An Informative Rant About TVs

Posted on November 28, 2010


Anyone get any amazing Black Friday deals on TVs?  There were plenty of sales going on this year at every store that sold televisions, with TVs usually being on the front page, and at the top of everyone’s wish list (including mine.)  Of course, as a college student with very little money to spare, and as a girl who loves technology and electronics, it is mandatory that I over-analyze potential purchases.  (Unfortunately, this has also driven me to the point where I am almost too burnt out to care about getting a new TV.)  If you haven’t purchased a new, spiffy LCD or LED TV yet, I hope this information can help you and our environment.

As we all know, LED TVs are the newest, most high-quality TVs out there to-date (let’s not talk about 3D TVs just yet.) They also happen to be the most environmentally friendly!  LED TVs are created without mercury–a substance used in LCD TVs, and LED TVs are more energy-efficient, usually using about 40% less power than LCDs.  I also read that LED TVs are much lighter than LCDs.  I tested this claim when I went TV shopping earlier, and that is definitely the case.  LEDs also provide a much better picture with higher dynamic contrast ratios, a better resolution, a better refresh rate, a faster response time, etc.  Unfortunately, LEDs tend to also be more expensive. A couple last tidbits of general info: an LED TV is still an LCD, which is why you will sometimes see LEDs listed as “LED-LCD TV,” and “edge-lit LEDs” is the newest form of LED TV where (surprise, surprise) the LEDs are only around the edges, meaning that the TVs will be thinner, but may not have as good of a picture as “full-array” LED TVs.

Here are some of the technical specifications I look at while comparing TVs:

Visual Quality: What type of “P” is it? A 1080P TV has better quality than a 720P TV, and a TV that supports 1080i is comparable to 720P.  On a TV that’s less than 37 or 40 inches, you really are wasting your money paying extra for a TV that supports 1080P.  Simply put: YOU CAN’T TELL THE DIFFERENCE WHEN THE SCREEN IS THAT SMALL!

Resolution: See above. This is also pretty self-explanatory. The bigger the numbers, the better the picture quality. E.g., (1280 x 720) v. (1366 x 768)=second resolution wins.

Dynamic Contrast Ratio: This can be somewhat misleading, but I still take this into account, regardless.  The higher the number, the more vivid the colors are supposed to be.  This includes “blacks” actually appearing to be a “black” color versus a blueish-black.  “Contrast ratio is defined as the difference between the brightest color (white) and the darkest color (black).”-

It is misleading in the fact that there are two contrast ratios: static and dynamic. Dynamic will always have the higher number, so manufacturers list this instead of their static contrast ratio.  “The static contrast ratio measures dark and light in a static shot, or the highest contrast ratio achievable within the same scene at the same time. This is a smaller number but a truer measurement in terms of overall picture quality.”- A good starting point for a static contrast ratio is usually over 1,000:1, and for dynamic, usually 10,000:1. (It’s also more of a pain to find out what the static contrast ratio is, so that is why I am usually satisfied with a high dynamic contrast ratio.)

Response Time: is measured in milliseconds (ms) and also adds to the picture quality.  For this, you will most likely want a TV no slower than 6ms for any size–although you can usually find TVs that are 40 inches or larger having a RT of at least 4ms, and LEDs with a response time of 2ms or less.  The faster the response time, the less likely it is you’ll see blurring or a “ghosting”/”streaking” effect while watching fast-moving shots. (Very important for video games and sports!)

The ghosting/streaking effect


Refresh Rate: The bigger the number, the better.  The standard refresh rate is 60Hz (Hertz), which means that a new image is displayed 60 times per second. Basically, the higher the refresh rate, the better the picture. I recommend 120Hz for TVs bigger than 37 inches. You can find bigger (scarier) TVs with refresh rates of 240Hz or greater.

Connectivity: What can connect to your TV? This is important to me, as a gamer. I want to make sure I can connect all of my systems up to the TV at once, so I won’t have to mess with the cords later.  This is a matter of preference, but the standards I see are usually (1) Composite AV, (1-2) Component, (2) HDMI, (1) PC/VGA, (1) optical, and (1) USB.  But once again, make sure you know what you want to hook up to your TV before you buy one, so you don’t regret not spending an extra $50 later.

An example of common ports on the back of a TV

In Summary

There are many technical details to look at, so always do a little bit of your own homework.  (NewEgg’s LCD TV Buying Guide is a good place to start!) I listed the specs I feel are most important, so hopefully that will save you some time.  You may also want to look at the audio output (speaker quality in watts) and the approximate lifetime of the TV (measured in hours). And as far as brand names are concerned, Samsung is the way to go!

Remember, to save some money and help out the environment, you can purchase nearly any TV that is Energy Star compliant.  Also, don’t throw out your old TV– take it to a local electronics store, like Best Buy, to recycle it!