If you’re one of the Flintstones, you may still be using an old-fashioned curved-screen television. It’s time to switch up to one of the new flat-screen televisions, don’t you think?
All types of flat-screen televisions – from LCD display televisions to plasma TVs and projector units, are superior to old screens in a variety of ways. They don’t lose definition when seen from the edges, making those least-desired seats in your living room perfectly acceptable. They also have significantly better resolution than old-style televisions. You may still be able to make out the pixels when you sit close, but because flat screen television sets use digital technology instead of less-accurate analog, they have a much superior picture, either in still frames or motion. And they are designed to work well with all the latest technology, from blu-ray to HDTV.
Up until recently, flat-screen sets have been on the expensive side, and a lot of people who needed a new set were waiting until the prices came down a little. Well – it’s time. Small LCD TVs cost what an old-fashioned television would cost, if you could still find them, and even the large screens are often under a thousand dollars.
Before you buy, though, you need to understand a little bit about these new technologies.
LCD TVs use a liquid crystal display (LCD). Watches using this technology in monochrome have been around for decades, but only in the last ten years have researchers figured out how to create good-quality color liquid crystal that is reliable and long-lasting. An LCD TV has a nice thin appearance, and is basically a layer of liquid crystals sandwiched between transparent layers, with a backlight behind everything. The light shines through the liquid crystals, which have been polarized to show up in the different colors for your display – and there’s your television. LCD TVs, when kept dim, use very little electricity, making them great for a darkened TV room. And they are among the cheapest flat-screen televisions you can buy.
LCD TVs do have a couple of drawbacks: first, older models are subject to “ghosting”, where a dim image of a previously-displayed picture can be seen through the new picture; for this reason, it’s wiser to buy LCD TVs new. They may also not be the best choice for a fast-paced game, as they often have a lag time that can mess you up. Blacks aren’t always as sharp and dark as you might like, another reason to view in a darkened room. And if you mistreat it, you can wind up with “dead” pixels, where nothing will display because that segment of LCD has been destroyed. In most new LCD TVs, though, these problems are minimal or nonexistent.
Plasma TVs are also flat-screen televisions, but work very differently from LCD TVs and have a very different set of strengths and weaknesses. While you can lay an LCD TV on its back – carefully – without ruining it, a plasma television can be destroyed if it is laid flat. That’s because instead of liquid crystals, it uses an inert gas sandwiched between two pieces of glass to create its display. Seals more easily come loose when the plasma TV is laid flat, allowing the gas to escape right then or over time.
Provided you care for it well and mount it properly, your plasma TV will function well for years. Unlike LCD TVs, plasma TVs display blacks very well (one selling point) and most will also work great for fast-refreshing games. Plasma TVs are often advertised as having the most realistic, highest-resolution, best-contrast display of all televisions, and this is probably true in almost every situation. Drawbacks include the expense – plasma TVs are not economical to make in small sizes, so you’ll have to buy a large one – and the relative fragility of these televisions.
Both plasma and LCD TVs usually need good wall mounts. The last thing you want to do with your high-def TVs is install them, only to have them fall down a couple of weeks later! Quality wall mounts for HDTVs should include very good hardware, preferably made by the same manufacturer that produced the television, and excellent directions so you can easily put it up yourself. If you are at all worried that you will not install it right, it may be wise to have someone install it for you.
DLP TVs are the third major set of television displays in use today. These are also called rear-projection televisions, and while they are significantly cheaper than either LCD or plasma TVs, they also are larger and bulkier (though not as bulky as projection TVs were in the past) and have a somewhat less impressive display. Still, for most uses DLP TVs do fine, and because the light source in a DLP TV is usually replaceable by the consumer, they have a much, much longer lifespan.
Very similar to DLP TVs are projector units. These gadgets are often small enough to carry by hand, but can project a movie-screen-size picture if they have a high enough resolution. Similar in appearance to an old-fashioned slide projector, projector units are a great choice for a small area, for someone who needs a portable large television, or for someone who wants a television without having an obvious television.
Your Home Theater
Plasma TVs, LCD TVs, DLP TVs, and projector units are all high-def TVs, as long as they have the appropriate tuner. Once you have them set up, you need to think about other components of your home theater. After all, what’s a large-screen television if you have to sit in your old uncomfortable couch to watch it?
Your first thoughts should be for electronics to enhance your viewing experience: good surround-sound speakers for a great theater experience, and universal remote controls to sit in comfort as you control everything in your environment yourself.
Once you have your electronics in line, go for the last thing on your list: theatre furniture. Your home experience, with comfortable chairs that don’t fold up when you stand up, can be superior to one at the local movie house. Look for spacious, durable seats that can handle spills as well as roomy cup holders and somewhere to put snacks, remotes, and anything else you habitually keep close while you’re watching your favorite flicks.