Now that the “big” 32” CRT television in your living room is fading fast, it’s time to deep six it and upgrade in style. But if you’ve been out of the television technology loop for the last few years, there are a number of unfamiliar terms and concepts (not to mention acronyms!) to contend with.
So where do you start, and what exactly is the best choice for you? You want picture quality, you want a long lifespan, you want a TV that is ready for the upcoming FCC-mandated DTV (Digital Television) transition in 2009 (or until they change the date again) and, most importantly, you want bang for your buck! But before you crack open your wallet, you should do some homework. First you’ll see a bunch of unfamiliar terms, like plasma, LCD, projection, DLP, and then you’ll have to decipher them.
Fear not - Geeks.com is here to help!
Under the Hood:
* DLP (Digital Light Processing) HDTV (High Definition Television) is a proprietary product of Texas Instruments. DLP is descendant of digital film projector technology which uses DMD (Digital Multi-mirror Device) chips, each containing millions of tiny mirrors. A projection light is passed through a rotating color wheelbefore striking the chip – producing up to 16 million
* LCD televisions consist of two polarizing transparent panels with a liquid crystal solution in between. This technology uses florescent light, which is scattered by a white diffusion panel. In an LCD Television, each color pixel (picture element) is created by three sub-pixels with red, green, and blue color filters. LCD technology allows each pixel on the screen tobe activated individually.
* Plasma screens are made up of hundreds of thousands RGB (red, green, and blue) pixels, which depend on argon, neon, and xenon gases (sealed between glass panels) to be electrically charged, which generates light and ultimately the picture. Plasma screens are more closely related to traditional television screens.
Just the Facts, Ma’am – pros and cons of various display technologies:
(Naturally, the specifications/issues listed here are generalizations, some subjective, and will vary from brand to brand and model to model)
* Uber-long life expectancy – the main light source is projection bulb, which is replaceable (not cheap, but certainly less expensive than buying a new television!)
* The ultra-fast DLP chip has a 16 microsecond response time
* High resolution (1920 x 1080) – but others are catching up
* Contrast ratios of up to 12,000:1
* Usually comes with an integrated stand
Biggest pros of DLP: Provides the best bang for your buck as far as large screens go – probably the price/performance “sweet spot”.
Biggest cons of DLP: Overall size and limited flexibility on set positioning (In other words, DLP screens are large, but so is the rest of the set.) Best picture is obtained by positioning the set at eye level. Lowest “sexy factor” of the three technologies.
Bottom line: If the space/size restrictions aren’t an issue for you and you want a very large, inexpensive screen, especially for latest-generation video game play in 1080i/p, DLP may be your best bet.
* Generally long lifespan (manufacturers currently claim >50,000 hours)
* Many new LCD televisions offer full 1080p (1920 x 1080) native pixel resolution
* Generally physically lighter and sleeker than DLP or plasma televisions
* Low power consumption
* Generally poor relative black levels
Biggest pros of LCD: Small size and placement options give it the most flexibility when it comes to positioning the television.
Biggest cons of LCD: Pixel response time is lower than DLP and plasma, which can mean ghosting during fast-action sequences. Color saturation and black-levels lacking.
Bottom line: Tight on space? Watching TV or viewing digital family photos? You’re all set for LCD – just mount your LCD TV on the wall and go!
* Plasma televisions offer good pricing for large screens
* Contrast ratios exceeding 15,000:1 in some models
* Allows the most flexibility as far as positioning the viewer in front of the set
* Many models top out at 1366x768 native resolution, which equates to 720p – still High Definition, but not 1080x.
Biggest pros of Plasma: Superior color saturation, excellent black levels, wide viewing angles.
Biggest cons of Plasma: The image retention (screen burn) issue has been all but eliminated but pixel failure is still a potential problem area. Potentially the shortest lifespan of the three (“the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long.”) Can be big electricity hogs.
Bottom line: Movie and/or sports nut? Go plasma. Widescreen helps with movies, while the wide viewing angle is perfect for when the whole gang is watching the game together.
Unlike the VHS/Beta wars of yesteryear, it’s possible for these different technologies to peacefully co-exist in the marketplace; breakthroughs in one platform forces the others to not only keep pace, but to up the ante, which (hopefully) gives the consumer higher quality products at lower prices.
Modern large-screen televisions are no different than many products or technologies that follow the price/performance triangle – in this case, you can have it large, good, or cheap – pick any two. The trick is to pick your two and then find a product that has as much of the third as possible.
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