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Most Important Features to Look for on Your Next TV

If you’re in the market for a new TV set, you’re probably amazed at all the different options. For those that are less technically inclined, the options may be a little overwhelming. You hear all kinds of terms being thrown around like LCD, plasma, projection, resolution and many others. Salesmen appear to be quite helpful but how do you know how unbiased they are really being? It’s important to learn what features to look for before you go to buy your next TV. Relying on salesmen for information or buying a TV completely uninformed could literally cost you thousands of dollars and could result in the wrong TV for your home. This article will give you the basics of the different TV’s available and what features and specifications you should look for before spending your hard earned cash.

Different Types of TV’s – SDTV and HDTV

There are two main options when looking for a new TV: standard definition (SDTV) and high definition (HDTV). Most of us are very familiar with SDTV but may not know it. Traditional TV that most of us grew up with is standard definition. Definition is determined by the resolution of the screen; anything less than 720 lines of resolution is normally SDTV.

High definition is an upgrade from SDTV and includes resolutions that are more than 720. HDTV also has an aspect ratio of 16:9 (widescreen) and is digital. HDTV is becoming the new standard in television and broadcasting stations will soon be required to switch to HD broadcasting. To get more detailed info about HDTV, read our HDTV Guide. When shopping for a new TV, you should definitely only consider one that is capable of displaying HD programming.

TV Technologies: Flat Panel and Projection

There are a few popular types of televisions available on the market today. Flat panel TV’s are named so because of their very shallow depth and ability to be hung on the wall. LCD and plasma are the two most common types of flat panels. Historically, plasma TV’s were quite a bit more expensive than LCD TV’s but as the plasma technology has evolved, the prices have become more similar. Most experts agree that one is not necessarily better than another but each has its own advantages and disadvantages. If you are seriously considering a LCD or plasma TV, check out our Differences Between LCD and Plasma Guide to get more in depth information.

One of the other popular options in TV technology is projection. Front projectors aren’t as common for home use but are available to those looking to equip a home theater. Rear projector TV’s (sometimes referred to as “big screens”) have been around for some time and are very attractive because they are considerably cheaper than flat panels. You can get a very large rear projector screen size for less than a mid-sized flat panel. In general, projection TV’s don’t have quite as good of a picture as a flat panels but based on your needs, a projection TV might be the perfect option. Within the category of rear projection TV’s, there are a few different types of technology being used including CRT, LCD and DLP. Check out our Rear Projection TV Guide to learn about which one is right for you.

Conventional or Tube TV’s are still available in stores today but they are becoming obsolete as these previous types are dominating the television market. SDTV and HDTV is available in a tube TV but for optimum picture and features, you should probably stick to flat panel or projection.

Important Features and Specifcations

So you’ve narrowed it down to a few different TV’s. The list of features and specifications is a mile long. Which ones are the most important? Here’s a checklist of options to make sure your potential TV stands up to:

Resolution: As previously discussed, HDTV’s have a minimum resolution of 720p. Many of the top HDTV’s now are capable of displaying 1080p resolution which is what HD-DVD, Blu-ray and PlayStation 3 output. 1080p is superior to 720p but on a HDTV that is less than 50 inches, the chances of you being able to tell the difference are very minimal. If you are shopping in the 60+ screen size range, you may want to consider 1080p resolution.

Built-in Tuners: HD and SD programming are received using different tuners. Most HDTV’s include both nowadays but if some are “HD capable” which means they can display an HD picture but the tuner is not included. They can be purchased separately but it will cost you another couple hundred bucks and you’ll have yet another hardware device to store.

Rear and Side Inputs: Component and HDMI inputs are the best way to display an HD signal. You’ll want to make sure that your potential TV has more than one of these options. You are likely to have a cable/satellite box, DVD player and game stations to hook up. HDMI is the best option so you should look for a TV with atleast 2-3 of these inputs.

Viewing Angle: The viewing angle refers to how far off center you can be from the TV and still see the picture okay. Ever noticed the screen getting darker and darker as you go off to the side? Flat panel TV’s have the advantage over other technologies when it comes to this feature.

Contrast Ratio: Many experts debate whether or not this feature is truly important. There is no standard to measure contrast ratio so this number can be skewed from brand to brand. You should aim for a higher contrast ratio but don’t get hung up on one that is 5X as great as another brand.

Other Features: There are some other features that you may be interested in more than another consumer. These include picture-in-picture, PC compatibility, picture adjustments and a few others. If you plan to use these features, you should insure they are available on any TV you are considering.


There are many key features and specifications to look for when purchasing your next TV. This brief overview should give you a basic understanding of what to look for. For more detailed information, check out our section of Guides. Once you think you’ve picked out the right TV for your home, see how it stacks up in our list of Reviews. So enjoy your next TV shopping outing and enjoy your next TV!

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