How to Buy a TV

When it comes to buying a new TV, there are a lot of factors that make up the decision. It’s not like the old days – boob tube technology has advanced faster than any other consumer electronics gadget other than perhaps the cell phone – so there’s more that you need to know before you make the purchase.

The first decision you need to make, according to New York Times technology columnist David Pogue, is how big a TV you want. The common convention that ‘the bigger the better’ is wrong. The problem with big screens now is that the closer you sit to it, the more pixels (the little square dots that make up the picture) you’ll see.

Next, ask yourself what kind of TV you want – plasma or LCD? For years, people have complained that plasma sets have ‘burn-in’ and that LCDs were bad for sports viewing. But technology has marched on and nowawdays the picture quality on both is virtually the same. Pogue’s says if you’re planning on watching mainly in a dark room, opt for plasma.

If you decide on LCD, you should know of the latest feature known as LED illumination. For a bit more money, you get brilliant contrast and very deep, dark colors.

When you go shopping for a TV, Pogue says, the salespeople will fry your brain with numbers like 1080P and 720P, which signify how many fine lines of resolution make up the picture. 1080 is better, but you will only enjoy that higher resolution when you’re watching Blu-Ray DVD movies or maybe some console games on the Playstation3. For regular TV viewing, it doesn’t matter.

When it comes time to get serious about the purchase, Pogue recommends going online. Sure, you can go to the big box retailers to see the goods in person, but the best deals are unequivocally on the web. Use comparison shopping sites like Shopzilla as well as Amazon, which also tends to list the deeper discounts (note: comparison sites generally don’t pick up Amazon’s special deals, so always check them directly.)

Once you have the new set in your hands, there’s still one more important step to take. Even if your new TV comes with component cables, Pogue recommends buying an HDMI cable anyway. It’s a single cord so it’s easy to set up and it transmits the highest quality digital video and audio. Of course, you don’t need to drop $100 on a cable. Stick with store brands to save as much as $70.