December 3, 2007

How to find the perfect TV

If you are looking to buy a new TV here are a few facts that might help you.

1) How big should it be?

While it's very tempting to opt for the biggest possible telly within your budget, that won't always give you the best quality for your cash. There's no point in buying a 65in screen if you're going to sit 1m from it. The sharper imagery in high-def means you can sit a little closer - or buy a bigger TV for the same viewing distance.

2) Plasma or LCD?

Neither. It's just not as simple as that, no matter what that bloke down the pub told you. An increasingly outmoded rule of thumb is that plasmas tend to have better black levels, while LCDs usually offer higher resolution: as you'll see, those divisions are becoming blurred of late. And as for the hype that plasmas always suffer from screen burn, or that they need to be 'regassed' regularly – well, that's just rot.

3) HD-ready or Full HD?

Well, it's not a simple question. Let's just say Full HD is better in theory, but not always in practice.

4) How should I go digital?

The simplest way is to plug your Freeview-equipped TV into an aerial socket. An increasing number of new flatscreen sets are equipped with built-in tuners able to show free-to-air digital telly. If your telly only has an analogue tuner, you can always add a Freeview set-top box such as the Award-winning Sagem shown above. Alternatively, if you want more choice, a subscription service like cable or satellite is the way to go.

5) How about high-def?

Any HD-ready TV will cope with the high-definition programmes offered by Sky or Virgin, but if you want to watch HD on Blu-ray or HD DVD discs, it's best to ensure your TV can handle 1080p images sent at the film-standard speed of 24 frames per second (24fps). This is the optimum form of HD, so make sure the screen you buy is suitably equipped.

6) What about sound?

Flat televisions haven't the bulk or weight of older cathode-ray-tube televisions, and seldom deliver the sonic weight some might expect. In fact, in many larger TVs, you won't get any sort of sound at all, at least not as standard, because speakers are often an optional extra (so ensure you know what you're getting before you sign on the dotted line!). If you've a big room to fill with sound, consider adding an external audio system to your TV to get the most impact.

7) Should I buy one brand?

If you want to simplify your life then it can be a good idea. Many manufacturers offer systems that allow easy one-button control over multiple components from your TV's remote: for example, you can set the DVD recorder, or turn on a complete home cinema system. Panasonic's Viera Link and Sony's Bravia Theatre Sync are examples.

8) So where should I shop?

Now let's be honest: everyone plays the internet shopping game, including us, and it can be fun to spend a few meaningful hours plugging model names into an online search engine. But remember, there's no substitute for seeing a TV 'in the flesh' to decide if you like it. is a good place to start. Second Act is an online retailer of HDTVs and related products. They are an authorized dealer of Sharp, Samsung, Toshiba, Denon, Marantz, JVC, Hitachi and more and they are opportunity buyers specializing in HDTVs. They offer a Great Deal of the Day feature that even further discounts a single item for a 24 hour period. The deal changes daily at 7am cst and users can sign up to receive it via email or RSS.