WALKING INTO AN ELECTRONICS STORE CAN BE DAUNTING: 30 TVS, ALL LINED UP NEXT TO ONE ANOTHER, SOUNDLESSLY PLAYING ICE AGE 2. ONLINE CAN BE EVEN WORSE. THERE ARE JUST TOO MANY OPTIONS. HERE ARE NINE CRITICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT BUYING A TV THAT, WHILE THEY WON’T MAKE YOUR CHOICE EASY, WILL DEFINITELY MAKE IT EASIER.
PLASMA, LCD, LED, OLED?
Don’t bother with OLED. (Whoops! How’s that for candour?) OLED TVs are stunning, almost three-dimensionally clear, but they’re also ridiculously expensive. And rare. Your first choice is between plasma and LCD. Plasma TVs typically look better in darker rooms, with deeper, more realistic blacks, and their images are less likely to blur with movement.
These TVs also have a wider viewing angle, in case you want to invite a lot of people over. LCDs, however, are less washed out in bright light and are often cheaper and lighter. Thinner, too, if you plan on mounting it on your wall. LEDs are even thinner.
They’re very bright, with excellent contrast. They’re usually more expensive, too, but they consume less energy, if that’s
something that concerns you.
WHAT ABOUT CONTRAST RATIO?
Contrast ratio is unregulated, unfortunately, which means one company’s 500 000:1 is another’s 2 000 000:1. Comparing these numbers really only helps when you’re considering two options from the same brand.
I SHOULD JUST GET 1080P, RIGHT?
Yes, but if you’re buying a 42-incher (that’s around 106 cm, if you insist) or smaller, most people’s eyes won’t be able to discern the difference in resolution between 1080 and 720. So you can save a little money there.
BUT WHO WANTS A TV UNDER 42 INCHES?
Er… people like us? If money is no object, perhaps it’s for the bathroom.
WHAT ABOUT REFRESH RATE?
Refresh rate is the number of times a screen refreshes its image each second, measured in hertz. Sixty Hz is passable, 120 Hz is great, and 240 Hz is overkill, for the most part.
DO I NEED A CERTAIN NUMBER OF HDMI PORTS?
Make sure there are as many HDMI ports as you have peripherals (a Blu-ray player, game system, etc). You’re usually safe with three. Whatever you do, don’t buy expensive HDMI cables. The ones you can find online for 20 bucks are generally as good as the R600-plus options at the store.
WHAT ABOUT 3D? I WANT THAT, RIGHT?
Might as well, if you don’t mind spending the extra money. Who knows if 3D will ever really take off – the glasses are mildly embarrassing and often uncomfortable, and glasses-free 3D viewing, for now at least, can make you feel cross-eyed – but even a mediocre 3D TV will be a fantastic 2D TV. Plasma has the slight edge, as it’s less likely to have cross-talk: the appearance of two separate images (right and left eye) instead of one smoothly incorporated image.
WHAT ABOUT THE EXTENDED WARRANTY?
Don’t bother. Most TVs, if they’re going to have problems, have them in the first year of ownership, when you’re protected by the manufacturer’s warranty.
WHEN SHOULD I BUY IT?
Right now, before the big rugby games start.
AND THE EXTREMELY HURRIED MAN’S GUIDE TO BUYING A CAMCORDER DON’T JUST GET A NICE POINT-AND-SHOOT OR DSLR. MANY OF THEM NOW COME WITH ONE-BUTTON VIDEO CAPTURE, OFTEN IN FULL HD.
THE TV BUDGET CALCULATOR
[HOURS OF TV YOU WATCH IN A WEEK × ANNUAL INCOME* ÷ 1000] + [2Π**× (77,9***- YOUR AGE)]
* After taxes.
** 3,14. Come on.
*** Average life expectancy.
‘Television is a medium because anything well done is rare.’ – Fred Allen