So you’re in the market for a new television but how do you choose? A recent query of “televisions” on a major retailer’s website yielded over 600 choices! Now you can narrow that down by size, manufacturer or by type of panel but that tells you nothing about choosing the right television for your room. Have no fear; the experts with advice are here. When selecting a new television, there are 5 main things to consider: size, lighting, off-axis viewing, application and recommendations from experts.
For 1080P HDTVs, the rule of the thumb is viewing distance equals 2 times the width of the screen. If you’re considering purchasing a new UHD (4K resolution) television, the rule of thumb is 1.5 times the width of the screen. Here are some examples:
8 FT from screen= 40” (1080P) or 64” (4K)
12 FT from screen = 58” (1080P) or 96” (4K)
20 FT from screen= 96” (1080P) or 160” (4K)
This will vary based on the quality of the panel meaning the better the television the closer you can sit (or bigger the TV can be) and the picture will look great. The trend in the average TV size for consumers has been inching up, literally. Today the average size is 60” with 70” and 84” panels becoming more and more common.
Another big consideration is the lighting in the room. Flat panel televisions are perform well even in rooms with high ambient light but there are two potentials issues that can affect your viewing experience, direct light and glare. So you want to think about the placement of the TV. Is it opposite a window? Does direct sunlight hit that location at any point in the day? Do you have shades to control the light? How about artificial light directly above the television? Can you shut those off? Direct sunlight and artificial light right above the TV will likely mean glare on the TV. To combat this, consider a wall mount bracket with a pull-out arm. These brackets will allow you to angle the TV away from the source of light causing a glare. If you’re not mounting the TV, think about a TV stand with the ability to swivel. A final word about lighting, many people believe that Plasmas are the only panels susceptible to glare but today even the ultra-shiny LED panels are prone to glare. If you want to test this out, simply shine a flashlight onto the screen , the clearer the reflection you get the more susceptible to glare it is.
Next, you will want to consider the layout of the seating in your room. Ideally all your seating is directly in front of the television but that is hardly ever the case. Often there are multiple seating positions in a semi-circle around the TV and it could be that none of the seats are directly in front. The seats on the sides are considered off-axis viewing. Plasma televisions are best suited for this because they have nearly a 180 degree viewing angle meaning you could stand right next to it and see the picture no problem. However LED/LCD TVs are lit in a couple of different ways, all of which cause the picture to fade out as you move away from the center of the screen. If you want to test this out, put a movie on and stand a few feet back directly in the middle of the screen. Note the colors in the image, how black the blacks are for instance. Now slowly start to walk to one side until you’re at the side of the TV, noting the entire time how the image starts to washout and lose contrast.
Consider what you’ll be using the TV for as some technologies are better for certain applications than others. Here is a breakdown of the common things people use their television for and what technology is best suited for it.
Plasmas are typically better for movies and sports while LED/LCD TVs are better for gaming and television watching. This has to do with Plasma’s ability to produce better contrast, motion and reproduction of film (24 FPS). TV is native 60Hz and so are LED/LCD TVs so they are better suited to regular TV viewing. Note this is true of 120Hz, 240Hz and every other product of 60Hz.
Recommendations from the Experts
Plasma vs. LED Debate
In the discussion of which technology is better, it is important to note that we are talking about high quality panels, comparing the highest quality Plasma to the highest quality LED panel. Plasma has inherent advantages in film, speed but there are many instances where you could compare a poor quality plasma TV to a high quality LED TV and the LED TV would win. So remember, technology doesn’t guarantee picture quality the manufacturer does and the quality build of the set.
The Specs Game
There are three things that matter in determining a quality picture: brightness, contrast ratio and resolution. But how do you measure these things? The manufacturer has a specification sheet for each model but how accurate are they? In reality, they’re not very. There are only two specifications that manufacturers are held to- the energy rating and the power amplification rating. All the others can be grossly exaggerated and meaningless. Real world performance is what matters. There are a variety of reviewers who will give real world ratings and those you can rely on. So check out magazines like hometheater.com to get the skinny.
Best TV out?
So now that we’ve run through the things you should be thinking about when you buy a new TV, we’ll weigh in with our own personal recommendations. These recommendations are based on 300+ years of combined experience and 63 years in business. Not too shabby right?
The Panasonic ZT Series. Hailed by most as the new reference panel by which all other televisions should be judged. Available in a 60” or 65”.
The Panasonic ST Series. Consider by many to be the best value television. Offering a stunning picture in 50” under $1000. Available in sizes up to a 65”.