Five Things You Must Know BEFORE You Buy A TV

Posted by Danelle Springer on March 16, 2012 at 4:04 PM

For those of us who grew up with CRT (cathode-ray tube) TVs, the latest developments in picture-generating technology have introduced a whole new vocabulary.  While these TVs may look the same to most of us, the way the screen technology is configured can be important to the way it is viewed in the office environment. 

1)      Energy Use

Whether you’re purchasing a TV for home or office, the first thing to consider is the savingsEnergy Star rating.  If the package includes the famous shooting star logo the appliance inside runs on 20%-30% less energy. This represents a double savings for business; one for the bottom line and one for the environment.

2)      Plasma, LCD, CRT and Flat-Screen Displays, what’s the difference?

Plasma TVs contain a self lighting panel known as an “emissive display.” The panel contains plasma, a gas, which causes the pixels (think of pixels as the tiniest dots the picture is made of) to glow, thus creating the image.  Although picture sharpness may be reduced in a brightly lit area, plasmas will generally look better in places like lobbies or atriums.

LCDs are “transmissive display” screens that contain an actual light source located behind the panel which shines light through the display.

CRT or cathode-ray TVs on the market today represent the modern version of the older picture technology most of us grew up with. While the majority of attention is focused on Plasma and LCDs, CRT’s are still being manufactured and can be found in the lowest price tier of the market, offering a more affordable option for office viewing. A CRT screen will not, however, provide the contrast sharpness of the other two options, but in the office environment this may be outweighed by the inherent savings. You should also know that CRT TVs will be much heavier than their contemporary siblings; an important consideration if you’re wall mounting your TVs.

Flat Screen Display is a general term that simply refers to the shape of the screen. A flat screen will eliminate the picture distortion of traflat screenditional convex screens while reducing glare. This feature is best suited for environments where viewers are looking at the TV from various angles. It can be a Plasma, LCD or even a CRT type display. The newer flat screen displays use LED (light emitting diode) technology. They are the most expensive initially but provide very sharp pictures with deep blacks and vibrant colors.

3)      How do you compare picture quality?

Contrast ratios. The contrast ratio is the measure of the brightest and darkest colors appejpeg TVaring on the screen at the same time. You’re looking for a high number, the higher the better, 1000:1, meaning that the brightest white is 1000 times brighter than the darkest black, is better than 100:1. Simple enough, right? Well, not so fast.

There are instances in which a high ratio picture can look pretty bad. Poorly built plasma TVs, for instance, will reflect black as a dark gray, due to the inherent technology in which each plasma gas cell maintains a minimal charge thereby emitting a small amount of light from the cell on-to the screen. In this case the contrast remains high because the picture is still very bright even though the image you see will not have the characteristic sharpness you expect.

There are other instances in which contrast ratios may not reflect the reality of the picture quality, but the take home message here is not to rely solely on the hype the manufacturer puts on the box. If possible view the actual demo model at the store. If you can’t get to the store surf the Internet for reviews. We like C Net http://www.cnet.com/.  No matter how you get your information, however, our advice is always the same; if possible, buy one TV first and try it out in the office with real end users before committing to additional sets.

4)      What does it mean when a TV is digital?

A TV is digital when it contains a tuner or tuners that can pick up a digital signal. By federal mandate, all TVs now sold in the US must be digital. (This does not pertain to the unofficial re-sale market.) Digital signals transmit more information than their analog counterparts (analog is the signal we grew up with).   This means that more “scan lines” are transmitted to your TV creating a higher-resolution picture.

In the digital world there are two types of signals; ATSC which is the digital standard used by local area broadcast stations, and QAM, which is the cable TV digital standard. All digital TVs will contain an ATSC tuner but you have to carefully check the manufacturer’s specifications to make sure QAM is also included; if it isn’t mentioned, it isn’t in the TV. Beyond that, each digital signal falls into two subgroups:

  • Standard Digital TV (SDTV) offers better picture and sound quality than a standard analog TV. This is the TV that at minimum contains the type of tuner that will accept the new local area broadcast standard without the use of an intermediary device like a set top box.  
  • High-Definition TV (HDTV) offers more pixels, approximately six times the number of the standard TV, thus making the picture sharper. Like its SDTV counterpart it will also receive local signals. It is important to note, however, that true high-definition pictures are the result of an entire process beginning with the cameras and sets used to produce the program, the way the signal is sent by the local affiliate, all the way down to the TV itself. While an HD picture is superior to an SD picture, in most cases it will not offer that significant a difference to the viewer.  Why? Because much of what we watch does not require that degree of clarity and is in fact, not produced in true HD. Nature shows, sporting events, and movies are wonderful showcases for HD, but the type of news and information that is viewed in the typical office usually does not warrant the ongoing expense associated with that technology.

5)      Buyer Beware

Monitors look just like TVs and can boast high picture quality including HD capability, but do not include built-in tuners and cannot receive TV signals without an outside tuner or cable box. Read all the information on the box carefully to make sure you’re purchasing an actual TV. The same goes for most projectors.

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