Plasma TV buying guide

What to look for when buying a plasma television

What do you need to connect?

When looking at which TV to buy, think about what you need to connect to it. Try to make sure that the unit can handle all your current devices but also consider what you may buy in the future too. Remember, you will most likely own the TV for at least five years so you should make sure that it has more connections than you currently need.

Televisions have a number of inputs including HDMI, component, composite, S-Video, DVI and D-Sub.

HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) allows for high definition digital connection to the unit coupled with digital audio, all in one cable. At the moment, the number of devices that support HDMI are small compared to the other formats but as the HD era matures, HDMI will likely become commonplace, so it is a good idea to make sure your TV has at least one HDMI port. The Playstation 3 gaming console as well as stand-alone Blu-ray and HD-DVD players all support HDMI.

Component (red, green, blue) is an analogue method for transporting both standard- and high-definition signals. The difference in quality between HDMI and component is minimal but since component is well established, a wider range of devices currently support it. We recommend looking for a television with at least two component connections so that you can connect your current devices, if they are component capable, but also have the option open for future HD devices as time rolls on.

Composite (yellow, red, white) is likely the connection format that most people will have used in the past. Unfortunately, while most flat panel TVs support composite signals, they all rarely display them well. The problem with composite is that it does not contain enough information for the television to display it well. It is a standard definition format, and on a high-definition television there is noticeable lack of quality. Composite is commonly used in older DVD players and video cameras.

S-Video is very similar to composite except instead of the yellow composite video wire, it has a black 4-pin connection that offers better contrast and a crisper image. It is still a standard definition signal and many TVs also have problems displaying it well. Given the choice between composite and S-Video, the latter is definitely the superior of the two.

DVI and D-Sub connections are commonly used to connect computers to a television or monitor. DVI is a digital connection while D-Sub (sometimes referred to as RGB) is analogue. Both connection types look very similar on most panels but DVI is definitely the superior of the two. DVI is essentially the same as HDMI but without the audio that HDMI offers. Many people will have used D-Sub before to connect their CRT monitors to their computer. It usually has a blue connector and plugs into the back of the PC. DVI is most commonly a larger white connector, though with these formats the colours are not always set in stone.

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