HDTV Buying Guide - Best Buy Canada

September 06, 2012

HD TV Buying Guide

Whether you're upgrading your current HDTV or investing in high definition viewing for the first time, there are a lot of things to consider when buying a new television. Different HDTVs are designed to fulfill different audio-visual desires and each has its own set of features determining performance. So, how do you choose the right one?

When it's time to get turned on to a new television purchase, the foremost thing to consider is what type of TV you should get. Not all flat-panel HDTVs are created equal, but what is the real difference between LED, LCD, Plasma, 3D, 4K, OLEDs and Smart TVs – and which one do you really need? Read on and discover how to choose the right television for your entertainment value.

Types of HDTVs

All HDTVs have one very important thing in common: they deliver gorgeous high definition visuals that make every activity from movie watching to videogame playing more immersive. However, it's truly the technology inside that makes each one just a little different from the others.

LCD

Liquid Crystal Display televisions are perhaps the best bang for your buck. They're available in a wider range of sizes than plasma TVs, and can deliver stunning HD entertainment with high refresh rates. Their affordable cost allows them to do double duty as a TV and a computer monitor, and although they're adaptable to a variety of lighting condition, they generally work best in brighter rooms.

LED

Light-emitting diode TVs are up to 70% slimmer than your standard LCD television and look as sleek and stunning as the HD images they produce. An LED backlighting system features lots of LED light bulbs which typically last longer, use less power, and deliver better detail and definition. These TVs are perfect for any room whether it's a daylight-soaked living room or your dimly lit basement.

Plasma

With a 600Hz frame rate (that's up to 10x higher than standard TVs), a plasma TV is perfect for your high-speed entertainment. This higher processing rate is designed to produce a more fluid transition between frames so fast-action sports, games and movies scenes are as crystal-clear and vibrant as possible. These TVs work best in man caves, home theatre rooms, and any other space where the light is usually low.

OLED

OLED TVs combine big performance with small size, offering themselves as the slimmest and lightest type of HDTV on the current market as they measure in as thin as 4mm. Unlike LED and LCD TVs, an OLED TV can deliver absolute blacks because each pixel is able to be completely shut off, meaning theoretically infinite contrast ratios that allow for more vibrant, true-to-life colours and the richest, deepest blacks. OLED technology also makes curved screens possible, for a truly immersive cinematic experience.

HDTV Features to Consider

Size

No matter what type of television you choose, its size will be one of the most important factors you'll need to consider before purchasing. It’s not just about grabbing the biggest display possible for your budget; your ideal size will depend mainly on how far away your seating is set up from the screen.

This chart offers a quick guideline for finding the perfect distance to leave between your sofa and the TV. Being too far away or too close to the screen will only result in an uncomfortable and less than optimal experience.

Screen Size   Viewing Distance Range  
  720p   1080p  
26″ 1 – 1.75m 3.35 – 5.7ft 0.7 – 1.2m 2.3 – 3.9ft
32″ 1.25 – 2.1m 4.1 – 6.9ft 0.8 – 1.4m 2.6 – 4.6ft
37″ 1.3 – 2.25m 4.3 – 7.4ft 0.9 – 1.5m 2.9 – 4.9ft
40″ 1.75 – 2.5m 5.7 – 8.2ft 1.2 – 1.7m 3.9 – 5.6ft
46″ 1.8 – 3.2m 5.9 – 10.5ft 1.2 – 2m 3.9 – 6.6ft
52″ 2.1 – 3.4m 6.9 – 11.2ft 1.4 – 2.25m 4.6 – 7.4ft
58″ 2.3 – 3.6m 7.5 – 11.8ft 1.5 – 2.4m 4.9 – 7.9ft
65″ 2.6 – 3.7m 8.5 – 12.1ft 1.75 – 2.5m 5.7 – 8.2ft
70″ 2.75 – 4m 9 – 13ft 1.8 – 2.7m 5.9 – 8.9ft

Resolution

To bring you the most realistic images possible, your HDTV offers super high resolutions that pack an enormous amount of pixels into one picture. 4K, 1080p, and 720p televisions suit different room and screen sizes, as well as reflect different price points.

  • A 720p resolution is ideal for smaller TV displays that are 40 inches and under. At that size, you'll still enjoy stunning HD images that are crisp, clear and very detailed.
  • Full HD 1080p can produce greater detail than its 720p counterpart, with about 1 million more pixels allotted to make up each image. However, you might not be able to see a lot of difference in the two resolutions unless your TV is 42 inches in size or larger.
  • 4K TV, or Ultra HD, offers a resolution that is four times that of Full HD, packing in over 8 million pixels to deliver ultimately smoother lines, and stunning detail and clarity for more true-to-life visuals – even when you’re sitting close up. Learn more about 4K Ultra HD.

Refresh Rate vs. Subfield Drive

The fluid visuals your HDTV displays are actually made up of a series of single frames that together, create moving pictures. The refresh rate tells you how many frames your television can display in a single second. Many entry level TVs feature a 60Hz rate, which means they display each frame at 1/60th of a second (or every 17ms), so the transition appears seamless and smooth.

To access even smoother, blur-free transitions that suit high speed chase scenes and fast action sports, higher end HDTV models boast rates from 120Hz to 480Hz, made possible by inserting additional frames that display faster than the eye can actually see.

Plasma technology relies on a "subfield drive" which is a bit different from the refresh rate. Instead of measuring how many frames can be displayed in a second, the subfield drive measures how many electric pulses are sent to individual sub-pixels. A plasma panel with a rate of 60Hz typically has 10 pulses per frame, which means they have a subfield drive of 600Hz. The result is near-instantaneous transitions for the clearest possible visuals - no matter how fast they're moving.

Panel Display

The type of display panel technology your HDTV uses affects a number of key elements of your viewing experience. Panel technology determines whether your screen will be responsive enough for fast action video games and whether it will be able to accurately reproduce hues in the colour spectrum. Panel types also influence the quality and clarity of your picture from different viewing angles, where one hue may skew or darken on different parts of the screen, even though you are looking at it straight on, or distort when you’re watching from above, below, or off to the side.

TN (Twisted Nematic Field Effect) panels were previously more widely used than IPS. They are comparatively cheaper, and readily available for manufacturers. They are responsive in terms of pixel latency, making them a good option for gaming. The downside is that image clarity and quality are more restricted outside viewing angles, making the picture appear dark if viewed from below or from sides, and colour and contrast tones are also easily shifted.

Vertical Alignment (VA) technology is more costly but offers better viewing angles than its TN counterpart, so you can sit further away from the screen centre before colours start to shift and wash out. VA crystals are vertically aligned, and tilt when voltage is applied so the light passing through can create the picture you see. VA is the middle of the road option between TN and IPS in terms of cost and quality.

IPS (In-Plane Switching) was developed to try to correct TN technology’s two main limitations: responsiveness and colour accuracy. Although this type of panel is more expensive to manufacture, it ensures good colour reproduction and stable image quality. It also maintains wide viewing angles, so picture stays clear during extreme side or vertical viewing.

LCD vs. LED vs. Plasma

  LCD LED Plasma OLED
Screen Size 19″ – 60″ 19″ – 80″ 40″ – 65″ 50″ – 59″
Viewing Angle (side to side) Images degrade at angles wider than about 176 degrees Images degrade at angles wider than about 176 degrees Excellent view even from extreme angles Excellent view even from extreme angles
Power Consumption Low power consumption Use 20 – 30% less energy than LCD TVs Higher power consumption than LCDs Use 60-80% less energy than LCD TVs
Black level and Contrast Ratio Good Excellent Excellent Excellent
Overall
  • Great for everyday viewing and games
  • Offer the best value for the size and features you can get
  • Great for movies, sports, and games
  • Offer better contrast and brightness than your typical LCD
  • Most designs are less than 1-inch thin
  • Great for movies and home theatre rooms
  • Colours are more natural and lifelike than LCDs
  • Bring out the darkest details with more authentic blacks
  • Incredibly thin (less than 4mm) with nearly borderless screens
  • Clear, ghost-free picture for fast action scenes
  • Retain picture quality in bright rooms

Advanced Features

Smart TVs

Since their inception, televisions have truly been the centrepiece of most living rooms. But with new technologies allowing consumers to enjoy their favourite shows and movies on any number of computers, tablets, and smartphones — for a moment it seemed like TVs were going the way of CDs and cassette tapes.

Welcome to the world of Smart TVs. Where with a connection to your wired or wireless home network, your television accesses your entire digital world for display on a much larger screen than any portable device can offer. Right in the comfort of your living room, your Smart TV delivers an easy-to-use interface that's loaded with apps so you can do everything from watching YouTube videos and Netflix to checking your email or the weather, surfing the web, and streaming content from shared devices. You can even connect with loved ones via Facebook and Twitter, or make Skype calls to friends and family around the world. Learn more about Smart TVs.

3D and the difference between Active and Passive 3D

3D TVs, once reserved for specialized movie theatres, are here to stay in the world of home entertainment. These TVs can display images that appear to be coming right off the screen with the help of passive or active 3D glasses — so it's just like being at the movies, but without the expensive popcorn.

Active 3D TVs alternately display one image for your left eye and then another for your right in quick succession. Your battery-operated 3D glasses alternately shutter each lens open and closed in sync with the images on screen. When the right eye image is on screen, the left lens closes, so only your right eye will see it. This all happens so quickly that you don't even notice one lens is closed at any point; all you see is a stunning 3D picture that's crystal-clear.

Unlike active 3D, passive 3D televisions show one image to your left and right eyes simultaneously. These TVs have circularly polarized light filters in their screens to separate the picture into left and right images for each eye. The lenses in passive 3D glasses are also polarized, so that only the left image enters the left eye and only the right image goes in the right eye. The images then combine in your brain, tricking you into seeing 3D. These glasses don't require any built-in electronics to see the effect.

To learn more about passive and active 3D technologies, check out our guide.

Curved TVs

Curved screens, like those at the cinema, bend at a subtle angle in order to give you the sense of being surrounded by visuals and to provide a more immersive, theatre-like experience. They improve image quality and lessen distortion for people sitting outside a flat panel’s “sweet spot”, meaning people on couch ends and watching from the kitchen can see the action unfold just as well as you can in your favourite recliner placed dead centre in front of the screen. Curved TVs also greatly reduce ambient light reflections, washing less light out of the onscreen picture to deliver blacker blacks, deeper contrast, and beautifully rich colour. Learn more about Curved TVs.

Extras for your HDTV

Even with everything it can do and all the enjoyment it delivers, your HDTV is only half of your total home entertainment experience. For the full effect, you might want to add some additional components to your setup.

Blu-ray Player

With an enormous — and continuously growing — selection of titles, a Blu-ray player lets you enjoy HD movies in the comfort of your living room. And if you've got a 3D TV, a 3D Blu-ray player will help you make the most of it, while still letting you enjoy standard Blu-ray titles too.

Home Theatre System

A home theatre system is perhaps one of the most important accessories for any HDTV. A receiver works as the hub of your entire system and supports HD surround sound using built-in audio decoders and advanced sound-enhancing features. Speakers help fill your room with that cinematic sound that makes you feel like you're a part of the action.

Soundbar

Soundbars are the perfect solution for those who want to experience surround sound in a small space without dealing with complicated configurations or a multitude of speakers. These streamlined systems feature an array of acoustic technologies in a single cabinet that is designed to emulate the effect of surround sound in a surprisingly accurate and powerful way.

Wall Mount or Stand

To create a sleeker look for your entertainment system or to save floor space, you might want to consider mounting your HDTV. Some wall mounts even give you the power to continually reposition your television for the best view using an extendable arm, lateral movement, or tilting.

Alternatively, a TV stand will help you organize all your home theatre components with a platform for your television and additional shelves for accessories. Some models also offer a cable management system that helps keep your wires uncluttered and out of sight.

Alternatively, a TV stand will help you organize all your home theatre components with a platform for your television and additional shelves. Some models also offer a cable management system that helps keep your wires uncluttered.

3D Glasses

If you plan to purchase a 3D TV, you might also need to pick up 3D glasses in case your model doesn't include them. And even if it does, you might even want to consider grabbing more pairs so you can share the 3D effect with your family and friends.

Installation

With so many pieces and components to your home theatre, it might seem like a daunting task to get it all set up correctly. No problem. Best Buy's Geek Squad team offers plenty of installation and setup services that will help all your gear look and sound as perfect as possible. The best part is: you won't have to do a thing.

Connections

Different connectivity options let you expand and enhance your entertainment experience. From linking to peripherals to connecting to WiFi, the different ports and jacks on your HDTV ensure you truly get the most out of your television.

  • HDMI — this is your connection port to all your HD devices so you can enjoy a high definition resolution for your PC games and other device content
  • HD Components — another way to connect to your HD devices, these inputs support some older HD devices
  • USB Port — plug in your media players and flash drives to enjoy photos on the large screen; some TVs will also play back music and video files too
  • Ethernet — lets you connect to your home's wired network so you can make use of your TV's networking capability
  • S-Video and RCA Inputs — if you've still got a VCR or older DVD player, these inputs allow you to get connected and still enjoy your library of VHS tapes or DVDs
  • Wi-Fi and DLNA — these wireless technologies let you connect to a wireless network without running cables so you can access content online or from your shared devices
Best Buy

Take the Next Step

Hopefully, we've helped arm you with most of the knowledge you need to choose the right LCD, LED, or plasma TV that's right for you. Online or in-store, Best Buy offers an enormous selection of televisions and home theatre components from brands like Sony, Samsung, Sharp, LG, Toshiba, and Philips for you to check out.

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