at least 20 years of very heavy use before their primary light source dims to half brightness.
Even with this best estimate from manufacturers, HDTV users have heard enough about possible issues to want to know how to make sure their television lasts as long as possible. This guide will review the three main HDTV technologies, review the key issue in HDTV longevity, and discuss three things that can extend the lifespan of an HDTV. After that, the guide will look at the process of selecting and purchasing an HDTV.
What is a Standard-Definition TV?
There is are lots of technical terms to describe a standard-definition TV, but the explanation that is easiest to understand is that a standard-definition TV is an old-fashioned picture tube TV. It uses the excitement of electrons inside a cathode ray tube to create the image that is viewed on a glass screen. The image is scaled at a 4:3 ratio, which is a chunky, nearly square rectangle.
What is an HDTV?
HDTV, or high-definition television, uses a screen that is typically scaled at a 16:9 ratio, which creates a long, narrow rectangle like a movie theater screen. Within that space, the HD technology provides many more separate bits of information to illuminate the screen, allowing the image to be more finely detailed than on a cathode-ray screen. Because more details are available, the picture can also be larger. HDTV screens for home theaters can exceed 84 inches, or 7 feet, in length.
The three most popular kinds of HDTV are plasma screens, LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) TVs, and LED TVs. Rear projection TVs will be mentioned only when relevant.
Plasma screens display HDTV with great clarity. They remain the best at displaying fast movement such as sports and action movies . Plasma also has the most consistent image from all viewing angles. They are very popular for their cinema-like image quality.
Both LED and LCD televisions use LCD panels to create the television image. In an LCD television, fluorescent lighting illuminates the LCD panel from behind, while LED TVs use light emitting diodes (LEDs). LCD TVs cannot achieve the same levels of contrast and the same deep blacks as plasmas or LED TVs. Most LCD TVs also show color shifts or changes in brightness when viewed from an angle.
LED TVs are brighter than plasmas, making them appropriate for brighter rooms or daylight TV watching, and they use less electricity. They have higher contrast than LCD TVs and use 40 percent less power. Some are extraordinarily thin and can be hung on the wall with steel mounting wire like a large picture.
All three types of contemporary HDTVs are expected to last significantly longer than early models.
Major Factors in the Lifespan of HDTVs
All current HDTVs are believed, based on component longevity, to be able to be used for at least 20 years for eight hours daily before they dim to half their original brightness. Nonetheless, there is one major issue in the design of current HDTVs that is believed to influence their relative longevity in terms of image quality over that time: the light source.
Light Source Longevity
In LCD TVs, the color balance can shift in the fluorescent bulbs that provide backlighting as they age. This can cause the white balance in the television image to shift or spots to appear. There are few, if any manufacturers, whose LCD TVs are designed to let the consumer replace these bulbs to compensate for this issue. In spite of this, LCD TVs are still expected to operate for approximately 60,000 hours, or about 20 years, before their light is reduced to half the original brightness.
LED TVs are expected to maintain quality light for approximately 100,000 hours, or more than 30 years. LED lights do not change color as they age so the white balance of the TV image will not be affected. LED TVs with edge lighting are likely to slightly outlast LED TVs with local dimming, although the latter will offer better image quality.
Ways to Extend the Lifespan of an HDTV
To ensure that an HDTV lasts as long as possible, there are several things that owners can do. Below are tips to extending the life of an HDTV:
1. Keep the Picture Moving to Prevent Burn-In
"Burn in" of an image that has been on the screen too long is one of the most consistent concerns of people who own 16:9 plasma flat-panel and CRT-based rear-projection displays.
One image people often forget about that can become burned in is the set of black bars that appears when watching content not formatted for the screen. Plasma and CRT-based rear-projection displays are especially vulnerable to burn in during the first 100 hours of use. Pausing games and television shows can also result in burn-in of those still images. After the first 100 hours, the risk of burn-in is reduced.
Other ways to avoid burn-in include:
- Use gray bars instead of black next to the 4:3 image.
- Turn contrast down to 50 percent or lower.
- Stretch 4:3 sports and animations to fill the full screen.
It is worth noting that newer plasma displays include technological improvements that keep the picture moving without any intervention, specifically screensavers and image shifting. Other technical changes that have attacked the issue of burn in are changes in plasma technology itself, as well as shutdown features for power saving. Today's new plasma screens are considered essentially immune to burn in.
2. Adjust the Contrast
Keeping the contrast set too high ages an LCD TV because it requires brighter light from the source, which causes the bulb to age faster. When watching in lower light settings, reduce the contrast. Increase it when needed. Keep the contrast setting appropriate for the viewing environment.
3. Calibrate the TV for the Viewing Environment
Manufacturers calibrate televisions to look great in brightly lit showrooms. Most people watch television in a very different environment. What's more, the settings that make an HDTV look great in a showroom can make its life shorter because they are too bright and burn out the light source more quickly than necessary.
For a person who is calibrating an HDTV for the first time, it's worth digging into the provided manuals and using the THX Optimizer that may have come with a DVD. The key adjustments to calibrate in addition to contrast are:
- Black or Brightness
- Sharpness or Detail
- Color Saturation
- Color Tint
While there may be settings beyond these, these are key to enjoying the home viewing experience and extending the lifespan of the television.
How to Buy a Long-Lasting HDTV
In the current HDTV marketplace, the longest lasting televisions are expected to be LED TVs. It is expected that the edge - lit LED TVs that lack local dimming capabilities will be the longest lasting of all. These edge-lit versions will gain longevity at the cost of some image quality, however. Their 10 additional years of slightly lower quality images, providing an anticipated 30 year lifespan, may create a longer lived HDTV than people used to rapid technology change will care about.
The technology for current plasma TVs and LCD TVs has been improved so one of the largest lifespan concerns with prior HDTVs, burn-in, has largely been eliminated. LCD TVs still will lose some color fidelity and image consistency over their anticipated 20 year lifespan due to inconsistent aging of their fluorescent light sources.
Nonetheless, any of these three HDTV technologies is anticipated to last for a very long time. Whichever you choose to purchase, you may find them at big box electronics stores, discount stores, or their online equivalents, in addition to such online auction houses as eBay .
Shopping for an HDTV with a Long Lifespan on eBay
Finding the HD television you want on eBay is easy because there are so many available, ranging from small models suitable for close viewing in a kitchen to gigantic wall screens perfect for big crowds of sports fans. There are a number of ways to select and sort through the selections on eBay to make it easier to choose exactly the television you want.
You can start in the Electronics shop among the Televisions . If you've already decided you want an LED TV, or a plasma TV, or an LCD TV, you can enter that keyword to see what options are available.
Then you can sort the options by using selections such as which TVs have been most recently listed or which are offered at the lowest price including shipping. This allows you to compare the various options with your budget, as well as see whether different sellers are offering comparable televisions at different prices.
Because many HD televisions are large and heavy, you may want to choose a seller near you to reduce shipping costs. A nearby seller may even allow you to pick up the television yourself, if that represents a savings.
Know the Seller
Since this is an expensive purchase of a product you expect to work properly, you also will want to feel comfortable that you are dealing with a reliable vendor. When you're dealing with a reliable vendor, you can be confident that the HDTV you receive will be as expected.
One way to confirm the reliability of an eBay vendor includes checking the feedback left by prior customers. You will find comments left by past customers as a result of their prior experiences with vendors. Another way to be comfortable with a vendor's reliability is to make your purchase from a top rated seller. Top rated sellers are vendors who have demonstrated consistently excellent levels of reliability and customer service.
Technology has been advancing to the benefit of people who want an HDTV with a long lifespan. Those who remember plasma screens that suffered burn-in can purchase plasmas today that are virtually immune to that problem. The same is true for LCD TVs. In addition, the new LED TVs are expected to avoid this issue entirely.
LCD TVs continue to have an issue with color shifting and some spots in the image as the television's fluorescent light source ages, and very few LCD TVs are designed to allow the consumer to replace the light source. However, LED TVs will not have this issue, nor will plasma screens.
Still, all of the three major HDTV technologies on the market today have anticipated lifespans of 20 years or longer when used for eight hours a day. That puts them squarely in the ballpark of the standard-definition TVs that were once passed around families as kids moved into their first apartments.
With the simplest of care to maintain appropriate calibration, the owner of any contemporary HDTV can expect to have his or her television as long as the technology is of use.