A decade back if someone had told me that your average middle-class Indian wouldn't mind paying the price of a premium motorcycle for a TV set, I would have laughed him right out the room. The fact is that these days it's not uncommon to splurge 60-70 grand on a 42" or 46" TV. One would assume that the dramatically higher investment must have mobilised the consumer into making prudent and well-researched decisions. Unfortunately, that's far from the truth. The influx of new display technologies and the resultant technical mumbo-jumbo has only furthered the consumers' confusion and ignorance towards the subject. Don't worry though, because tech2's here to simplify TV shopping and explain what you must consider before choosing the right one for your needs and budget.
Choosing the Right Size
Like they say, size does matter. This is especially true when the price you pay rises at a geometric progression with every increasing inch of the display panel's diagonal size. The idea is to buy a TV that's appropriate for the size of your room. The best measure for this is how far away is the ideal viewing position (aka the couch) located from your would-be TV set. The viewing distance is of utmost importance because a TV that's too small will make you squint and strain to focus on the details, whereas one that's too large for the room is equally uncomfortable to view. A display of the right size will fill your field of vision without being too small or large to be comfortable.
If the remote doesn't work, you're probably too far away from the TV. Either that, or you need new batteries (Credit: Getty Images)
Thankfully, there's an easy way to gauge the right display dimensions. The good people at THX have devised a handy formula to calculate the ideal size from the viewing distance. Simply multiply the distance between the TV and the seating position (in inches) by 0.84 and you'll get the ideal screen dimensions (diagonal size in inches, of course) when you round off the figure. For example, if the viewing distance is 4 feet away (50", approx) the ideal TV size is 42", whereas a TV set placed 6.5 feet away (77", approx) needs to be 65" diagonally. What you should take away from this is the sheer amount of money you stand to save if you simply move your couch a bit closer to the screen.
If you are too lazy to calculate, you may want to check out this handy THX-recommended cheat sheet:
- 35" class TV: 3.5-5 feet away
- 40" class TV: 4-6 feet away
- 50" class TV: 5-7.5 feet away
- 60" class TV: 6-9 feet way
Don't Fall for the Showroom Glitz
The worst thing you can possibly do is head over to your local electronics showroom and make up your mind by visually inspecting the huge array of TV sets on display. Make no mistake; the apparent performance of a TV set in the showroom has no bearing on its actual visual fidelity. A TV that seems brilliant in the shop may just turn out to be the worst one of the lot, and vice versa. This is simply because lighting conditions in a showroom vastly differ from those in an average living room. Manufacturers therefore crank the brightness and contrast settings to chronically high levels to overcome such aggressive lighting.
Whether it's relationships or the sales pitch of a TV salesman, they're all full of lies (Credit: Getty Images)
Needless to say, there is absolutely no way to gauge the TV's performance in a showroom, so don't base your judgment on shop displays where the colour, brightness and contrast levels are overly sexed up to stand out from the crowd. It is of utmost importance to manually calibrate your TV, because the default viewing modes possess exaggerated showroom-optimised settings that are just downright horrible and inaccurate to watch on a daily basis.
LCD or Plasma
I am well aware of the sun setting on plasma technology, with many manufacturers having already pulled out and others being keen on following suit. The fact, however, remains that it is vastly superior to LCD tech in all the parameters that matter. For starters, being an emissive display type (where the pixels themselves emit light) plasma technology has none of the bleeding or flickering issues associated with LCD backlighting. The colours are considerably richer than its LCD rivals, and it's much better at generating pure blacks as well. The all important viewing angles too are wider than its LCD counterparts, and they show no sign of ghosting or slow response times suffered by LCD panels either. In fact, modern LCDs have just begun to catch up with plasma TVs in terms of picture quality.
On the flip side, plasma displays consume a lot of energy and aren't ideal for really bright rooms, whereas the burn in (image retention) issue has largely been addressed in newer models. You might ask why they aren't nearly as popular as their LCD counterparts then. Well, that's because life isn't fair and excellence rarely translates into success. If you are a stickler for image quality, you might want to opt for a plasma panel. However, LCD displays are the ones to go for if you are more concerned about electricity bills.
Modern plasma TVs have addressed image retention issues. I mean, you sure don't want THIS burned in permanently on your TV.