LCD TV Buying Guide
Buying a LCD TV
LCD technology is relatively complex and improving all the time but is based upon the fact that liquid crystals are, in their natural state, twisted. The ability of the crystals to allow light through can be altered by applying electric current. Very simply put, a light source is shone through a liquid containing crystals held between two polarised screens. By applying the correct quantity of light passing through, the desired display is produced.
Medium sets: Broadly speaking you can expect to pay between $500 and $700 for these larger, 25" to 29" screen models but expect to find significant improvements in sound and picture quality. Dolby Surround Sound is common, and there are a higher number of models with a widescreen aspect ratio.
Large sets: At this level you can expect a feature rich set with a 16:9 screen, Dolby Virtual Surround Sound, refresh rates up to 100 Hz, and on some models additional decoders for HDTV and or Digital and terrestrial TV.
Key features of LCD TVs
Depth: Where LCDs really score over CRT models is in the physical depth of the television set. Most are less than 3" deep and can be hung on a wall or from a ceiling. This is a boon for those with smaller rooms or who want a release from the space-eating demands of a CRT.
Screen size: Smaller LCDs have been the norm - adding pixels means more transistors and colors can appear slightly faded in larger models. There is a large range of smaller sets between 14" and 19". As the technology improves more models over 30" are starting to appear. Currently models over 40" are few and far between, mainly because of the current difficulties of ensuring production quality with the ever increasing number of transistors and pixels.
Frequency: There are many more choices than the 50Hz or 100Hz of CRT models. Higher refresh rates will reduce the chances of pixels giving a ghosting effect which can occur when changing quickly from light to dark states.
Multi-functional displays: LCD TVs are particularly suited to act as a computer screen. Text and graphics will be made to look exceptionally sharp by their high-resolution. LCD TVs typically include connections for composite, S-video, component video and one or more RGB SCART inputs.
Viewing distances: While there are a lot of variables in these calculations, viewing distances do vary according to the screen size.
Light source: The source of the light which shines through the liquid crystals is important in any LCD set. A damaged bulb can mean poor color balance and the end for your set. Look either for sets with bulbs which can be replaced or for brands with proven long-life and reliability. While extended warranties for electrical goods are generally poor value a replacement bulb warranty is definitely worth considering with these higher value items. Some sets have a manufacturers warranty, promising a television operating life express in hours.
Resolution information: You might think that the higher the resolution the better the picture, but this is not necessarily so. VGA quality is what you will find on most standard TVs. But LCD TVs may also have XGA (1024x768 pixels) or, with widescreen versions W-XGA (1280x768 pixels). Do not be fooled by the acronyms or the numbers - check by looking at the picture itself. Good indicators of picture quality are how realistic flesh tones appear, the color contrast in particularly dark scenes and that high motion action scenes do not corrupt the picture.
Power consumption: This is one area to watch with larger screen televisions. All consume considerably more power than smaller sets. However LCD screens consume considerably less power than their plasma rivals, up to 30% less in some cases.
Wall mountings: These are ideal to make maximum use of a flat screen LCD TV. They will add about 2" to the depth of the set. Wall mounts that tilt for viewing anywhere in a room are also available as are articulating mounts which mean you can push the set flush to the wall when you are not using it.
Table stands: It is worth knowing that table stands need to be suitable for the particular make of LCD TV you buy. If a stand is not included with the set check carefully before you buy one that it will do the job.
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