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How to Choose a Television

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Plasma TVs

Rear-Projection TVs

All TVs

See Also:

How to Get the Best Deal on a TV

Type of TV


Nearly all TVs that advertise being LED TVs are actually LCDs. The confusion stems from the lighting source: All LCD televisions need backlighting some use a series of LEDs for that purpose, others use florescent tubes. Typically, the sets with LED backlighting are more energy efficient thanthose using cold-cathode fluorescent lamps or CCFL. While LED-lit LCD sets can save energy, the initial investment will likely be more than it is for consumers who buy plasma sets.

LCD televisions make up the majority of the television market and are among the more popular models. LCD televisions come in a variety of sizes, ranging from something that fits on a desktop (15"-25") to models that can serve small theaters spaces (70"-90"+). LCD televisions typically have more brand choices that other types of TVs and do not suffer from screen burn, a malady that is restricted to plasma screens. LCD models tend to be more expensive than plasma screens, but the difference is cost is shrinking. LCD screens can suffer from blurring in fast-moving scenes, although faster refresh rates (120hz-240hz) making the blur nearly undetectable. LCD televisions usually have a "sweet spot" in front of the TV for optimal viewing, while plasma screens can be viewed from more angles.


Plasma screen televisions are emerging as popular models, offering a lower price than LCD televisions and more viewing angles to watch the television. Plasma televisions are not available in smaller sizes and typically start at about 42". But plasma screens are made by fewer manufacturers and variety is more limited than LCD screens. Plasma screens have the potential for screen burn - where ghosted images remain on the screen - although many new models have screen savers to prevent burning the screen. Typically, plasma screens use more energy than their LCD counterparts. Plasma TVs typically cost a bit less than LCD televisions. For exapmle, a 60" plasma might cost $300-$400 less than a 60" LCD screen.


Rear-projections televisions are much less common than either plasma or LCD screens. Mitsubishi is the only company currently making this type of television, with pricing starting at about $1,000. Typically rear-projection screens are larger (70"-90"+). Many new rear-projections screens are 3-D capable.


Many consumers first question is, "how big?" The answer, most times, depends on the situation. Smaller televisions (less than 24") might be ideal for bedrooms or kitchens, where viewers are closer to a television. The most popular sizes of televisions sold in 2012 are 40"- 60" and are ideal for family and living rooms. offers an equation for selecting the ideal size of the television: Multiply the number of inches away from the TV you plan to sit by 0.667 to come up with the ideal screen size. For example, a person whose couch is 7' (84") from the TV should have roughly a 56" TV set.

3-D Capability

3-D is one of the more popular features consumers are seeking, and many new televisions offer it. 3-D capable TVs typically offer the ability to convert 2-D content to 3-D and vice versa. Most 3-D televisions do not come with the required 3-D glasses, which can cost $20-$200 per pair. There are two types of 3-D technology: Passive 3-D is the type used in movie theaters and is good for audiences that are more than 10' from the screen; active 3-D is found on most televisions currently sold and is better when viewers sit closer to the set. Passive 3-D glasses typically cost about $20 per pair and off-brands can be used; active 3-D glasses start at $50-$70 per pair with high-end models cost up to $200 per pair and only glasses made by the manufacturer of the TV work with the TV.

Wi-Fi Ready

Many current televisions are Internet-ready out of the box and allow for streaming of video services such as Netflix, Hulu and Vudu. (Older models often required an additional accessory to pick up a Wi-Fi signal.) Some televisions also offer access to app stores where apps for accessing Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are available.

For consumers looking to save money on television features, Internet-ready devices like video game consoles and DVD players can provide the same service. The quality of the streaming service does not differ depending on the source, but the viewer's own Wi-Fi network can affect the quality. Slower speeds can cause choppy viewing.


Most larger televisions have 3-4 HDMI ports which allows for high-definition content to play on screen, including through cable boxes, DVD players and game consoles. Typically, televisions will also have at least one component-video input and one or two USB ports. The USB ports allow users to connect devices such as iPads and cameras for viewing photos and playing music through the television.

Refresh Rate

LCD televisions can refresh images on the screen hundreds of times per second, with the higher refresh rates reducing image blur in fast-moving scenes. Refresh rates are specifically found on LCD televisions, not plasma TVs, which do not suffer from motion blur in action scenes.


Most TVs have either 720p or 1080p resolution which offer clean, crisp images in high definition. The resolution refers to the number of pixels that make up the screen images, with the higher numbers being the better quality.

Contrast Color Ratio

The color contrast defined as the ratio of the brightest white to the darkest black. Typically, TVs have high contrast ratios such as 1,000,000:1 or 2,000,000:1. Plasma TVs can have as high as 5,000,000:1 contrast ratio and are thought to have blacker blacks that other TVs. The higher number, the better the contrast is the general rule


TVs generally have speakers built-in on the sides, along the bottom or across the back of the set. Some new models have speakers integrated within the screen that are barely visible. Tech experts recommend considering a separate sound system to accompany a TV, which can be connected through audio outputs.