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Buying an HDTV

Buying an HDTV

The first thing you need to determine when buying a TV is the size you’re aiming for. An 80-inch TV just isn’t going to work in a small apartment, and a 32-inch TV isn’t ideal for a large family room.

There is a formula to help you choose the ideal screen size. Measure the distance between your couch and your TV. The size of the TV should be between one-half and one-third that distance. That gives you the minimum size and maximum size you would want to buy.


To help you out, here are some examples:

Distance Minimum size Maximum size
6 feet 24-inch screen 36-inch screen
8 feet 32-inch screen 48-inch screen
10 feet 40-inch screen 60-inch screen
12 feet 48-inch screen 72-inch screen

Some people recommend going a bit bigger than the maximum listed here, but it’s mostly down to personal preference.

When you’re in the store, stand back from the TV the same distance you will be at home. That should tell you if it will be too big or small for comfortable viewing.

Once you have your size in mind, you need to determine your screen type. Your options are LED or OLED.

What about plasma or LCD, you ask? Manufacturers, for the most part, simply aren't making plasma TVs any longer. Plasma TVs were the first-generation of flat-screen TVs, but they're old news now.

And the difference between what we call an LED TV and an LCD TV has to do with the way they're backlit. Technically both use LCD, or liquid crystal display, panels. What you know as LCD TVs were backlit by cold cathode fluorescent lamps, or CCFL, while LED TVs are LCD HDTVs backlit with LEDs, or light-emitting diodes. CCFL-backlit LCDs have become a thing of the past as technology has evolved.

OLED, or organic light-emitting diode, displays have finally hit the scene and look set to outperform LED in image quality and energy efficiency. Unfortunately, for the moment there are very few sets available and they're expensive.

A 65-inch OLED unit can set you back $7,000 or so. Unless you're independently wealthy and have to have the latest technology, I'd give OLED a pass until it becomes more common.

Next page: Why you should pick an LED TV
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