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How to Buy a TV by Peter Eisenbrown (excerpted from Winter 2011 issue of 50 Forward Magazine)

            As TV pictures get clearer, buying a TV gets more confusing. But fear not. If you want to buy a flat-panel HDTV for this holiday or Super Bowl season, here’s an easy guide to getting the right set.

            First, answer these questions:1. How far are do you sit from the TV? 2. Can you control the light in the TV room?

Now, you are ready to make decisions:

How big?

            Divide the distance between where you sit and the TV by two. That number in inches is the smallest TV you should buy.  For instance, if you sit 8 feet (96 inches) from the TV, your screen should be at least 48 inches.

            So how big can you go? Peter Eisenbrown of TechWorksEasy in Saluda recommends going as big as the room can hold. “High definition allows you to sit close to a big screen,” explains Eisenbrown. “At 8 feet away, 48 inches is the smallest TV to consider, and you go as large as 58 inches. Nobody is ever sorry they went bigger.”

            Keep in mind is that screen sizes are measured diagonally. So the difference between a 42-inch TV and a 50-inch is not 8 inches; it is a considerable 314 square inches of viewing space. This is because the height as well as the width are increased to get the longer diagonal.

Plasma or LCD?

            If you can make your TV room dark, plasma is the way to go. “A plasma gives a richer picture—better blacks, more contrast, better motion—than an LCD,” says Eisenbrown. Plasmas also have a wider viewing angle. An LCD has only about a 30 degree viewing arc. And plasmas are less expensive.

            If the light in the room cannot be controlled, choose an LCD (75 percent of TV buyers do). An LCD is also lighter than the plasma and thinner.

            When looking at LCDs, you will come into contact with the LED LCD. A regular LCD is lit with CCFL (cold cathode fluorescent lamp). An LED LCD is lit with LED (light emitting diode). The LED LCD in general provides a better picture than a regular LCD. But here’s what to watch for: LED LCDs come in edge-lit and back-lit. “You want back-lit,” says Eisenbrown. “Back-lit has lights running throughout the panel thus gives a more uniform picture.”

            Also, if you need a TV smaller than 42 inches, it will be an LCD. Plasmas only come in 42 inches and bigger.

Must Haves

            Be sure the TV has at least two (preferably 3) HDMI inputs. HDMI inputs are for plugging in your TV extras like Blu-Ray players, Cable or Satellite boxes and game consoles like Wii, Xbox and Sony Playstation. “Some sets have as many as four,” says Eisenbrown. “The more, the better.”

Bells & Whistles

            Internet connectivity allows you to stream movies and access other applications. However, Eisenbrown says, “Don’t base your decision on whether the set itself has Internet connectivity. You can connect your TV to the Internet via a Blu-ray player.”

            3D is the next big thing in TV. But be aware, Eisenbrown says, “There aren’t that many movies or shows in 3D right now.” He also points out that 3D is not standardized. If you buy a 3D-TV, you also must buy the glasses and blu-ray that sync with it.

            Speakers built into flat panel TVs are not the best. To get sound deserving of your HD picture, consider a receiver and speaker system. (Receivers less than two years old have HDMI inputs and outputs.) Or, even easier, purchase a soundbar. Soundbars plug right into HDMI or digital audio outputs.

            Extended warranties make good sense with HDTVs. However, Eisenbrown says, “Don’t automatically buy the store’s extended warranty. They are often overpriced.” Eisenbrown recommends researching any extended warranty deals the store offers and comparison shopping at sites such as www.squaretrade.com.

Where to buy

            TechWorksEasy will work with you on the best way to purchase your new TV.

Installation

            Once you’ve decided on cable or satellite (that’s another discussion), get the service installed before the new TV arrives. “Let the cable or satellite company use an old TV for set up,” says Eisenbrown.

            TechWorksEasy will properly mount your TV, ensure you are receiving HD service (a more common problem than you would think according to Eisenbrown), can adjust your picture and sound, and show you how to use the remote.

 

Peter Eisenbrown Petereisenbrown@me.com 828-290-4316