For that past year and even more so at CES 2008, the trend in HDTV's seems to be shifting away from how big the screen is, to how thin the entire set is. Many people may find this to be a trivial detail, despite the aesthetic advantages of a super-thin HDTV, but Gizmodo's Wilson Rothman has pointed out that thinness isn't always trivial. Take for instance the example of installing a 50-inch plasma on a wall mount. The absolute thinness is not really the critical part, says Rothman, it's the reduced weight you have to wrestle to actually install a thin HDTV. He's put together an excellent chart comparing the screen size, thickness, and weight of old and current model HDTV in a number of different brand categories. You'd be surprised at how lopping a few inches off a set's thickness can drastically reduce its overall weight.
Not everyone wants their flat panel HDTV on display all the time, hence motorized lifts and other tools that give you the opportunity to hide away the tube when not in use. From custom cabinetry, to concealment behind oil paintings, and decorative mirrors, the options are limitless for creatively hiding your display. And best of all, prices of lifts, frames, and screens used to hide the display are coming down at an avalanche-like pace. Marketnews helps you explore your options for hiding your flat-panel display.
So you've been on the couch for the past week with your eyes glued to that brand new HDTV go got for Christmas, haven't bothered to have a shower and are dreading going back to work now that the holidays are coming to an end. Wouldn't it be a shame to find out that you spent your entire Christmas break thinking your were watching high-definition content on your new HDTV, but you really weren't.
Approximately 1 out of every 6 homes in the United States now have at least one HD-capable television, yet only about 50% of HDTV owners are actually watching HD picture on their televisions. The numbers are even more startling when you realize that 25% of HDTV owners think they are watching HD content when they aren't. Talk about customer confusion.
It's pretty common to hear HDTV buyer's, especially those buying for the first time wondering why the picture doesn't seem as good on their new HDTV at home as it did in the store. Just so you know, there is probably nothing wrong with the set, it was just calibrated and optimized for the best performance possible when it sat on the store shelves, for that environment, so you'd be wowed and buy it. It worked, but now it has to be optimized so you get the best picture possible in your living room, very different from the bright, wide open spaces of a big-box store. Here is a great write-up from USA Today giving you a few tips to hook up that new HDTV properly, so you get the best picture possible.
Having trouble deciding on what size your new HDTV should be? Try out Display Wars, a free web tool, that graphically compares HDTV sizes to make it a little easier to make a comparison. All's you need to know is the aspect ratio of the two TV's to be compared and their diagonal measurement in inches. It's particularly good for helping you visualize, for example, that 52-inch plasma in the big-box store with your 37-inch LCD at home. Televisions displayed at stores with their wide open spaces look a whole lot smaller than they would in a small room in your house or apartment. Display Wars will help you better visualize the two models in a controlled environment.
Display Wars Via Lifehacker
Do you ever wonder why the contrast ratios on newer model LCD TV's can vary so much? It's not uncommon for contrast ratios to be 2000:1 and 25000:1 on two HDTV's that are otherwise very similar in their features and overall quality. Why is this?
There are actually two types of contrast ratios and the difference lies in the definitions. Unfortunately not all salespeople and marketers of HDTV's bother to point out which type of contrast ratio is being reported. The first type of contrast ratio, the static contrast ratio, is the ratio of the brightest part of an LCD screen to the darkest part that can be simultaneously displayed on screen. The second type of contrast ratio, the dynamic contrast ratio, is measured by comparing the blackest black of one image to the whitest white of another image at a different time.
By measuring the dynamic contrast ratio in such a way that allows for the entire screen to be darker for dark scenes and lighter for light scenes, this allows LCD makers and marketers to claim a larger dynamic contrast ratio. So when you see two otherwise comparable LCD's with contrast ratios of 2000:1 and 25000:1, you now know the larger, more impressive looking number is a dynamic contrast ratio, while the smaller one is a static contrast ratio.
The most interesting part of this is while dynamic contrast ratios can improve the picture quality for scenes that are predominantly dark or bright, the actual reported contrast ratio can't actually be achieved. So don't get confused. Yes, dynamically-altered brightness is a good HDTV feature, just don't base your buying decision on the massive looking dynamic contrast ratio.
Kind of like a digg for production comparisons, ProductClash lets you submit two products and then watch site users vote for the best of the two. The site also lets users submit comments for each clash and even a "blog it" option that allows you to embed or reference a clash on your website or blog.
For each clash, total votes for the two products are combined and a list of the ten most popular clashes is compiled based on these combined votes. A list of the ten most popular products is also compiled based on the number of votes for each product. Not surprisingly, the most popular product at the moment is the Nintendo Wii.
The best part about this site is the fact that TVSnob's can take any two televisions, high-def optical disc players, media streamers, etc, etc, submit them as a clash and then let people who actually have experience with the products ultimately tell you which one is best through votes and comments. No hype from companies or salespeople, just pure unadulterated honesty. Something you need if you're planning on forking out thousands of dollars for that new HDTV.
Do more expensive HDMI cables really deliver a better picture? According to Popular Mechanics, the answer is no. Three types of cables were tested: a generic 13 foot cable priced at $13 at Newegg.com, the $200 13 foot Monster Cable Advanced HDMI 1000 HD cable, and the $300 16 foot Honeywell HDMI Cable With CURxE Light Technology. Surprisingly, despite the huge difference in prices between the generic and brand name cables, the testers were not able to tell the difference in picture quality between any of the cables. Because HDMI is digital, it will either transport the feed or it won't. Popular Mechanic's recommendation: buy the cheap HDMI cables you can find online, and put the price difference into upgrading your HDTV.
Any technology that evolves rapidly tends to leave consumers confused. We can't decide whether to pay the big bucks now and join the early adopters or wait a couple of years until prices drop and included features are better. In the HDTV market, things are especially confusing at the moment. Prices on 40 and 42 inch HDTV's have dropped 39% in the past year and research firm iSuppli figures they'll drop another 30% or so in 2008. Price decreases are comparable for 47 and 52 inch HDTV's dropping 40% this year, and another expected 25% decrease by the end of 2008. So what should you do? Buy now or wait a year?
The New York Times recommends opting for cheaper models at any given time rather than paying an arm and a leg for the newest technologies. If you want to know why, consider this. Only 5 years ago, Fujitsu had a top-of-the-line HDTV tagged at $15000. Early adopters then figured that buying the best HDTV available on the market would future-proof their purchase against technological change over the coming years. They were wrong. That TV is unable to display a 1080p signal, the best resolution currently on the market. If you do want to make the big HDTV purchase now though, what should you be looking for?
HDTV Magazine founder Dale Cripps figures that display resolution won't move beyond 1080p anytime in the near future, so definitely look for a 1080p set. Also make sure there is an ample supply of HDMI ports, preferably three or more. Look for LED backlighting and frame rates of 120 Hz as they tend to produce a clearer picture devoid of motion blur. And as always, just use common sense. More expensive doesn't necessarily mean better.