LCD vs Plasma TVs Buying Guide

Plasma vs LCD? What is high definition? We walk you through the process of picking up a new flat panel LCD or Plasma television.

What is the difference between Digital TV and HDTV?

HDTV is a type of digital television. Even though many people tend to call it simply digital TV, the other type is actually called Standard Definition TV (SDTV). The difference between SDTV and HDTV is all about resolution. The resolution a show was created in will determine how good it will look when broadcast. If a TV program is shot in Standard Definition and then played on a High Definition channel, the TV network converts it to HD. However, since it was shot in SD, this rarely looks as good as something shot in HD. If it was originally created in HD, it will look stunning when viewed. Many of the morning variety programs across the networks are created in HD at a resolution of 1080i, the highest quality that most flat panel TVs support. Unfortunately, at this time not all programs are supported in HD and very few of them are actually made with HD in mind.

What is there to watch on HDTV?

Many of the regular programs available on Standard Definition are also in High Definition but not all of them. There are large portions of the day when no High Definition programming is available. At this time, HDTV is still fairly new and no television networks offer an uninterrupted HD channel. Most news and current affairs programs are both shot and broadcast in High Definition. These are the only programs guaranteed to be screened in HD daily.

What do I need to get to be able to watch HDTV?

To watch HDTV broadcasts you will need a set-top box or integrated HD tuner that supports HDTV signals.

Will my current TV still work when digital and HDTV take over?

This will depend on how old your TV is. If it has "video in" ports then you will not have to upgrade once digital TV takes over. Most set-top boxes can be hooked up to any Composite video connector (yellow cable).

Is High Definition the same as digital?

No. High Definition is a type of digital TV. Digital TV can be either Standard Definition or High Definition, although many people refer to Standard Definition as "Digital TV" and High Definition as "HDTV".

What is a 100Hz or 200Hz TV?

A standard television will refresh the picture you view at a frequency of 50Hz. A 100Hz TV operates at twice the frequency by creating a copy of each frame and inserting it after the one before. Sony has recently launched its 200Hz range that inserts three further frames between the original 50 hertz frames. Basically this makes the picture refresh much more quickly, which helps smooth out fast motion and eliminate any jittering. If you are a fan of sports or video games then this technology is an important consideration.

What is DLNA?

DLNA stands for Digital Living Network Alliance. It represents a special kind of compatibility that allows you to stream information from one device to another. For TVs, what this means is you can plug your screen into your home computer network if you have one and you can then play media stored on your PCs through your screen without using any other devices.

What is HDMI? Is it compatible with DVI?

HDMI is a connection type commonly used in High Definition devices. It stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface and is used to transmit uncompressed images and sound to the television. DVI stands for Digital Visual Interface and is very similar to HDMI. The main differences are that DVI does not carry sound and doesn’t have any HDCP copy protection enabled. You can use a DVI to HDMI cable to connect DVI devices to an HDMI port but you won’t get any sound as the DVI source doesn’t have it. You can also send an HDMI signal to a DVI port in the television but, once again, there will be no sound. Audio will have to be connected using either optical audio (fibre optic) or RCA cables (red and white).

What does "Viera" mean?

Viera is a Panasonic term and refers to a range of plasma and LCD televisions. According to Panasonic, Viera is an abbreviation of the term "Visual Era".

What does “Bravia” mean?

Bravia is a little different from Viera. While it refers to the Sony product range of LCD televisions, it is also the name of the technology that Sony uses inside its panels. Sony calls it the "Bravia Engine" and it is the company's explanation for its televisions' level of picture quality.

What is the difference between flat panel and flat screen?

Flat panel is a term used to describe LCD and Plasma televisions as they are flat, thin and can be mounted on a wall. Flat screen is a term used to describe more modern CRT televisions that have a flat piece of glass on the front of the TV as opposed to the traditional curved glass that has been used in the past.

What is an HD-ready TV?

HD-ready is a term used to describe any television that is compatible with HD devices connected through either Component video (red, green, blue cables), HDMI or DVI. A HD-ready TV must also have a minimum of 720 horizontal lines of dots. Anything below this amount is not considered High Definition.

What is HDCP?

HDCP stands for High Definition Copy Protection and is the new standard used for devices that connect together using HDMI – like Blu-ray players – to protect content such as movies and music from being illegally copied. When using a HDMI device, you need to make sure the TV is HDCP compliant or the image will not display. Thankfully, most flat panel televisions with a HDMI connection are also HDCP compliant, although some older models may not be.

What is an aspect ratio?

The aspect ratio is the ratio of width to height of a television (width:height). This is commonly either 4:3 (CRT television, computer monitor) or 16:9 (widescreen television). However, the film industry also uses the term "aspect ratio" to describe different widescreen formats used in filmmaking. These can include 1.33:1 (4:3), 1.85:1 (16:9) and 2.35:1. There are also more obscure film aspect ratios but these three are the most common.

What is the difference between PiP-1 and PiP-2?

PiP stands for Picture-in-Picture. This is a way to watch two channels or two video signals at the same time. A video signal is shown as an overlay on the main image. This looks like a small rectangle box with one image, usually in one corner of the main image. PiP-1 refers to the first window and PiP-2 refers to the overlay. Not all TVs support Picture-in-Picture. In those that do you can choose which image is more important and make it PiP-1.

Can I mount the TV over my fireplace?

Fireplace installation is not recommended.

How do I activate my manufacturer’s warranty?

Each manufacturer has a different process for activating the warranty but many involve sending in a proof of purchase together with a form directly to the manufacturer.

I've heard that plasma TVs can "burn-in" over time. What is "burn-in" exactly, and is it really a concern?

Burn-in occurs when a static image is displayed on the screen for an extremely long period of time and doesn’t go away when the picture is changed to something else. Burn-in was a common problem when plasmas first hit the market in the 1990s but most good quality plasmas do not have this problem anymore. While burn-in can occur on any plasma, it takes quite a bit of time to happen. Most of the time, people confuse burn-in with “image retention”. Image retention is similar to burn-in and even looks the same, but it isn’t permanent. It is still annoying, but it can be removed or will fade in time. Some plasma panels even come with built-in tools to remove it.

How long can I expect my plasma TV to last?

Plasma panels deteriorate over time. The life span of a panel varies from manufacturer to manufacturer but the common number is about 60,000 hours. If you use your TV for eight hours a day then the lifespan of your average plasma TV is over 20 years. This figure is roughly the same for LCD televisions as well.

I need help to get the best picture. Which connection should I use?

HDMI is your best bet for any kind of device as it combines the best quality video and audio in a single cable, but not everything supports it. All the new high-definition games consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have it, and Blu-ray players support it. These devices will typically also come with a component output, which you should use if your television or receiver doesn't support HDMI. Some older devices such as CD and DVD players or standard-definition set-top boxes may not have either of these and if so you should stick with composite.

Can I connect my PC to the TV?

Yes. Many TVs come with either DVI or D-Sub connections on the rear to support PC connections. If you have a graphics card with an HDMI output then you can also use this, or connect via the HDMI port using a DVI to HDMI converter cable.

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