Several types of television receivers are available, each with upchecks and downchecks:
Cathode Ray Tube is the standard the older generations grew up watching. It's like a large light bulb, the screen end coated with phosphorescent pixels, the other with an 'electron gun' which, when charged with electricity, emits electrons; the electrons hit the pixels, the pixels glow. Older CRTs have a curved screen, but newer models are 'flat screen TV'--not to be confused with 'flat panel TV,' meaning the whole TV is thin. Upchecks: Being well established technology, it is least expensive to buy and repair. CRTs project a really dark black. Downchecks: Bigger and heavier than others. If you put something nearby with a big magnet (like a large speaker) you can affect the picture.
Digital Light Processing are projection TVs; they shine light through a color wheel onto a semi-conductor chip with microscopic mirrors. The light is reflected through a projection lens on to a big screen. Upchecks: Clear images with seamless clarity at any size; stunning, bright picture with rich, dark shades; light in weigh, fairly sturdy and not affected by heat, humidity or vibration. Downchecks: Only available in big-screen. A DLP television is flat panel, but needs about as much space as CRTs because they require good ventilation and must sit away from the wall. For a DLP TV, wall mount isn't an option and they don't produce sharp text. They have a very hot light source lamp that needs to cool down properly or it won't last as long as it should. Viewing angles are not as wide as other types.
Liquid Crystal Displays, or LCD TVs, were first used as computer monitors. They have tiny crystals embedded in the screen which glow red, green or blue when hit by an electrical charge. Varying the charge varies the color intensity; varying which crystals get charged varies the color. Upchecks: Images can be very sharp and very bright. If the set is near a window, LDC televisions are less affected by glare. LCD TVs are great for TV wall mounts. Downchecks: LCDs don't do really dark black, and if you want a really big screen, you won't find it on an LCD flat screen TV.
Plasma televisions are like a neon sign controlled by a computer. Two plates of glass have microscopic bubbles of neon & xenon gas and pixels between them. When this gas is excited by electrical charges, it becomes plasma, giving off photons which make the phosphor pixels glow. Upchecks: High resolution; a smooth, even image across the whole screen; plasma televisions can display billions of colors for a truly realistic picture; a distortion-free wide viewing angle; a plasma TV is also light enough for a TV wall mount. Downchecks: Black levels are only okay; if left on the same image too long, screen-burn can occur, meaning a permanent 'ghost' image is visible (bigger problem with video games than movies or TV); plasma TVs are heavier and more delicate than LCD televisions of comparable size.
Two numbers describing how screen width relates to screen height. Standard screen is 4:3, meaning a 480i resolution screen is 640x480 pixels. Wide screen is 16:9, meaning a 1080i screen is 1920x1080 pixels. Go wide screen if you can -- you will thank us later.
Cable or Dish TV
If you subscribe to satellite television or cable, your service provider will give you a satellite dish or cable box to decode their signals.
Text appears across the bottom of the screen to aid the hearing impaired -- also useful for those learning a language -- it's a built-in feature of most televisions and DVDs.
The difference between the brightest and dimmest colors the set can show; the higher the ratio, the better the image -- 5,000:1 is good; 10,000:1 is fabulous; 15,000:1 is, well, really expensive!
HDTV versus HD-ready TV
An HD-ready or HD monitor cannot display high definition pictures unless the signal is processed through an external HD tuner before it goes into the set. A true HD television has a factory-installed HD receiver.
A small second picture appears in a corner of the TV screen so viewers can watch two programs at one time. The wife can watch her reality show, and the husband can watch his game, or vice versa.
The amount of time it takes for a pixel to go from black to white and back again. It's like a camera's shutter speed; the lower the number, the faster the speed, the better the picture.
Because one number is more convenient, screen sizes are measured diagonally--a 32-inch LCD TV screen is a little under 28 inches wide x 16 inches high. Difficult as it is to believe, there is such a thing as a too-big television (well, that's what they tell us). Movie and sports fans, especially, want the biggest TV screen they can get, but they also want to see the whole image clearly. Choose a screen that fits your room. If you will sit 5-7 feet away, go up to 41-inches; 8-9 feet, up to 44 inches; 10-11 feet, up to 50 inches; 11-13 feet, up to 60 inches; 13-14 feet, up to 70 inches; over 15 feet, over 70 inches. Of course, you really haven't seen the opening of the first Star Wars
movie until you've watched it sitting 5 inches from a 50-inch TV!
TV wall mounts can hang your set on the wall like a picture--great for uncluttered decor schemes. A few sets include a TV wall mount, but most must be purchased separately. If you go this way, get a TV set with a wide viewing angle so you can see it from the side as well as straight on. Be sure you attach the TV mount securely and directly to the studs -- a flat panel TV is still not all that light. A TV shelf is another great wall option.
Final thought: Buy a combo meal instead of a sandwich.
If you have a television, most likely you also have a DVD or VCR or both. You can save money and space by getting a TV/DVD/VCR combo. Choices include TV-VCR, TV-DVD, DVR-VCR, etc. Whatever your platter of choice, these are especially good for dorm rooms, apartments and other small spaces.
For more information:
The Federal Communications Commission (http://www.fcc.gov) oversees the public airways on behalf of the American people.