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Investing in a New HDTV?


Here's what you need to know.

Getting comfortable with a few unfamiliar terms can make a big difference when it comes to buying a new TV.

With technology evolving at such a rapid pace, buying a new TV can be an intimidating proposition. After all, no one wants to invest in a high-definition television that will be out-of-date by the time you get it home. Complicating matters is all the confusing jargon that gets thrown around -- 1080p, contrast ratios, HDMI, Blu-ray. Sometimes it feels like you need a degree in electrical engineering before you walk in the store!

While your choice may ultimately come down to living space, personal brand preference, or budget, there are a few technical terms that are well worth understanding and looking out for. They could make a big difference when it comes to how much you enjoy your brand new TV!


These days, high-definition televisions come with two types of resolution: either 720p (1,280 vertical pixels by 720 horizontal pixels) or 1080p (1,980 by 1,080), both of which can be utilized with the now-standard 16:9 widescreen format displays. You might sometimes see 1080p referred to as "Full HD", as it's the highest resolution currently available.

Although 1080p ("p" for progressively scanned, not to be confused with the old 1080i) is state-of-the-art, it's only really necessary on a TV larger than 40 inches, as you would have to sit really close to the smaller TV to notice the difference. However, most TVs are moving to 1080p, so if you can afford the slightly higher price, it's worth it to "future-proof" your investment.

Remember, if you're using the TV with an external source, you'll only see a 1080p picture if it's a 1080p source, such as a Blu-ray disc player or high-definition video game console.

LED backlighting

Until recently, there was a discernible advantage for plasma over LCD TVs when it came to contrast ratios -- the difference between the brightest whites and the blackest blacks displayed by the television.

However, this gap has been considerably narrowed with something called LED backlighting. This places light-emitting diodes behind the liquid crystals, resulting in higher brightness, darker blacks, and more vivid colors. LED backlit TVs cost more than regular LCD TVs but you'll definitely notice the difference!

120Hz, 240Hz

This popular LCD-based technology helps reduce motion blur. It essentially doubles the speed at which frames are displayed, from 60 frames per second to 120 frames per second, resulting in a clearer moving image.

Some LCD TVs now offer 240Hz motion technology, which -- you guessed it -- quadruples the frame speed to 240 per second. Not everyone is sold on 120Hz/240Hz technology, so it's best to see it for yourself at the store before you buy into it. Most video gamers and some fast-action sports fans still insist on plasma screens, which handle motion well without the need for improved refresh rates.

Internet connectivity

Many television manufacturers -- including Sony (SNE), Panasonic (PC), and Samsung -- include Ethernet jacks on their televisions for high-speed Internet connectivity (or in some cases, have integrated Wi-Fi for wireless connectivity). Viewers can then use their TV remote to access sites such as YouTube (GOOG), Facebook, and Flickr, or select from a range of widgets to get local news, sports updates, or stock quotes.

Even more appealing is the partnership between TV companies, such as LG and Sony, and Netflix (NFLX), allowing television viewers access to thousands of on-demand movies, many of which are in high-definition.

HDMI, USB, and more

A final consideration when buying a new HDTV is what you can connect to it. Make sure there are ample HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) ports to connect multiple components, such as video game consoles, DVD/Blu-ray players, camcorders, and so on. At least three or four such ports are a must.

A USB port is an added bonus if you want to connect a Flash drive or an external hard drive for music, photos, and video. If you think you'd like to connect your computer to the television for big-screen web surfing, look for one with PC connectivity.

Finally, when you're ready to buy, remember to compare the most important feature of all -- price! Rarely does an HDTV sell for its full-list price, so some savvy online shopping can help save you a bundle of cash.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.

© Monica Vila, The Online Mom.

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