The months preceding the year-end are shopping time. What could be hotter than HDTVs? No doubt, being attentive readers, you will have absorbed all the gyan imparted by me on the topic. So I will refrain from restating everything. But all the same, please keep the following points in mind when shopping for an HDTV:
- Size matters, but not in the obvious way. Buy something that is suitable for your room size and viewing distance. A 32-inch HDTV is good enough for a viewing distance of not more than 10 feet. At 12 feet or more, this display feels small; ideally a display should be large enough to capture a major part of your viewing area. Previously, a large display viewed from too close appeared pixelated; but this is no longer an issue, thanks to higher resolutions. If your viewing distance is going to be greater than 10 feet, consider a 42-inch HDTV. For anything over 16 feet, look at a 46-inch display. Obviously your budget also matters, as larger displays are costlier, but this is ideally what you should look at.
- A dynamic contrast ratio of 50,000:1 is nonsense. We’ve tested such displays and noted their ‘actual’ contrast ratio is not more than 1300:1. For the record, anything over 1,000:1 is good, and anything over 1,500:1 is superb. I am talking about the measured contrast ratio. Such specifications are overstated and the term ‘dynamic contrast ratio’ is misleading as various methods such as varying the backlight intensity or even measuring the contrast over a period of time (and not instantaneously as is proper procedure) is resorted to, which is why you see such inflated numbers. Displays with a ‘static’ contrast ratio of 1,000:1 are more than enough for a great viewing experience.
- Avoid getting confused between ‘HD support’ and ‘1080p supported’ and other such generic statements. If you’re buying a display today, 1080p is the resolution you should look at. Every display having a screen size of 32-inches and above should support this resolution. Look for the phrase ‘native resolution’ – this should be 1080p (1920 x 1080 progressively scanned pixels) and not lower.
- Many vendors are rushing to offer 19 and 22-inch HDTVs – these are not HDTVs in the truest sense and typically such displays use substandard LCDs. I feel a true HDTV starts from at least 26-inches, do not be caught shopping for anything smaller – save up a bit more if you have to and resist the urge to scratch the itch.
- A lot of manufacturers state ‘IPS’ panels. Although brilliant, such panels are meant for image professionals due to their color accuracy. They don’t have the best contrast ratios for movies and games where absolute color accuracy and a 100 per cent color gamut isn’t necessary. PVA panels are much better for such applications since their contrast ratio is superior meaning the panel is capable of purer blacks and more variations in shade intensity.
- HDMI connectivity is important, but all you need is one or two HDMI ports; the latter in case you want to hook up two devices (like a Blu-ray player and an Xbox360) simultaneously. Please do not end up spending lots more for four and five HDMI ports – ask yourself if you’ll use all of them at the same time.
- There is a common myth that ‘LCD TVs’ and ‘LED TVs’ are two different things This misnomer is generating a lot of hype. The fact is LEDs are just the backlighting used; the display is still very much an LCD panel. Traditionally, CCFL tubes were used for backlighting, but LEDs are compacter, brighter and consume less power making it a win-win situation. Obviously, this technique is pricier but better. Therefore, what is referred to as an ‘LED TV’ is actually an ‘LED-backlit LCD display’. Technically, there is no such thing as an LED TV.
- Between LCDs and Plasmas I’ve noticed, while the latter traditionally have better blackness levels, LCDs are fast catching up. One issue is many plasma displays do not display sharp text – people who want to use the display with their computers please note that the newer LCDs are better as their text rendition is better.
If you want anything larger than 42-inches, I recommend looking at plasma displays. No matter how tempting LCDs look, the larger ones are disproportionately costly. Unless you want the sleek, uber expensive slimness of an LED-backlit LCD HDTV in which case I recommend Samsung’s 46-inch UA46B6000VR – priced at around Rs. 1,50,000, this display is all about performance. To be honest, though, I feel a 50-inch plasma might be a better deal. Unlike what most people believe plasmas aren’t inferior in ‘any’ way. Samsung’s own PS50B550 is a very good option – a 50-inch display with excellent color and contrast at a price of Rs. 1,00,000.
In case you’re shopping for something under Rs. 30,000, look at Samsung’s Series 4 26-inch LCD TV; it’s a decent performer priced at around the Rs. 28,000 mark.