TV buying tips

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Basic Tips For Television Shoppers We all know how to buy a television. Just open the newspaper, find the best price and go get one. In my days as a salesperson, I have seen this a lot; a customer comes in to the store, AD in hand, and says "wrap it up". However, the best price may not be the "best deal". Here are some buying tips that are often times overlooked, but very important in the purchase of a Television, whether it be a 20-inch tube set, large screen projection TV, or the latest high definition Plasma Television.

Tip #1 -- Measure the space the TV is to be placed in.

It amazes me how many times a customer will purchase a television, get it home just to return it because it just doesn't quite fit in the entertainment center, on the TV stand, or on the wall space. Make sure you measure the required space for your TV and bring those measurements and tape measure to the store with you. When measuring, leave at least a 1 to 2-inch leeway on all sides and several inches behind the set, in order to make it easier to install your TV and to allow for adequate ventilation. Also, make sure you have extra space for the installation of any cable and/or rear panel audio/video connections, once the television is in place, or have enough room to move the television so that cable connections can be easily installed or un-installed.

Tip #2 -- Size of Room/Type of Viewing Area

Make sure you have adequate viewing space between you and the TV. With Big Tube, Projection TV's, Plasma screens, and even video projectors, becoming more and more popular these days, the temptation to get the biggest screen possible is hard to pass up. However, you must have the proper distance between you and the picture to get the most pleasing viewing experience.

If you are planning to buy a 25-inch or 27-inch television, you should be about 8 feet away, for a 32-inch TV you should be about 10 feet away, and for a 35-inch or 36-inch TV you should be about 11 feet away. Needless to say, you should have at least 12ft to 15ft to work with when installing a 50-inch or 60-inch big screen set.

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In addition, if you are building a television viewing area or home theater room from scratch, even if you plan to do your own construction, still consult a home theater installer or a contractor that specializes in home theater to get an honest assessment of the actual environment that the television or video projector will be used in. Factors such as the amount of light coming in from windows, room size, acoustics, etc... will certainly be a major factor in what type of television or video projector (as well as audio setup) would be best in your specific situation.

Tip #3 -- Vehicle Size

Boy! Here is one tip that is definitely overlooked! Make sure your vehicle is large enough transport the TV, if you plan to take it with you. With cars being smaller these days, most cars cannot fit any TV larger than 20-inch to 27-inch in the front seat or the trunk (open, with tie-down). If you have an SUV, you should be able to accommodate a 32-inch TV without too much trouble. However, check with the salesperson to find out about delivery. Many stores offer free delivery on larger screen TV's. Take advantage of this, don't risk getting a hernia trying to lift a 150 to 200 pound big screen up those stairs...and definitely let the store deliver a Plasma or LCD television. If you take the set home yourself, you are out of luck if you damage the set. However, if you let the store deliver it, they take all the damage risk.

Tip #4 -- Picture Quality

When shopping for a television, take your time and take a good look at the picture quality, there can be marked differences in various models.

There are several factors contributing to a quality picture:

Darkness of Picture Tube or Screen Surface: The first factor is the darkness of the picture tube or screen. With several televisions turned off, check the darkness of the picture tubes and screens. The darker the screens, the better the TV is at producing a high-contrast picture. A TV cannot produce blacks that are blacker than the tube or screen itself. As a result TV's with "greenish" looking screens produce low contrast pictures.

One the other hand, if you are considering a video projector, projection screens are white, instead of black. In this case you need to purchase a screen with high reflectivity as the image is reflected off the screen to the viewer. Although the brightness and contrast performance of the video projector mainly lies with the internal circuitry of the video projector itself, a screen with low reflectivity will dampen the viewer's experience. In essence, when shopping for a video projector, you also have to shop for the screen to use with it.

Screen Flatness: The second factor to consider is how flat the picture tube is (projection, plasma, and LCD televisions are already flat). This is important because the flatter the tube is the less glare you will get from windows and lamps, as well as less shape distortion of objects displayed on the screen (I don't know about you, but it bugs me to watch a football game on TV and see that the yard lines are curved instead of straight because of the curvature of the picture tube). Basically, if purchasing a tube-type TV (referred to as direct view), you might want to consider purchasing a flat-tube type.

Comb Filter: An additional factor to be considered as a measure of picture quality is the presence of a comb filter in the TV. This is especially important in larger screen TV's. A TV without a comb filter will display "dot crawl" along edges of objects in the picture. On smaller sets this is not as noticable, but on anything 27" and larger it can be quite distracting. This results in the inability of the "average TV" to adequately resolve the color and resolution of the image to be displayed. The presence of a comb filter fine tunes the picture signal so that colors and lines can be displayed more accurately on the screen. There are many types of comb filters: Glass, Digital, and 3DY, but they are all there to do the same thing, improve the picture you see on the screen.

Progressive Scan: With the advent of Digital and HDTV, the ability for a TV to display a progressive scan image is another factor to consider, with regards to picture quality. Not only is this feature a part of Digital TV broadcasting, but most DVD players have progressive scan outputs. To put it simply, a progressive scan image has a more film-like look to it than normal video.

Tip #5 -- Audio Capability/AV Inputs and Outputs

When watching television we often times forget about the quality of the sound, because we are concentrating on visual experience. With more and more consumers integrating televisions into their stereo and home theater systems, the ability for a TV to provide more in the audio area is becoming more important. When looking for a television, make sure you look behind it as well as in front of it. Even if you aren't planning on hooking the TV up to an audio system soon, give yourself some flexibility.

Check to see if the TV has a least one set of audio/video inputs and one one set of audio outputs. On the input side, check for RCA-composite, S-Video, and component video inputs. If you are going to use the TV for HDTV application, check for HD Component, Firewire, DVI-HDCP, or HDMI inputs for future attachment of HDTV set-top boxes, HD-DVHS VCRs, or HD recorders/players (Blu-ray/HD-DVD).

In addition, although high definition DVD for consumers isn't here yet, there are now several DVD players available that have a DVI or HDMI connection. This allows the viewing of DVDs in an upscaled, HD-compatible format, but only if you have a television with either DVI or HDMI inputs.

As an added bonus, most televisions now come with a set of audio/video inputs in the front or side of the set. This can come in handy for hooking up a camcorder, WebTV, or video game.

Simply put; even if you don't have all the latest gear to hook up to your television, get a TV has enough input/output flexibility to add future components of various types.

Tip #6 -- Remote Control/Ease of Use

When shopping for a television, make sure the remote control is easy for you to use. Have the salesperson explain it to you if you are not sure of some of the functions. If you need to control several items with the same remote, make sure it is a universal remote and that it is compatible with at least some of the other components you have at home.

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As an added consideration, see if most of the TV functions can be controlled on the TV itself (the controls are usually located on the bottom front of the TV, below the screen). A few TVs may actually have the controls on top of the TV.

This can be very important if you misplace or lose your remote. Exact replacement remotes are not cheap and generic universal remotes may not control all the important functions of your new TV. Of course, there are many other tips that can aid you in buying a TV, features such as picure-in-picture, commercial skip timers, channel block (every new TV now has the V-Chip), TV Guide Plus, etc... can all be taken into consideration, depending on your needs, but my purpose in this article was to point out some fundamental tips that apply to any TV purchase that we often overlook in favor of the "gadgets" or "good deal" approach to TV purchasing.

Some Final Considerations

In conclusion, let's discuss some final considerations regarding your television purchase.

Needed Accessopries: When buying your television, don't forget additional accessories you might need, such as coaxial and audio-video cables, power surge protector, and any other items that you will need to make the installation of your television complete, especially if you are integrating your TV with an overall home theater system. Also, if you purchase a video projector, keep in mind that you will have to replace the light source bulb periodically, and to take that cost into consideration as a needed accessory cost down the line.

Extended Service Plans: Consider an extended service plan on a projection television or if the TV is more than $1,000. Although televisions rarely need repair, those repairs can be costly, especially for a CRT-based projection set. CRT projection sets house three projection tubes, one for green, one for blue, and one for red. If one projection tube becomes defective, all three must be replaced to insure the correct color balance. In addition, if you buy a Plasma or LCD television and something happens to operation of the screen, the entire set would probably have to be replaced, as these units are basically a single, integrated, piece.

Also, extended service plans usually include actual home service and may even offer some type of loaner while your set is being repaired. Lastly, many home service plans for projection televisions include a "once-a-year" tuneup where a technician will come out to your home, open the set, clean out all the dust and check for the proper color and contrast balance. If you have invested a lot of money in your projection set, this service is well worth it to keep it top notch condition; if you choose to take advantage of it.

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