HDTV Buying Guide - Best Buy Canada

September 06, 2012

HD TV Buying Guide

Whether you're upgrading your current HDTV or replacing an old tube TV, there are a lot of features to consider when buying a new television. LED, LCD, plasma, 3D, and Smart TVs all offer different features for different needs. So, how do you choose the right one?

When it's time to outfit your room with a new television, the biggest thing you might need 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, and plasma TVs? And do you really need a Smart TV? Read on and discover how to choose the right television for your entertainment.

Types of HDTVs

No matter how you slice it, all HDTVs have one very important thing in common: they can deliver gorgeous high-definition visuals. However, it's truly the technology inside each of them that makes them just a little different.

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.

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.

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.

HDTV Features to Consider

Size

No matter what type of television you choose, size will be one of the most important factors you'll need to consider – and getting the biggest display possible is not always an option. The ideal size of TV will depend mainly on how far away from the display your seat is.

While your budget might dictate what size television you can choose, this chart offers a quick guideline about the ideal viewing distance from your seat to the display itself. Being too far away or too close to the screen will only result in an uncomfortable experience.

Screen Size Viewing Distance Range
  720p 1080p
26″ 1 – 1.75m 0.7 – 1.2m
32″ 1.25 – 2.1m 0.8 – 1.4m
37″ 1.3 – 2.25m 0.9 – 1.5m
40″ 1.75 – 2.5m 1.2 – 1.7m
46″ 1.8 – 3.2m 1.2 – 2m
52″ 2.1 – 3.4m 1.4 – 2.25m
58″ 2.3 – 3.6m 1.5 – 2.4m
65″ 2.6 – 3.7m 1.75 – 2.5m
70″ 2.75 – 4m 1.8 – 2.7m

720p or 1080p?

To enjoy the most realistic visuals possible, your HDTV will likely feature a 720p or 1080p resolution. But what's the difference and which one should you choose?

  • 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 is the highest resolution out there and it can produce even greater detail than its 720p counterpart. 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.

While 1080p is readily available on many smaller displays, those who are budget-conscious should look at choosing 720p resolution in a smaller display size to still enjoy great HD visuals.

Refresh Rate vs. Subfield Drive

The visuals your LCD or LED TV can display are actually a series of single frames that work to create a moving picture. The refresh rate tells you how many frames it can display in a single second. Many older and entry-level TVs feature a 60Hz rate, which means your TV will display each frame at 1/60th of a second (or every 17ms) so the transition appears seamless and smooth.

For even smoother, blur-free transitions for high-speed chase scenes and fast-action sports, higher-end models boast rates from 120Hz to 480Hz by inserting additional frames faster than the eye can actually see.

Plasma technology relies on a "subfield drive" which is a bit different to 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.

Connections

  • HDMI — this is your connection to all your HD devices so you can enjoy either a 720p or Full HD 1080p resolution (whichever your TV is capable of displaying)
  • 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

LCD vs. LED vs. Plasma

  LCD LED Plasma
Screen Size 19″ – 60″ 19″ – 80″ 40″ – 65″
Viewing Angle (side to side) Images degrade at much wider angles Images degrade at much wider 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
Black level and Contrast Ratio Good 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

What's New?

Smart TVs

Since their inception, televisions have truly been the centrepiece of most living rooms. With new technologies and portable devices allowing consumers to enjoy their favourite shows, movies, and even online content from a computer, tablet, and smartphone — it seemed like TVs were going the way of CDs and cassette tapes.

Welcome to the world of Smart TVs. With a connection to your wired or wireless home network, a Smart TV gives you access to your entire digital world on a much larger screen. Right from the comfort of your living room, your TV will come equipped with an easy-to-use interface that's loaded with apps so you can do everything from watching YouTube videos, checking your email or the weather, and surfing the web to simply watching your favourite shows and movies, and streaming content from shared devices.

OLED

Organic light-emitting diode TVs are made up of self-illuminating organic compounds that light up the screen. Unlike LCDs and LEDs, OLED TVs emit their own light and don’t need lamps or backlighting, resulting in brighter, higher-contrast images that really pop. They also boast quicker response rates than LCD and LED TVs and deliver rich, consistent colour from all angles and distances, ideal for watching blockbuster hits and playing the latest games. At less than one inch thick, OLEDs are some of the thinnest TVs out there, perfect if you’re looking for a super-sleek new addition to your home theatre or living room.

3D

3D TVs are something straight out of The Jetsons and they're here to stay. These TVs can display images that appear to be coming right off the screen with the help of passive or active 3D glasses — it's just like being at the movies.

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.

Extras for your HDTV

With the power to display the crispest possible visuals from all your entertainment, your HDTV is only half of the home theatre experience. For the full effect, you might want to add some additional components.

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 additions to any HDTV. The receiver works as the hub of your entire system and supports HD surround sound thanks to built-in audio decoders and advanced sound-enhancing features. Speakers help fill your entire room with that sound to make you feel like you're a part of the action.

Soundbar

Even small spaces should have the freedom to enjoy powerful surround sound and a soundbar is the perfect solution. These streamlined systems feature an array of speakers and acoustic technologies that are designed to emulate the effect of surround sound that is surprisingly accurate and realistic.

Wall Mount or Stand

To create a more interesting look or to make space on your floor, you might want to consider mounting your HD TV. Some wall mounts even give you the power to 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. 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.

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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