Television technology changes so rapidly that it can be hard to choose which features you need when buying a new set. Fortunately, the Web hosts articles on all latest and greatest developments in TV tech, and of course, sites that are poised to sell it to you. This guide will help you to learn the issues and be a careful shopper.
You say you want some resolution? Would that be high definition? Do you want a built-in DVD player? Internet ready? Plasma vs. LCD? Or maybe you’d like a big monitor using rear projection. The options afforded by today’s television technology are as endless as the jargon used to define them. Use the sites in this section to figure out exactly what type of features you’d like, so you’re prepared when you go to buy.
- Think of your TV set as a super monitor. By the time the lifespan of your new device has given up the ghost, there’s a good likelihood that it will have been hooked up to a satellite or cable set-top box, a computer, a digital video recorder (DVR) such as TiVo, a DVD player and/or recorder (with or without Blu-ray,) a video camera and perhaps even its own Internet connection for YouTube or movie downloads. It's wise to look ahead and consider what you may need down the line. (By the way, if you don’t know what all these terms mean, there are some good sites to help decode the jargon for you. See our picks below.)
- All these wonderful devices are going to have to be hooked up to that one monitor, which means you're going to have to figure out how many inputs you have for composite cables, HDMI, S-Video and so forth. If you don’t want to do it yourself, speak with an expert at a local retail store, or make friends with a geek. They're used to dealing with complicated technologies—and they need friends.
- Visit the findingDulcinea Digital TV Web Guide for tips to make sure that any set you buy will be compliant with digital television over-the-air broadcasts. We explain what your set will require (if anything) and all you need to know to be up to date.
For an introduction to TV technologies …
CNet’s TV Buying Guide
offers a comprehensive, one-size-fits-all site that takes you through many of the questions you’ll face when deciding the feature set. One advantage is their willingness to name brands and models while educating you, making CNet more pragmatic while seeming more commercial.
The HowStuffWorks TV Buying Guide
has excellent, extensive coverage of the technologies and issues involved in choosing what you want in a TV. On the other hand, you may not need to know just how a remote works, but you can skip that section if you choose.
The tvs2go Jargon Buster
has clear and relatively concise definitions of all the terms you’re likely to encounter when reading up on features or hook-up information. The fact that this is a British site doesn’t change the technical nomenclature. Of course, “colour” = “color."
’s Web site is the place to go if you want to be on the bleeding edge. From 52-inch plasma monitors to front or rear projection sets and ultra-high-end audio systems, the products and advice offered here will give you spectacular results. Just add popcorn and stadium seating.
For advice on using your TV set …
Crutchfield Advisor’s TV Connections
provides an excellent overview to all the different types of connectors you’re likely to need in order to hook up to your set. By no small coincidence, you will find links to buy their brand of connectors.
’s article “What’s the Right TV Set for Gaming?” is dated in terms of specific models mentioned, but it will give you a good sense of the type of display you want if you’re going to get white-knuckled in front of your tube.
Now that you have an idea of the features, it’s time to fine-tune the purchase details. Fortunately, the Internet may be the greatest shopping mall ever created, especially when you’re looking for specific features and comparison shopping. This section will lead you to the best online resources and merchants.
- Establish how you will be using your TV. Do you want a home theater system complete with external speakers, a DVD player, and other high-tech paraphernalia? Are you concerned about using the set for video games? Consider the size of the room it will be in, the lighting, and the possibility of wall-mounting the unit. (You’ll want high contrast for a well-lit location.)
- Figure out what you want to use the set for and how much money you’re willing to part with (and don’t forget the cost of peripherals like cabling), then look further down our guide to get a price and a vendor.
To price your purchase …
does an excellent job of naming prices from different vendors, and it allows you to sort by price and overall rating. You can compare specific models against each other and then get a link to the manufacturer or a vendor.
The Consumer Reports Web Site
has top-notch information and some reasonable advice about features, but it saves the most detailed information and model ratings for paid members to the site itself. Still, it’s worth a look.
is a good place to go after you have an idea what you’re looking for. It doesn’t offer a large range of vendors, but it does a great job of summarizing user reviews and assigning each model a “metascore,” with links to the original citations.
has a wider range of vendors and prices than Google Shopping, but a smaller range of reviews and no “metascore.”
For where to buy …
’s Television Guidester has a simple-to-use interactive guide that helps you select models based on feature sets and pricing.
offers a wide selection and excellent customer service, but make sure an item is listed as “In Stock” when purchasing, and be sure to check who the vendor is. Amazon often fronts for other companies, and while they're usually good, like J&R, you need to know who you’re actually buying from and what their support and return policies are.
has a good selection of name brands as well their own decent-quality house brand at a discount price. In-store pick-up and good return policies help a lot.
refers to the High-Definition Multimedia Interface standard that you’re going to use if you want to see what all the HDTV fuss is about. And of course, you'll need a cable to connect your HDMI box to your TV. How much will it cost? If you shop around, you will find prices from $20 to $160 for a 6-foot cable. What’s the difference between the two? Exactly $140—and nothing else. For short runs, an inexpensive cable will provide the same quality as an expensive one, according to a spokesperson at HDMI.
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