tvroom.jpgOver the last few years, the price of HDTVs has plummeted but buying a hi-definition television can still be a mind-boggling experience. Today there are three basic types of technology for you to consider: Plasma, LCD, and LED. All of these are thin enough to hang on a wall and produce stunning highly-detailed images.

Plasmas utilize small cells containing electronically charged ionized gases or phosphors to display the picture. The phosphor is electronically excited to create a glow in the proper color. This produces the highest contrast levels and the truest blacks. Plasma TVs are generally rated as having the best picture quality. They have good viewing angles, meaning that they can be viewed from the side better than most other types of displays. Plasmas are best viewed in a dark room. They do not do as well in a brightly lit room, so if you will be putting the television in a sunny room, you will not want to get a plasma. For fast action and sports, plasma holds a slight advantage over LCD, though LCDs have become better in this area.

LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. These television displays use the light modulating properties of liquid crystals to emit the light to create the picture. The crystals bloc or allow light to create different colors. LCD TVs use a CCFL (cold cathode) backlighting to produce the light to eliminate the crystals. LCD displays have a non-reflective screen and produce very good brightness that makes them perform better in brightly lit rooms. Although they can easily be seen from the side, they are best when viewed from the front. Most LCD televisions have a 60 Hz refresh rate. These can have a slight blur in fast moving action scenes. Depending on how sensitive your eyes are, you may not even notice this. LCD manufacturers have upped the refresh rate in some of their televisions to 120 Hz. This repaints the screen twice as many times per second and is intended to eliminate the blur in fast moving images. You will also find LCDs with 240 Hz refresh rates.

Although they are simply referred to as LED televisions, an LED TV is a LCD television that uses LEDs (light-emitting diodes) as a backlight rather than the traditional CCFL backlighting. You will pay a premium for an LED television, but they have several advantages over the standard LCDs. LEDs are thinner, lighter, have better heat dissipation, a brighter display, better contrast levels, and lower power consumption than standard LCDs.

If you are interested in power consumption, you will find that although all TVs have improved in this area, plasmas are the most expensive to operate. Plasmas use electricity to light each and every pixel you see on a screen, whether they are white, colored, or even black. Plasmas can easily use three times the energy of a standard LCD, while LEDs use as little as half of the power needed to run a standard LCD. You will find that the size of the screen and the resolution also greatly affect power consumption. The good news is that manufacturers have starting putting energy-rating stickers on their televisions so that you can easily compare the power consumption of the various models.

Another thing to consider when purchasing one of these new technologies is longevity. Most plasma sets have ratings of 60,000 to 100,000 hours to half-life. That means that after that number of hours, the television will be dimmed to about half of the brightness it had when it was new, but it will still be viewable.  Many LCDs are also rated for 60,000 to 100,000 hours, but this is how long it will take before the backlight wears out.

If you keep your television on for seven hours a day, it would take you 23 years of use to get to the 60,000 mark and 39 years to get to the 100,000 hour mark. Keep in mind however, that there are many other things that can go wrong with these new televisions. They are highly computerized and the parts are tightly integrated. If you remember when you could pull the tube out of a television, go down to the corner store to test it, and replace it cheaply, be aware that those days are gone forever. When one component of these new flat screen televisions goes bad, it is likely that the entire guts of the TV will need to be replaced. In most cases, it is more cost effective to replace the television than to get it repaired.

For that reason, a flat panel television is one device that you may want to consider purchasing a service policy for. My four-year old hi-definition television has had its innards replaced twice. Each repair would have been about $1,000 had I not purchased a five-year policy. This may not happen to you, but you should be aware that repair bills for these new televisions can be quite hefty.

Now that I've gotten one of the biggest drawbacks of the new televisions out of the way, let me say that our HDTV has given us hours and hours of enjoyment. When I think about the fuzzy gray and white television shows that I watched when I was a kid, the picture quality of these new TVs is no less than spectacular.