Plasma TV buying guide

What to look for when buying a plasma television

Does size matter?

It seems like a basic question but the size of the plasma TV that you decide to buy is very important. The first impulse for many people is to get the biggest TV they can find within their budget. However, you really need to think about the environment you are going to use it in. A massive unit is entirely inappropriate for a small lounge room because not only will it take up a lot of room but chances are, the viewer will be sitting too close, making even the slightest image flaw overt. Consider getting a smaller unit for the same price as the larger one. The extra cost will, in most cases, equate to a better quality image.

Currently, the size options range from 42in (106cm) through to 65in (165cm) measured diagonally across the panel. However, it seems the majority of units sold tend to be at the 46in (116cm) mark. For an average-sized lounge room 42-46in will be appropriate.

Is the native resolution really high definition?

There is some confusion in the market at the moment with regard to high definition. Consumers are assaulted with terms like "HD ready", "HD capable" and "Full high definition", not knowing the difference, some are walking away with units that do not suit their needs.

Ask the salesperson what the native resolution of the unit is. The native resolution is the number of pixels on the panel. This is measured as width by height. A common high-definition resolution is 1366x768. This means that the panel is 1366 lines of pixels wide and 768 lines high. If the TV you are thinking about buying is less that 720 lines high, it is not high definition. TVs under that 720 pixel mark are either standard or enhanced definition and will only be good for watching DVDs or standard-definition free-to-air television. The confusion lies in the claims that some manufacturers make that these units are HD capable. The truth is, they are not actually capable of HD at all. Instead, they take the HD signal and through a process of scaling, reduce the HD content to a standard definition resolution. This leaves the signal open to a wide range of problems that can occur during the scaling process that can degrade the quality of the image.

Plasma televisions can come in a wider variety of HD resolutions than you would find in the LCD TV market. Keep in mind that content you will be viewing will probably be tailored to the popular formats of 1366x768 or 1920x1080 so unless you have heard great things about a television, try and avoid anything with resolutions below these two. In those cases, the panel needs to interoperate your content to make it fit its own resolution. This can lead to all kinds of problems, the most important of which is loss of image quality.

Standard definition televisions are much cheaper than their high definition counterparts. If you have no interest in watching HD content, have no interest in Blu-Ray and HD-DVD or don't plan to join the HD gaming arena then an SDTV may suit.

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