In Search Of The Right TV

The week leading up to Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest of the year for TV sales. So, for those shopping for a big screen, this may be the time to do it. On The Early Show, CBS News Science and Technology Correspondent Daniel Sieberg offers some suggestions on what to look for.

What to consider when shopping for a TV:

Decide on Screen Size: Measure the distance between your primary seating area and the TV's desired location when considering size, both width and depth. To take advantage of what HDTV offers, you want to sit within optimum viewing range. Sitting too far away diminishes the overall impact, while sitting too close reveals the screen's "structure" (those tiny "dots" that are really called pixels). There is no set rule, so try out various sizes and distances. Yet, keep in mind, the higher the resolution the closer you can sit to the screen.

Retailer suggests these guidelines, but don't use these guidelines to determine screen sizes for front projectors, because front projector screen recommendations are not based solely on viewing distance:

Screen Size: 30 inches
Viewing distance range: 3.75 to 6.25 feet

Screen Size: 34 inches
Viewing distance range: 4.25 to 7 feet

Screen Size: 42 inches
Viewing distance range: 5.25 to 8.75 feet

Screen Size: 50 inches
Viewing distance range: 6.25 to 10.5 feet

Screen Size: 56 inches
Viewing distance range: 7 to 11.75 feet

Screen Size: 62 inches
Viewing distance range: 7.75 to 13 feet

Screen Size: 70 inches
Viewing distance range: 8.75 to 14.75 feet

  • Type of Flat Panel: Consider Plasma vs. LCD vs. Rear or Front Projection. Some of it is personal preference, as well as budget. LCDs start as small as 10 inches and go up from there.

    If you plan on watching TV in a room with a lot of light, LCD has the edge over plasma, with its bright picture and its special surface coatings that reduce room reflections. Yet LCDs generally have slower video response times than plasmas, which is noticeable on sports and fast action scenes. On the other hand, Plasmas, which start at 37" and go up to 103", have wide viewing angles, high contrast ratios, excellent color, deep blacks, fast response time and are generally priced less than LCDs above 42". However, prices of larger-sized LCD TVs are falling.

  • Contrast and Resolution: The contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks a display can show. The higher the contrast ratio, the greater the ability to show subtle color details and tolerate ambient room light. Contrast ratios of at least 1,500:1 are good, but 2,000:1 or higher is considered excellent.

    Another important feature is the resolution. The quality of your picture depends on how many pixels and how many lines of horizontal and vertical resolution are displayed. The more lines, the more detail, the better the picture. The most common HDTV resolutions are 720p, 1080i and (as of late) 1080p. Look for these numbers when you shop. And, while 1080p is the highest resolution currently available, you don't necessarily need to go that high to enjoy a great picture. With a smaller screen size or larger seating distance, you may not be able to see the difference between 720p and 1080p.

  • Check and Compare your favorite TVs in different stores to see if lighting is better or worse. Be wary of the super cheap models. Most will not be worth the cheaper price tag.
  • Consider HDMI Cables, a worthwhile investment at about $100. HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is being touted as the next generation of audiovisual cabling. It's an all-digital connector that can carry high definition video and several digital audio channels all on the one cable. This means that there's no conversion of the signal (say, from digital to analog and then back again) or any compression that could possibly affect video or sound quality. Currently analog is the main method to transfer picture signals in an average home system.

    BIG TVs:

    Panasonic 50-inch Plasma (TH-50PX6OU): A fully integrated high-def TV (tuner, speakers), which includes a memory card slot so you can play photos on the big screen. Allows an HDMI connection, which enhances any HD-TV, and claims to offer better contrast than previous models. Supports 1080i, which means it accepts many types of HD signals but has a slightly lower resolution display. (It scales them down.) MSRP Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price: $2,800, but seen for under $2,000.

    Pioneer Elite Purevision 50-inch Plasma (PRO-1140): The Elite series goes a little further with sharing and displaying your other multimedia stuff. A wireless home networking feature allows you to send video, photos, music, etc. from your PC to your plasma. Like all plasmas, a wide-viewing angle; in this case, detachable speakers to spread the sound around. Same deal with the resolution. Still counts as high definition, just fewer pixels. MSRP: $5,000, but seen for under $3,300.

    Sony Grand WEGA SXRD 60-inch Rear Projection (KDS-60A2000): Sony offers its own rear-projection display technology called SXRD, which is a little fatter than the typical plasma and LCD flat panels. It offers high-definition screen resolution, but the display is not quite as sharp as plasma and LCD, and doesn't offer the same wide-angle viewing. However, you can get a big screen TV for much less money. We've seen this one for under $3,000. That's nearly half the price of other same-sized plasmas. MSRP: $4,000

    Philips 37-inch LCD (37PF9631D): Many inputs for different video sources. Offers similar resolution capability as the other two plasmas. USB connector lets you hook up photos or music. LCD's are generally better in bright light conditions so worth thinking about your living room set up. Smaller screen means a smaller price: MSRP at $2,300, but seen for $1,200.

    Samsung 40-inch LCD (LN-S4096D): True high-definition television at the highest level with 1080p. Includes tuner, picture in picture (PIP). With two HDMI inputs it's easier to plug in more high-def devices without swapping cords. Highly detailed picture quality. "Hidden" bottom speakers included. MSRP: $3,000, but seen for under $1,800.

    Sharp AQUOS 52-inch LCD (LC-52D62U): Again, true high-def with 1080p resolution and 2 HDMI inputs. Part of the Sharp AQUOS line of TV's. Claims a sharp contrast ratio. Black casing with embedded lower speakers. Price is not cheap as it offers the best of larger-size high-def flat panels. Also illustrates how LCD sizes are going up, though prices are, too. MSRP: $,4300, but seen for $2,600 to $4,000.