LCD TV buying guide

Expert advice on buying an LCD TV

What differentiates one LCD TV from another?:

All LCD televisions have similarities, but there are additional features, specifications and tweaks that set them apart from each other. The general rule of thumb is the more expensive the LCD television, the more advanced features and specifications it should possess. Let’s look at some of these features

An LCD television’s contrast ratio refers to its ability to show opposing shades of black and white. A television with a higher contrast ratio will be able to show more detail in dark black and bright white areas. Newer televisions feature dynamic contrast ratio technology, using components within the panel to analyse the image and dynamically change the backlight brightness to deliver deeper black and brighter white images. While this technology struggled to change brightness quickly in older televisions, the dynamic contrast mode on newer models is often unobtrusive and well implemented.

A technology becoming more and more pervasive in the LCD television market is the frame-doubling 100Hz mode; it is now a common feature on mid- and high-end LCD televisions. This feature ‘smooths’ the transition between individual frames of video, creating a more fluid and visually pleasing image. A 100Hz mode is advantageous when watching fast motion video such as sports or action movies. The next iteration of this technology is a 200Hz mode which again doubles frame rates and offers even smoother video; this is not a common feature on LCD TVs at present.

While most LCD televisions use fluorescent CCFL backlighting, a new technology is emerging that uses a sheet of individual LED lights to light up the display panel. This allows for more consistent lighting of the screen and the LED lights have the ability to be individually switched off, creating a much better contrast ratio and deeper colours — an evolution of dynamic contrast technology. Unfortunately this technology is still new and panels with LED backlighting are comparatively rare and expensive.

There are other features that some television manufacturers offer, but these rarely impact upon picture quality. Wireless networking connectivity and media streaming are becoming more prevalent in the market, but it is up to you to decide whether you will use these features enough to justify the increased TV price.

New functionality such as ‘3D’ video rendering — creating a 3D image on the television’s screen — and wireless Full HD video — to allow video to be transferred without cables from player to television — are slowly being introduced onto the market but it is unlikely that these technologies will become mainstream features any time soon.

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