11th Aug 2004

Flat Screen Television Buying Guide

When purchasing a flat screen tv, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here, we’ve listed a number of considerations for you to evaluate.

High Definition Upgradeable or HDTV-Ready

If you see this term used when deciding to purchase a flat screen tv, it means that the tv is capable of producing the highest resolutions possible for digital television today. “Upgradeable” means that you’ll need to first add a separate hdtv receiver before you can view the pictures in high definition mode (1080i or 720p). But, even if you don’t upgrade, the picture will still look fantastic. When watching regular dvd’s or tv broadcasts, the picture will be almost as good as real hdtv because most have line-doublers to improve the picture.

16:9 Aspect Ratio

Unlike conventional televisions, new plasma, lcd and rear-projection televisions most likely have a wide, rectangular screen that is very similar to the shape of a movie screen. This is known as 16:9 aspect ratio—for every 16 inches wide, the screen is 9 inches high. Compared to conventional TVs, which are 4:3 in aspect ratio, the field of vision is wider for a new flat screen tv.

When watching dvd’s at home on a 16:9 wide-screen television, you will be able to enjoy the full screen effect of the movie the way it was intended. On the other hand, when watching regular, standard definition television (like a news broadcast or talk show), you will need to either set the television to fill the screen entirely or watch with vertical black bars on either side of the picture.

Finally, remember that even though most television broadcasts are in 4:3 format, 16:9 widescreen format is the way of the future. Many events are shot in HDTV format (for example, the Olympics, special sporting events, nature documentaries, etc.) and as more and more people purchase high definition television, all broadcasts will be in high definition within the next few years.

Reverse 3:2 Pulldown

Television shows are usually shot on film at 24 frames per second. When transferred to video running at 30 frames per second, the picture quality is distorted in the translation. New televisions are able to correct those distortions through a series of reconversion techniques which reverse the distortions. The result is a smoother and cleaner picture.

When looking to buy a new plasma, lcd or rear-projection television, look for this feature.

3D Y/C Digital Comb Filter

The 3D Y/C digital comb filter’s job is to take the cable signal coming from the wall and separate the color, sound, brightness information into useable information. New plasma, lcd and rear-projection televisions have digital 3D Y/C comb filters that do a pretty good job of this so as to avoid what is know as “dot crawl” where the edges of objects appear rough. In addition, a good digital comb filter will also counter the effects of moir?, where still objects appear to move and ripple.

Most high end plasma, lcd and rear-projection televisions also have component inputs from video sources (such as a dvd player) that separate the signal before reaching the tv and bypass the digital comb filter. This results in an even clearer and brighter picture.


Picture-in-Picture (or PIP) allows you to watch two shows at once, with the second show in a box in a part of the screen. PIP is fairly common these days to all sorts of televisions. However, consider getting a dual tuner PIP plasma, lcd or projection television since that allows you to watch the second channel without needing an external tuner (for example, from a vcr). In addition, there are also TVs that will show different channels side by side—these are called twin view PIP TVs.


“Inputs” refer to how related audio/visual components connect to your plasma, lcd or rear-projection television. The highest video quality input is known as “component video”. With component video inputs, the color and brightness information from the cable is separated into useable data before entering the television. The next best input is S-video input which give a picture almost as good as component video—whereas component video separates brightness, blue signal and red signal from each other, s-video just separates brightness from blue and red signals.

All new plasma, lcd and rear-projection televisions will also have inputs for various multimedia devices such as dvd players. In addition, some will allow you to connect a computer.

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