Which television to buy has become a complex decision. You need to become familar with terms like resolution, format, 1080i, 1080p, and 720p. Here are a few tips to make your television decision easier.
The size of televisions is measured diagonally. Current high definition models range from about 11” to over 100”. Most sales today are for larger screens from 36” to 50”. The size of the television screen is pretty straightforward except that standard TV uses a 4:3 aspect meaning that there are 4 horizontal units to every 3 vertical units. HDTVs are usually 16:9 meaning there are 16 horizontal units for every 9 vertical units. High-definition programs are broadcast in 16:9 format that fill the screen of a Hi-def TV.
A high definition television will show the standard 4:3 programs in the middle of the screen with bars at the sides. High definition televisions also allow you to zoom into standard programs or stretch them so they fill the screen.
Going further into the world of high definition television, things immediately get more complicated. Numbers and letters like 1920 x 1080, 720p, and 1080i are bantered about easily. These numbers all relate to the resolution of the image on the screen. High definition television resolution is either 1280 vertical lines by 720 rows or 1920 vertical lines by 1080 rows. This number refers to the number of pixels or dots that make up the picture. A standard American television (NTSC) has a resolution of 352 x 240. So a regular television has about 84,480 dots while a high definition television that is 1920 x 1080 has 2,073,600 dots. This will give you an idea of why high definition television is so much better.
When talking about high definition television, you will also hear the resolution numbers followed by a “p” or an “i”. This is preceded by the number of rows. So you will hear a resolution referred to as 720p or 1080i or 1080p. “P” stands for progressive. “I” is for interlaced. Progressive means that the rows of pixels are refreshed one row after the other like 1,2,3,4. Interlaced means that the alternating rows are refreshed like rows 1,3,5,7 then 2,4,6,8. What you need to know is that progressive scanning gives better results. Right now high definition television shows are broadcast as 720p or 1080i. Although we currently have television sets that are capable of displaying at resolutions of1080p, there are not yet any broadcasts in 1080p. Only a high definition DVD player and a high definition DVD will give you that highest resolution.
You really don’t have to worry about the resolution of the broadcasts. Any high definition television will automatically adjust the display to show standard shows and all high definition shows in the highest format that is broadcast and that the television is capable of.
Also remember that resolution isn’t everything. Color reproduction, contrast, and refresh rates also can make a big difference. So look carefully at the picture before you purchase, paying special attention to the blacks, whites, clarity, contrast, and display of fast motion on the screen. Also be aware that some stores may be showing you a high definition 1080p DVD on the display TVs. Even with a 1080p television, you won’t see that much detail in everyday television until they start to broadcast in 1080p and regular broadcasts in 1080p may be years away.
If you want the very best, go for the largest screen that your room can accommodate and choose a 1080p resolution, which is the best currently available. Be prepared, however, to pay a premium for the latest and greatest technology.
So what did my husband and I purchase? We went with a 50” Samsung 720p DLP. Here was the thinking. We would have had to spend two to three times as much to get a 50” 1080p Plasma or LCD. We didn’t need a flat panel, as we had room for the larger DLP. The DLP suited our room better than Plasma because our television is in a bright sun room. Yes, we could have paid more for a 1080i or 1080p, but after fifty years of watching regular television, that 720p was bound to look pretty spectacular. Knowing that we will probably have to purchase a new bulb in 3-4 years, we added a 5-year all-inclusive warranty that covers the cost of bulb replacement.
All-in-all we have a wonderful large screen high definition television that blows away our old set. We are all set for at least 5 years. At the speed that television technologies are progressing, in 5 years there will and new technologies and possibly even better resolutions. So we will be able to move this television into the den and buy a new one. Who knows, in 5 years we may be investing some of the money we saved on this purchase in an ultra-thin 100” 3-dimensional television that will make television looks as real as life.
To read about the difference between plasm, DLP, LCoS, and LCD televisions read my article, Television Choices Today.