Skip to comments.The Biggest Mistakes People Make When Buying An HDTV
Posted on 08/23/2011 2:36:07 AM PDT by Las Vegas Dave
Choosing the best HDTV is harder than you may think. Using reader feedback, along with having written, tested, and researched the subject since 1998, weve compiled a list of the most common buying mistakes when choosing an HDTV. By being aware of the pitfalls of HDTV buying, you can end up with a better experience, a better TV, and without the grief others have experienced.
1) Buying The Wrong Size Set
The most common eye-to-TV distance, called the Lechner Distance is 9 feet. Based on screen resolution, to see all the details in a Full HD picture (1080p) at 9 feet you need a 69-inch screen. As 32-inches is the largest selling screen size, clearly theres a disconnect here. Often people choose a TV thats too small due to budget, lack of knowledge, or the use of existing TV furniture designed for older 4:3 TVs (instead of the HDTV standard of 16:9).
The solutions: move up to a larger screen size, sit closer, or consider a less expensive 720p set. Being lower resolution, a 720p TV of the 46-inch screen size will allow you to see all the detail at the 9-foot viewing distance.
In other words, you can get a MUCH larger TV than you probably thing, presuming you can fit it/afford it.
2) Replacing Your Old 4:3 TV With A New TV From The Same Brand Name
So youve owned your CRT TV for 15 years, its given you great service, so you figure youll buy the same brand you know and love. You may be surprised to learn that brand is a name only, and not the same company (link). For example RCA TVs were once made in the USA by the RCA you knew. There is no RCA today; the company has changed hands a number of times and now the name is licensed to On Corp for RCA flat screen TV sales. Todays RCAs flat screens are made in China and require shipping the sets back to On Corp for warranty service (if the screen size is below 37″). TVs by Westinghouse, Philips and Polaroid are not made by the original companies either.
JVC is another brand of HDTV that are no longer made by the parent company. JVC, the creators of the VHS video tape format (remember that) decided to withdraw from TV manufacturing this year. Its sets are all now produced by contact manufacturer, Amtran out of Taiwan. Amtran also makes the HDTVs sold under the Vizio brand.
3) Picking an LED Because You Were Told It Has The Best Picture and Latest TV Technology
The most expensive TVs available today are called by their makers LED HDTVs. Weve heard salespeople tell customers this is a new TV display technology better than plasma and LCD. This is not true on several levels. First all LED TVs are really LCDs, merely with light emitting diode lighting (LED) instead of cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL) used in regular LCD TVs. Except for energy efficiency, there are no inherent advantages to LED lights over CCFL (unless it includes local dimming backlight).
There are two types. One is called edge lighting, meaning the LEDs are located along the edge of the TV. They can be along the top and bottom, the left and right, or all four edges. Often TV manufacturers dont disclose the placement. Local dimming is the ability for the TV to dim some LEDs while keeping others fully lit. This provides the ability to get blacker blacks. The edge-lit designs found in most LED LCDs can only dim strips of the image .
To dim a specific section of the screen (such as one box in a grid of boxes) requires LEDs placed behind the screen. These are often called full array LED backlights. In 2011, the only companies currently offering this feature are Sharps New Elite 60 and 70-inch TVs (link) and the top of the line Sony HX929 series sets. LG will be introducing its local dimming LED backlit, FPR passive 3D, called Nano TVs, next month (link). All these TV represent the most expensive sets in the given companies product lines.
Edge lit LED LCDs often have brightness uniformity issues. Check out Geoffs article on the topic over at CNET. Edge lit LED LCDs (and CCFL LCDs) tend to have viewing angle issues as well, which well elaborate on next.
4) Thinking Viewing Angles Are The Same As Your Old Bulky CRT
CRTs (cathode ray tube) TVs have very consistent color, brightness and uniformity whether you view straight-on or from the side, above, or below. The same holds true for plasma TVs. LCDs and LED-LCDs tend to exhibit shifts in color and/or brightness and contrast as one moves off-center. This tendency varies depending on a number of factors based on the technology used to make the TV . If only one or two viewers will be watching the TV, and theyll be sitting near center (height-wise and side-wise) there wont be much difference.
However if you have a wide viewing area (like a big sofa), or you plan on mounting the TV above you (like over a fireplace), the picture quality with most LCD TVs is going to be significantly worse for those not sitting directly in front of it. One should consider this while looking at a potential TV, and consider plasma as an alternative.
5) Are the TVs Built-in Speakers Adequate?
As TV got thinner, the speakers got smaller and thinner as well. Most of todays flat panels, regardless of technology, use small downward firing speakers. This causes poor high frequency response and lower maximum volume. In a large room, or for viewers with high frequency hearing loss, there may be insufficient volume. The alternative is either external speaker system, a sound bar or a surround sound system (link)
6) Choosing 240 Hz TV
HDTVs using LCD panels at 60 Hz suffer from resolution loss called motion blur. If you watch fast action or sports, you may notice this phenomenon when a player is running down the field in the form of blurry legs (to name one such example). To improve motion resolution, LCD and LED LCD TV makers increased the frame rate from 60Hz to 120 Hz or 240 Hz (some advertise 480 Hz but they are really 240 Hz with a scanning (strobing) backlight.
This increase is done with a circuit called Motion Estimation/Motion Compensation. Unfortunately these circuits all introduce an artifact that causes film based content (movies, and some TV shows) to look like video (also called the Soap Opera Effect link). While some viewers like it, others hate it. Most TVs can shut off the ME/MC circuit, however the motion blur will return. The effect is worst with 240 Hz sets, and potential buyers should see if it bothers them. Plasma TVs have high motion resolution without needing this circuit or a higher refresh rate.
7) Buying a thinner TV for the Best Overall Picture Quality
TV thinness has no positive effect on picture quality, and can actually create image issues that thicker LCD or LED sets dont exhibit. This can be in the form of brightness uniformity, either with dark scenes, bright scenes, or both (check out the CNET link posted above). If you plan to keep the TV on a table stand, why pay more for thinner when the stand is going to be at least 9-inches deep?
8) Buying An Expensive Extended Warranty
Todays HDTVs are very reliable. Most problems, if any, occur within the first year. This period is covered by most manufacturers warranties. Extended warranties add 10% to 25% to the cost of a new set. At HD Guru we do not recommend them as we believe they are a bad value. An alternative, using the right credit card will get you another full year warranty for free. For detail see our Extended Warranty article here.
9) Not Getting The Right Features
Todays HDTVs have more features than ever. In addition to the backlighting and higher refresh rates (120, 240 Hz) mentioned above, the most common new features are 3D capability and Internet content streaming. 3D cannot be added on with an accessory later, it must be built into the set. Todays HDTVs with the best 2D picture also happen to have 3D capability.
Internet connectivity for streaming movies, TV programs, and numerous new applications can be a built-in feature or adding in the future with a Smart TV add-on like the Apple TV, Roku, LG Smart TV Upgrader, or Logitech Revue.
I use a 42” Vizio as my computer monitor.
It’s nice sitting in a recliner and getting a nice big image.
At 3ft away I don’t need reading glasses anymore to surf the web. You do need a cordless mouse and keyboard though. I use the mouse on a small side table.
Very interesting read. I have a Sony 40” HD CRT (that’s right, CRT) and I couldn’t be happier. The top weighs 305 pounds, so I don’t have any worries about a thief carrying it off! The picture is amazing. Of course, with a CRT you have to have the space for it. This one is made to fit into a corner.
I suppose eventually I’ll move away from the CRT to a “thinner” tv, but right now this one works perfectly and I’d put the picture up against just about anything. Guess I’m just kinda old school.
And here I thought the biggest mistake in buying these tv’s is buying these tv’s. :)
Especially considering that they are basically obsolete the second you set them up in your home.
I have just about the same setup, I’ve gotten used to using my armrest as a mouse pad. It’s a great setup for my gaming needs (Lord of the Rings Online).
Put it on Craigslist in the “free” section.
Good idea! At least the pig has wheels...
46” Sony Bravia (LCD) for the past 5 years. Still an awesome TV and I don’t see any fading or loss of picture viewed from any angle.
And nobody needs a 55 inch TV if they are only going to be sitting 9 feet away. What, was this study endorsed and promoted by the American Optometric Association? Talk about a business generator...
hold to read later
I buy whatever Alice tells me to buy.
[man, my house is full of weird stuff I don’t really need]
That was a lot of information.
Being a bit old fashion I just stood in front of the TV displays at about my normal viewing distance. I checked them from different angles. I bought the one I liked best.
You can’t go wrong buying a Samsung. I have a 55” LED and it is fantastic.
not an altogether bad list.
Too bad it wasn’t around when my wife picked out her new TV last week.
ping for later.
Wow, don't have to heat the room in the winter, but the air conditioner is running hard right now.
There is no right way or wrong way to buy an HDTV.
For most general way to watch is with a 32” lcd screen.
They are not bulky at this size which make moving it around the house an easy task as they are very light and much,much cheaper than a 50” plasma.
There was a vivio brand 30” lcd at aldi this week for $250.
Certainly a bargain! as now the price is gradually dropping.
My current tv is a HDready Palsonic 32” crt which weighs in at around 70kg(It took two of us to lift it into place.)
I have an older Toshiba 57” DLP, its 1080P but suffers from the occasional screen door effect. Its only flaw other than the recent dust specks on the inside mirror was the short lamp life. The rest of the family has a 50” plasma, I love the colors, its extremely bright and yes it also helps to heat our Alaskan home in the winter.
I would dearly love to get a 65” plasma this year but what with the economy and all I feel its more prudent to stock up on food and necessary supplies for the winter.
And no I do not want to buy a 3D TV, I accidentally bought a Bluray DVD that was in 3D, funny thing is it was in very small letters, I think Sony or whoever is getting frustrated that the 3D indoctrination programs have failed to flood the consumer market, if anything some people I have talked to feel like its being subtly being forced upon us.
Set it about 15’ from the curb. Place a sign on it “FOR SALE $100’
It will disappear over night, or sooner.
I used this trick a lot with heavy items when I was renovating houses. “FREE” won’t work, but put them up for sale unattended, and someone will steal it.
As such, that's why I settled on a Sony KDL-40EX500 40" model. I would have gotten a Vizio SV420M 42" model, but I thought the picture was inferior to that of the Sony.
I wonder if a sign saying it was full of copper would make it disappear faster?
Yeah, we bought the Samsung 50 inch plasma 720p and have been real happy with it.
Put it out by the sidewalk with a “for sale, $100.” sign on it.
Someone will come along and steal it.
If you put “free”, it will sit there for ever.
LOL! Great idea!
ping hdtv buying criteria
One question tho: when is the best time of year to get the current models at the best price points?
I have a 58” Samsung Plasma. Awesome.
For later reading. Thanks for information!
My living room has a 42 in Sony ( 1080p ). Great there too.
As of now I still highly recommend Sony or Samsung for the bigger screens.
Haven't heard what shop repair rates are now but I think that if the $ 250 TV goes bad it may be cheaper just to replace it if it's out of warranty.
Is there a "hot" area of my neck of the woods that is likely to have better deals (Milwaukee, Chicago, Rockville, etc.)
Good ideas. If I put it in the street and turn it on with an extension cord that could help too. (I might just put the pig in the garage to watch when I’m working in the garage or mowing the front yard.) lol
The biggest mistake?
10) Expecting that a better TV will somehow improve the programming
This is very informative! Thank you.
We just bought a 50” 1080p Panasonic Viera HD plasma at a good price - about $850. Got a Samsung Blu-ray and are very happy with the set up. We sit about 8-9’ away from the TV and we think it’s a good size for that viewing distance.
The new TV cost less than the 36” Toshiba 4:3 we purchased about 10 years ago (what a beast!). I’m glad we waited to upgrade. This is one item that has decreased in price over the years.
FWIW, Consumer Reports rates some Panasonic and Samsung models highest for plasmas. We got more bang for our buck with the plasma in the size we wanted.
I have read that the biggest regret people have after buying a TV is they wish they had gone larger.
I had a friend who put a recliner out with a sign that said “free” and nobody took it.
I told him to put a “for sale, $50.” on it and it disappeared...LOL
Thanks for the info. How good are LG hdtv’s?
I just heard today people were stealing water meters from in front of homes to sell for scrap at 4.00 a piece. The
world is getting nuts.
Now how to add on a home theater space that will accommodate one of those babies...hmmm...
Watch for the “Black Friday” deals.
(Search “black Friday” on FR for some of the past threads.)
BTW: I always post a BF thread near the beginning of November. (The BF web sites start to post the Thanksgiving bargains around the end of October, beginning of November).
PINGING THE HDTV LIST
Why TV Makers WERE ‘Arrogant Bastards’
Washington, D.C. (August 31, 2011) — Research firm IHS iSuppli has issued a report saying only 13 percent of U.S. consumers who didn’t purchase a TV in the second quarter planned to buy one in the next three to 12 months.
The number of likely buyers fell from 32 percent in the first quarter. Even worse news for TV makers, IHS iSuppli found that 83 percent of survey respondents said they did not plan to buy a new TV in the next 12 months.
The research firm said the intent to buy is the lowest since it began asking these questions in 2010.
“The findings suggest a growing willingness among U.S. consumers to suspend — if not totally abandon — their ongoing love affair with the television, the primary entertainment device for many American households,” said IHS iSuppli analyst Riddhi Patel. “A sort of wait-and-see attitude has taken hold — whether it is waiting for the economy to improve, or for television prices to fall some more, or for the arrival of better deals that combine both reduced prices and high-end TV features.”
iSuppli said consumers who are looking to buy a new TV are most influenced by picture quality, price and screen size. New TV features such as 3D and Internet access were not considered important in luring potential buyers to the store.
The research firm surveyed 45,000 U.S. households.
If the iSuppli numbers accurately represent reality, TV makers should not be too surprised. They are responsible for creating this problem.
The idiot TV makers spent an enormous amount of time and money from 2010 to early 2011 trying to get people to buy a television they didn’t want in the first place. Consumers were turned off by 3D TVs from the start, but the TV makers kept pushing them in commercials and retail displays.
Consequently, people who normally might be in the market for a new set didn’t like what they were hearing regarding new models. Instead of being told the new sets would deliver the best picture they ever saw, they were told they would have to buy a set of 3D goggles and watch 3D programming that might make them sick!
No wonder people are not planning to buy a new TV!
To make matters worse, the TV makers have tried to peddle these ridiculous 3D sets with the economy sagging and most people already owning relatively new TVs because they just bought one to be ready for the 2009 Digital TV Transition.
Foolish. Foolish. Foolish.
In January 2010, I called the TV makers “arrogant bastards” for thinking they could sell 3D TVs in this environment. With 3D TV sales numbers dropping even lower in 2011 compared to 2010’s disappointing debut — and now the iSuppli study saying people are less interested in buying any new TV — I believe my “arrogant bastards” characterization was quite apt.
The TV makers need to admit defeat, dump 3D, and start giving consumers what they really want:
A better picture!
I agree. I might also add that based upon what the content providers are providing I am not having much urge to spend any money on a new TV. The content providers have so greened up the weather channel it is not even worth watching except on the 8's.
If the trend continues will this be a future promotion? Buy 4 pairs of 3D glasses and get a FREE 3D tv.
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