Sunday, October 11, 2009

Advice: LCD TVs

by Tim Hall

Q: What size LCD TV do I need?

A: First, the good news: prices for liquid crystal display (LCD) televisions have dropped dramatically. That means that the huge wall-sized screen your neighbor spent several thousand dollars on a few years ago can be had for half or even one-third the price, and might well boast a better picture quality and have more features (and won't he be jealous!). If you don't need a large screen, or your budget is more modest, you can easily pick up an excellent quality 22" or 26" set for a few hundred dollars, which was unthinkable until recently.

The bad news is that there are now so many different sizes and options, at so many price points, that consumers can easily become confused. If you're the kind of consumer who feels overwhelmed by the many different types of LCD televisions currently on the market, don't be discouraged; knowing a little bit about the features in advance can help you narrow down your choices and make the best decision for your needs and your budget.

Size Matters: While there are some rough rules of thumb for what size works best in a particular room, the size of the screen is ultimately a personal decision. For example, 32" will be plenty for most average-sized American living rooms. If you're planning on putting your TV in a large family room, great room, or over a mantle, then you might consider moving up to 40" or larger. In smaller rooms and bedrooms a 22" or 26" screen should suffice. One easy way to tell what size screen you need is to go to a showroom where you can stand approximately the same distance away from the sets that you will be viewing them at home.

If you're planning on mounting your LCD TV on the wall then you might want to take into consideration the weight of the set and the amount of hardware you will need, and make sure your wall can accommodate the mounting brackets. Most larger chains offer installation options; speak to your sales representative for details.

HD or not HD? Virtually all modern LCD televisions are ready for HD (high definition) viewing; confusion generally occurs over which kind of HD your TV supports. While they will all offer superior image quality, if you're concerned about having enough features so your set will not be obsolete in a couple of years then you will want a set that features true 1080p or 1080i resolution (purists will argue that only 1080p is worth getting, but never listen to purists. They are an unhappy lot as a general rule). Some televisions still feature 720 HD resolution, which also looks fantastic, whether you're watching the news, DVD, or a HD broadcast of your favorite team. If you have a Blu-Ray player, however, or plan on getting one in the near future, then you will probably want to listen to the purists and get a 1080p set.

Inputs: Modern LCD screens are capable of much more than just movies or broadcasts; they are increasingly becoming the center of a "digital hub" for your home, good for viewing home videos, digital photos, or hooking up PCs, laptops, game consoles, iPods and the like. Some televisions even feature built-in digital card readers, or USB ports for flash drives. At the very least you'll want a set that comes with at least two HDMI inputs, as well as separate component and composite video inputs. A VGA monitor connector for hooking up a laptop or PC can come in handy too.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide to what LCD TVs can do, or everything you should consider, but it should provide you with a solid basis on which to make your purchasing decision. Whichever LCD TV you decide is right for you, by using this guide then you're more likely to enjoy many years of high-quality entertainment. Happy viewing.

Tim Hall : Author of screwball tragedies, mem-noir, true fiction and non-fiction novels. Micro publisher, freelance writer. Hometown : Gramercy Park, New York, USA. This piece is part of a series of experimental pieces Tim Hall is doing called "Q&A," based on "literal writing." It follows the "Advice: iPods (2007)" piece he did for Salit Magazine

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