How To Compare Digital Televisions

by David Weedmark Google

    When comparing one TV to another, there is more to consider than just the screen size. Which room you plan to watch the TV in is one important factor to consider, as are specs such as resolution, refresh rates and what additional features the TV may come with. Many TVs today include Internet access, have parental controls built in or may be certified to work flawlessly with other devices such as your DVD player or game consoles. Take a few minutes to consider how you plan to use your TV and then see which models fit your viewing habits best.

    Screen Size

    If you're used to an older square TV, keep in mind that the new wide-screen models are much wider but also a bit shorter than their predecessors. A 32-inch wide-screen TV is about the same height as a 27-inch square TV. When choosing a screen size, consider the distance you will normally be from the screen. For a living room, a common rule of thumb is to sit a distance that is at least 1.5 times the vertical screen size, but no farther than three times the screen size. For example, a 50-inch screen is suitable for viewing between 6.25 to 8.3 feet away. For a typical bedroom, a 26- to 32-inch wide-screen TV is often enough. Smaller sizes are generally appropriate for a kitchen or home office.

    Resolution

    Resolution is usually a big factor behind a TV's price tag. Resolution is measured in the number of pixels horizontally on the screen. For example, an HDTV with 1080p resolution has 1,080 pixels from top to bottom and 1,920 pixels from left to right. Resolution is most important on large screens of 50 inches or larger. The difference between 720p and 1080p resolution is less noticeable on a 40-inch screen and almost undetectable on a 32-inch screen. If you often watch TV at an angle across the room, keep in mind that a plasma screen will generally give you a better viewing experience. LCD screens appear more faded if you are viewing them from a sharp angle.

    Refresh Rates, Contrast and Brightness

    Besides resolution, it's important to compare refresh rates, contrast and brightness when looking at different TV models. A refresh rate, measured in hertz (Hz), is the frequency with which the image on the screen is refreshed. A higher refresh rate is better than a lower one. Contrast is the ratio between the brightest and darkest images on the screen at the same time, so a higher number is better. Contrast is different from dynamic contrast. Dynamic contrast is almost always a higher number because it measures the difference between the brightest and darkest images the TV is capable of, but not at the same time. Brightness is important if your TV is in a bright room. Measured in candelas per square meter (cd/m2), a higher number is better.

    Internet Access

    If you plan on accessing the Internet to watch YouTube, Netflix or online movie rentals, take a look at the features your TV may offer. Many models, called smart TVs, have their own apps built in for accessing the Internet. If this is the case, check to see if the TV has built-in wireless network access or if it can accommodate an Ethernet network cable. Even if you don't choose a smart TV, you can still connect a TV to an Android TV or Apple TV device, or access the Internet through some DVD players or most game consoles.

    Features and Accessories

    While making your purchase decision, don't forget to see what additional features may come with the TV, such as parental controls, or if the TV is Digital Living Network Alliance, or DLNA, certified and compatible with your other devices. Check to see what accessories are available for the TV or additional components you may need to install the TV in your home. If you are purchasing a 3-D TV, you will probably want extra pairs of 3-D glasses for your family and guests. If your TV is Internet-ready with wireless access, you will need a wireless router to use it. Don't forget to check the components you already have to make sure they will be able to connect to your new TV. There's nothing quite as frustrating as discovering after your new TV arrives that you're missing a needed adapter or cable.

    About the Author

    David Weedmark's articles have appeared in dozens of publications since 1989, including "The Windsor Star" and "The Ottawa Citizen." As well as being a technology consultant, he is the author of several books, including "The Tanglewood Murders." Weedmark studied English at the University of Toronto.

    Photo Credits

    • David Becker/Getty Images News/Getty Images