How quickly time changes! As far as television tech is concerned, a year is a very long time. It really doesn’t matter if you had purchased that latest flat panel television a year ago. That 32-inch beauty must have felt really huge, and cutting edge back then, and must have considerably lightened the wallet as well. Ah, how quickly the romance has died away. However, while that HDTV isn't old, it feels dated. Not because it isn't Full HD (because it is), and neither because it doesn’t have a USB port – because it has and can play back video files as well. Then what really is the problem?
Answer lies with the way new features are introduced in the updated versions every few months. LED backlighting, Ethernet connectivity (now even the optional Wi-Fi), 3D and even web apps – eventually the flat pane looks more like a PC than a TV doesn’t it?
Which leads us to the critical question – what to look for in a television if you are buying one today? How to go about buying it? How to understand which one is the best for you? And how to avoid the “gyaan” thrown at you by the sales people and be ready with your own knowledge defense for that point.
Here is a very basic guide to follow, before splashing the cash.
1. Future imperfect? Not really.
The simple fact of the matter is – if you worry that the TV you buy today will become outdated in a year or so, we strongly urge you to stop thinking. Because this argument (or logic- whatever you may want to call it!) will be true in that 1 year later as well! Buy what fits your requirements and budget today. The only real discussion point here is what screen size. For example, the current room is big enough only for a 32-inch TV, but what if you plan to shift to a bigger place 6 months down the line? We suggest you buy according to the 6 months down the line situation. That’ll be the smarter choice, considering you may not buy a new TV then.
2. Resolution question. 1080p should be the mantra.
We wouldn’t bore you with too many technical terms and jargons about the “i” and the “p”. But whatever TV you buy, ensure that it is what is known as Full HD at the moment – 1080p. Connect an HD Media Player, an HD DTH service or a Blu-ray player, and all that’ll look best on a 1080p display. Even HD channels on various DTH operators are in the 1080i resolution. Buying anything lower than this isn't worth spending your money on, period.
3. Size matters. Depends on your room, though.
What display size fits your requirement is critical thing to consider. Buy what you will feel is comfortable according to your room size, and viewing distance. One size too small and one size bigger will just make the entire experience uncomfortable. To check this, sit at a similar distance as you would at home, and see which display size is most comfortable to watch. Do not hesitate to move chairs around a bit in the store. After all, its your hard earned money that you are about to spend.
However, as we had mentioned earlier as well, if you plan to shift this TV up in a bigger room a few months down the line, then we suggest you buy a size that will suit the new place more.
4. Enough inputs. HDMI are the critical ones.
You should ideally buy a television that offers abundant input ports, the most critical one being HDMI. At least 3 HDMI is what we would suggest, since you may already have a gamut of compatible devices (HD STB, DVD Player, gaming console etc.), with more definite to be added in the near future. 4 HDMI inputs would be ideal though. Switching cables manually every time is just annoying, and may just damage the TV, worst case scenario. Also, a lot of people bother about whether the USB port on the TV can play back videos. Well, we would suggest you pick up an HD Media Player (ex: WD Live) instead, and enjoy a much better upscale video on the HD display, connected via HDMI. Then comes the question of web connectivity. If your TV has an Ethernet port, ensure that the use of the web on the TV will be justified, if you are about to spend extra on a TV with web capabilities.
5. The web that is worldwide. And in your TV
Some TVs come with Ethernet ports enabling Internet capabilities on the device. Beyond that, some even offer Wi-Fi capability, either through an external USB dongle or built-in as in the case of some high-end televisions. Most of these TVs would come with apps built-in. However, their numbers are still quite low, and the experience of web connectivity is usually restricted to using the feature to enable media streaming from the PC or mobile phone to the TV using DLNA. More so due to geographical restrictions on these services, since we are unable to access services like Netflix.
6. The blurring lines of performance. Plasma doesn’t rule the movie world anymore.
Well, gone are the days when it was said that if you wanted to enjoy the movies in the best way, get a Plasma TV. And buy an LCD if you will be watching it in a brightly lit room. The arrival of LCD panels around 40-inches to 50-inches meant that consumers had an alternative to the heavier and more power consuming Plasma. LED televisions with local dimming have the ability to achieve extremely dark black levels.
7. Love triangle. Which one will you take on a date?
The LED televisions have joined LCD and Plasma to vie for the monies you may be out to spend on a new HDTV! While the LCD displays have the price advantage, Plasmas have the performance advantage, albeit with much higher power consumption and the tendency to get really warm even in air-conditioned rooms. The LED displays have the advantage of being slimmer than most LCD displays out there. And offer much better colour reproduction and contrast than the LCD. Plasma, unfortunately, seems to be a distant third place in the consideration stakes, since it consumes a lot more power, is thick and heavy, and cant really be used in brightly lit rooms due to the reflective nature of the display.
8. 3D or not to 3D. Depends on whether you get a headache.
Big question on almost every high-end television buyers mind – should they be buying a 3D TV? Well, the answer isn't a simple yes or no. First, does 3D give you a headache or a head spinning feeling? If yes, then the answer is no. Secondly, How often do you think you’ll watch 3D? If it is often, then go right ahead. Don’t kill a dream! If you are going to watch it infrequently, then might as well just whet the 3D appetite at a cinema near you, when the next 3D worthy blockbuster comes along.
9. Your test. And the television’s too.
Now that you are going to check out the TV at the nearest store, it is essential that you compare it to rivals side by side. For that, the salesperson will inevitably hook it up to a DVD or Blu-Ray player via an HDMI splitter. However, we do not trust the content they play. First, take your own DVD/ Blu-Ray disc and request them to play that for you while you compare the televisions. Secondly, do not hesitate to ask for the remotes and tweak picture settings to the way you would probably set them at once the TV arrives home. This will give you a better idea of where each display stands at that picture settings. After all, any display would look crisp and bright at the highest contrast settings.
10. Dig deep. Check performance of features that may look solid on paper.
When the content is being played back, you need to see how it handles fast motion videos. Check for ghosting, blurring or jagged lines. While the TV may boast of a high refresh rate, it is better to assess its claims rather than just believing the marketing speak. Also, does the TV have settings to tweak fast motion handling, black levels, contrast, colour depth and even things like deep colour and colour tone. While you may not tweak these settings often, having them does help a lot in getting the best out of the TV.