Monday, March 01, 2010

High-def decisions

By Jacob Bennett
Posted January 29, 2010 at midnight
Evansville Courier & Press

If you've thought about buying a new high-definition television set, the Super Bowl is a good excuse to call "hike." The National Football League's championship game, usually the most-watched television program of the year, will look great in the digital broadcast format.

"The analogy I use is, if you want to watch the game on the old analog setup, you can tell the player has a tattoo; in the new high-definition world, you can read what the tattoo says," said Mark Risley, president of Risley Electronics Inc. in Evansville.

"One of the biggest reasons for people upgrading is they go to their brother's or their mother's or their friend's house and see a high-def television and go, 'Wow, that's good.' It's just kind of jaw-dropping how amazing the high definition is."

The prices for the new TVs have dropped dramatically in the last couple of years, and there are more ways than ever to get high-def broadcasts: through antenna, via cable and by satellite.

So if you can afford it, now might be the time to choose a new set. We got some tips from Risley and Mark Carmack, an electronics buyer at King's Great Buys Plus in Evansville.

First off, what's up with all those digits and letters: 1080p, 720p, DLP, etc.?

Three of them — 1080p, 720p and 1080i — refer to the resolutions offered by TV sets. All are high definition and a big upgrade over analog pictures, but 1080p is the absolute best picture quality, twice as good as the others. A 1080p set usually costs more than 720p sets of the same size.

"Hz" stands for hertz and has to do with how screens handle fast motion. At the basic 60 Hz, you could see a ghosting of quick-moving images, Carmack said. The higher Hz levels — 120, 240 — clear this up.

LCD and DLP are types of TVs; LCDs (liquid crystal displays) are the most popular style on the market. DLPs only come in the largest screen sizes, 60 inches and up, and usually are cheaper than the LCD TVs of comparable size: A 60-inch DLP (digital light processing) would cost less than $1,000, while a 55-inch LCD would be closer to $1,700.

So what size should you get?

Depends on how much you want to spend, where you want to put it and how close you want to sit.

"We take all that information, stir it around and come up with a couple of sizes that make sense," Risley said.

Most people want the biggest rectangle TV that fits in their current entertainment center, designed for the old square analog sets.

TVs with 1080p definition cost more, and usually don't come in a size smaller than 32 inches.

You'd probably need a 37-inch screen for an appreciable difference in picture quality over a 720p set, Carmack said.

If you plan to sit 8 or 10 feet away, a 40-inch to 52-inch screen might be the way to go.

DLP-sized screens are good if you plan to sit more than 12 feet or so away, or if you want the room to be dominated by the TV and plan to sit several feet away, or if you just enjoy a theaterlike experience at home.

Other tips

* LED screens offer the same picture as LCDs but are much more energy efficient.

* Our experts were divided on plasma TVs. Risley pointed out that plasma TVs had gone from 90 percent of the market a decade ago to 10 percent now.

Carmack said the technology had gotten a bad rap and that DLP and plasma TVs actually are preferable for sports viewing, provided you can keep the sun's glare off the plasma screens.

"If you're buying it for Super Bowl, you're a sports fan and you're probably going to be watching a lot of sports," Carmack said. "If you want sports, you want a plasma."

* Some TVs on the market already are equipped to handle 3-D broadcasts. Carmack got a preview of the technology at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

"ESPN was showing a college football game, the cameraman was obviously in the end zone, and they were coming right at you," he said. "When they kicked the field goal, the ball went right over your head."

No comments: