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Digital TV Buying Guide

Next-generation features, high-tech displays and rock-bottom prices make this a great time to pick up a new TV. While shopping for a new HD or 3DTV can be fun, the process of choosing a set with the right features and specs can be overwhelming. Use this buying guide to help drive your decision.

We’ll try to make the process of selecting a new TV simple using these five steps:

1. Size up your room
2. Select your image quality
3. pick a display type
4. focus on features
5. Include essential extras.

Step 1. Size Up Your Room

There are several considerations when it comes to choosing the right size set. First, you’ll want to determine where you want to install it. For example, do you want to mount the TV in a specific spot on the wall, or will you be sitting on entertainment furniture? If so, the dimensions of each may dictate your size parameters.

Notwithstanding any unique limitations of your viewing space, It is important to select a screen size that “fits” your room. Bigger is generally better, but sit too close and the picture may look grainy or fuzzy. Sit too far away and you may have trouble immersing yourself in the high-resolution picture. Selecting the right size set for your room is easy using this simple calculation:

1. Measure distance from TV to sitting position.
2. Divide by 2 and then by 3 to get ideal screen size range.

The resulting numbers will be your ideal screen sizes.
Example: Distance = 8 feet (or 96 inches) 96 / 2 = 48” set
96 / 3 = 32” set

Put another way, the ideal distance varies from about 2 to 3 times the screen’s diagonal width.

For 3DTV viewing you’ll want to sit closer for the best experience. Aim for 1.5 to 2 times the screen width.

Step 2. Focus on Features

Today’s sets are more than just TVs. They’re a place to enjoy sports and movies, photos and home videos, plus anything and everything the Web has to offer. Here are some of the main features you’ll see on today’s digital TVs:

● 3D
Sporting events, movies and shows come to life in 3D. It is the ultimate home viewing experience. If you want 3D now or in the future, look for a 3D-ready or 3D-capable set, as standard HDTVs are limited to 2D viewing.

● Inputs
Most sets come with ample inputs, but it’s best to double check your existing components to make sure the set has every type of connection (and enough of them) for your needs. Front or side inputs allow you to easily connect a portable device, like a digital memory card, digital camera or camcorder.

● Ease of use
On-screen help and manuals can come in very handy as you learn the features and settings of your new set.

● Broadband connectivity
There are many reasons to connect your set to your home network--on-screen program guides, streaming video from sites like YouTube and Netflix plus apps (see below). Some sets have built-in WiFi, though most offer at minimum network connectivity through a built-in Ethernet jack or accessories like a WiFi USB adapter.

● Apps
Internet connected TVs or “Smart TVs” offer interactive applications available right on your TV screen. Similar to those on smartphones and tablet PCs, apps include news, weather, social networking and streaming video content.

● Multimedia playback
A front- or side-located SD card, HDMI and USB inputs are a must for playing back digital photos, videos and other content you have created.

Step 3. Select Your Image Quality

Many sets on the market are full 1080p, however you will still find 1080i and 720p sets, particularly in medium and smaller screen sizes.

The number (e.g. 720 or 1080) indicates the number of vertical pixels or picture elements. Generally speaking, the more pixels the better the picture. The letter (p or i) indicates the scanning technology - progressive (p) where scanning is all at once, or interlaced (i) where scanning takes two passes. Progressive provides a smoother, more film-like picture.

Decide how you’ll use the set to determine how important resolution is in your purchasing decision. If you’ll be watching primarily cable and HD broadcasts, plus the occasional Blu-ray and/or multimedia from a PC or media center, then you’ll want to seriously consider 1080p sets. Movie buffs and home theater enthusiasts looking for the true cinema experience will want a set that displays 1080/24p (24 frames per second -- the frame rate at which movies are filmed). On the other hand, if you are purchasing a TV for more casual viewing, such as in a kitchen or bedroom, a 480p or 720p display may be a great choice.

Step 4. Select a Display Type

Plasma, LCD, LED, DLP: what’s the difference and which one should I choose? Here’s a look at the four primary display types you’ll find at your favorite retailer and the benefits of each:

Plasma
These displays offer deep blacks and rich colors, can be viewed from wider angles and achieve their best performance in light-controlled or darker rooms. Their deep blacks and quick refresh rates make Plasma sets well suited for home theater and gaming.

LCD
With their vibrant images and anti-glare screens, these sets excel in brighter rooms where reflections and ambient light can wash out a plasma’s picture. They consume less power than plasma displays.

LED
Light Emitting Diode (LED) sets are basically LCD sets that use an LED backlight instead of the traditional fluorescent one. The result is a higher contrast ratio, brighter and more accurate colors and less power consumption.

DLP
Digital Light Processing is used primarily in projection TVs (rear and front projection). DLP can produce vivid colors and deep blacks, making it a great choice for front and rear projection.

5. Include Essential Extras

Before you complete your purchase, be sure you have everything you'll need to receive a signal and integrate your new set into your home entertainment system. Be sure to consider:

● Mount
Whether you’re hanging a flat panel display or mounting a projector, don’t forget a mount.

● An Antenna
You'll need an antenna if you want to use your TV’s integrated tuner to pull in your local HD stations. Your location determines whether you need an indoor antenna or outdoor one. (www.antennaweb.org can help you choose the right type of antenna)

● Universal Remote
There's no easier way to simplify your A/V system than with a universal remote that can control all of your devices. Programming these remotes has never been easier.

● A/V Cables
Having the right A/V cables is essential to connecting your equipment and getting the best possible picture available. In addition to A/V cables, don't forget a speaker cable to connect your surround audio system.

● Furniture
Furniture can make a home entertainment system. Consider a TV stand, A/V racks for your A/V components and even custom home theater seating to complete the package.

● 3D Accessories
If you purchased a 3D or 3D-capable set, be sure you have everything you need to watch 3D.

3D Accessories

● IR Emitter (Sync Transmitter)
There are two types of 3DTVs: 3D Ready and 3D Capable. The former have IR emitters built into the frame or bezel of the set, while the latter require you purchase a separate IR emitter, or “sync transmitter.” If you have a 3D Capable set, check the owner’s manual or manufacturer Web site for compatible IR emitters. Consumer 3DTVs rely on battery-powered glasses to create the illusion of a third dimension. To stay synced, the TV must actively communicate with the glasses using infrared (IR) signals. They must darken and lighten the lenses in front of each eye hundreds of times a second in –perfect sync with the action on the TV screen – in order to present a three-dimensional image.

● 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
You will need a special 3D-capable Blu-ray disc player in order to enjoy the full 3D experience from your 3D Blu-ray discs.

● Content
You’re buying the set for the 3D experience – now you need to buy the content you want to watch. Some cable and satellite channels broadcast in 3D, e.g., (add a few here), so you may need to add to your existing subscription. You can also look for 3D content on Blu-ray discs and in video game titles.

● Glasses
If your 3DTV did not come bundled with active 3D glasses, you will need to purchase them before you can begin watching 3D content. Most 3DTV manufacturers sell active 3D glasses to use with their sets, plus there are universal 3D glasses that work with several brands and models. Check with the TV manufacturer’s Web site or owner’s manual to determine which 3D glasses will work with your set.

● HDMI Cables
HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) connections are the only way to pass 3D content from your Blu-ray player, game console or cable/satellite box to a 3DTV set. Look specifically for HDMI cables labeled “High Speed,” as these are the only HDMI cables certified to carry full HD (1080p) and 3D content. For long cable runs (10 feet or more), you’ll want a lower gauge (thicker) cable.

● Wireless LAN Adapter
Most 3DTVs are Internet capable, delivering streaming content, apps and more. If your set doesn’t offer built-in wireless connectivity, you’ll need a USB Wireless LAN adapter in order to connect to your wireless network. Check manufacturer Web sites and user forums for compatibility, as some wireless LAN adapters work better on some sets than others.

● 3D-capable A/V Receiver
If you currently use an A/V Receiver to decode Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD, or to switch among your HDMI-enabled high definition components, you will need to upgrade to a 3D-capable A/V receiver. Aside from the advantages of switching sources with your A/V receiver, remember that outing your HD video components through an A/V receiver is the only way to decode the high-definition surround sound formats common on 3D titles.

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