Retailers love to show off HD content. Makes sense, right? After all, it is an HDTV you’re looking to purchase. But stop for a minute and ask yourself this “What do I actually spend my time watching?” Is it HD content or standard definition broadcast? Is it Blu-ray discs or video games, sports or dramas? When you are shopping at your local retailer, ask to see the kind of content you normally watch on the HDTV you’re considering purchasing. You may find that the digital TV cable feed might not look as impressive as the demo loop running in the store.
When browsing the aisles of your favorite retailer, keep in mind that the displays on the retail floor are typically set to “torch modes” to compensate for the bright fluorescent lighting. This means that the retail units will appear brighter than normal when they are in your home. To get a better understanding of how a display will perform in a darker environment, check it out in a dedicated demo area with controlled lighting. It’s also a good idea to read several product reviews from credible sources such as the HD Guru, Home Theater magazine, Sound and Vision, Consumer Reports, CNET and others.
Both LCD and Plasma TV technologies have the capability to present stunning visuals. Choosing between the two used to depend on your viewing environment. However, these days, there is very little difference between the two technologies, especially when it comes to high end products. In the past, plasmas were renowned for delivering superior black levels. Today, many LCDs now feature variable backlight technology, making LCD black level performance comparable to that of plasmas. In addition, the new 120 and 240 Hz LCDs have addressed motion blurring, minimizing streaking trails that follow objects as they move quickly across the screen. LCD manufacturers are also making strides to reduce the effects of off-axis viewing, meaning you should experience the same image quality as you shift your viewing angle. Deep blacks, clean signal processing and accurate colors have long been characteristics of the very best plasmas for years. Once criticized for having glossy screens that were susceptible to reflections from windows and lights, newer plasmas now feature anti-reflection coatings to minimize glare. In fact, LCDs have also gone glossy and they include the same anti-reflection coatings found in plasmas. Choosing between the two technologies today is more a matter of brand preference. Discover the latest products from LG and Panasonic to come off the THX Test Bench.
The price of projectors has plummeted by more than 90 percent in recent years. As prices drop, performance keeps getting better and better. Today’s projectors have higher contrast ratios due to improved performance in DLP and LCD technology. If you have enough space and can control the ambient lighting with drapes or blinds, a projector might be right for you. If you have the budget for a premium projector, THX recommends its THX Certified products from JVC, Epson and Runco.
The idea of having 120-inch display may seem like a good idea, but if you buy one that’s too big, it could compromise your entertainment experience. Choosing the appropriate size display comes down to how far away you are sitting from the screen. If you buy a massive display and sit three feet away, you’re going to be staring at pixels and lines. To determine the best seat-to-screen distance in your living room for a 1080p display, THX recommends dividing the diagonal screen by .84. For example, a plasma or LCD TV with a 65-inch screen divided by .84 equals a 77-inch viewing distance (6.5 feet).
THX recommends buying HDTVs with a resolution of 1080p.
Believe it or not, many HDTV buyers don’t subscribe to HD content services. While HD programming is still limited, the number of channels and programs is growing every day. Subscribing to an HD satellite or cable service provides you with a number of programming choices ranging from network dramas and sports to documentaries and Hollywood movies. You should also consider purchasing a Blu-ray™ Disc player. Check out the latest THX Certified Blu-ray players from Pioneer and Lexicon.
As mentioned above, most displays are set to special color and lighting modes to compensate for the fluorescent lights in retail environments. However, these levels don’t look the same when you get them out of the box at home. One of the easiest and least expensive ways to make sure your new HDTV has the right color and brightness settings is to use THX Optimizer. While other calibration tools are expensive and cumbersome to navigate, THX Optimizer is included on all THX Certified discs (The Incredibles, Star Wars, etc.) and takes only minutes to use. For the ultimate picture quality in your home day or night, contact a THX Certified Video Calibration Professional.
Another benefit of professional calibration is energy savings. A recent THX research study demonstrated that calibration can reduce an HDTVs energy consumption by up to 50 percent.
HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) is an important feature. It allows your HDTV to receive a digital signal from your set-top box, Blu-ray player and some game consoles. If possible, try to select an HDTV with at least two HDMI (version 1.3) inputs. Check out the new family of THX Certified HDMI cables from Monster Cable, available in Best Buy and other retailers.
At THX, we believe that “sound is fifty percent of the movie experience.” When you’re buying a new HDTV this holiday season, don’t forget that great sound can really bring out the power and impact of the visuals.
If you’re investing in a state-of-the-art HDTV, consider purchasing a high quality AV receiver and surround sound speaker system that will complement the picture.