Is There a Big TV Screen in Your Future?

The hot Christmas item this year may be the big screen tv. I've been trying to decide on one for a few months, since I moved into a place with an additional room that seemingly would be perfect for one.

But, how do you choose? I've read many articles about the difference between rear view projection screens, LCD and Plasma. I'm still confused.

Then there's the installation issue. And the furniture issue. Do you hang it on the wall, put it in a wall unit, or let it sit on a stand?

I'm so confused. Ideally, I'd like to be able to record from the big screen to both my dvd-r and my computer. I'd like to watch live tv and during the commercials, surf the web.

I'm coming to the conclusion that I should forget the whole thing. Does anyone really need this kind of extravagance?

In 1978, I had a large screen, rear projection tv. It was cool, but when I just wanted to watch a tv show, my 21" Sony Triniton in the bedroom was just as good. Now I have 32" inch tvs in the living room and my bedroom, and a 20" in my office.

When I'm on an airplane, I watch movies on my laptop and I'm perfectly happy with the quality.

So, my question is, is this plasma/LCD push just a gimmick, or is there really an added value to them? And if so, which one do you get?

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What Kind of Big Screen TV is Best
LCD 40%
Plasma 10%
Rear Projection 0%
None, Love the One You're With 50%

Votes: 10
Results | Other Polls
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  • Display: Sort:
    flat screens (none / 0) (#1)
    by weezie on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 09:03:27 AM EST
    Don't know if they have Tweeter stores in CO but it is a good place to start your expedition. You have to have a look/see before you move to purchase.

    Info (none / 0) (#2)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 09:04:33 AM EST
    Rear projection is just that, projection from the rear to a front screen..It requires a lot of space because of this  and the picture degrades as the viewer moves to the left or right of the center of the screen. You can see this at any video store.. so room size and location is very important.. This problem also exists for LCD and Plasma, although to a lessor degree, so location is an issye.

    I've had two rear projections, a ProScan and a Pioneer Elite.. both around 55" or so. Both worked well and gave good service.. The ProScan lasted about 9 years and Pioneer now about 4.. The Pioner is HDTV and will show UT footall in beautiful detail...

    Here's an article on the subject.

    Which is better value for me right now: plasma or LCD?
    If you're in the market for a big screen television -- and we're talking 42-inches and above -- then we'd suggest plasma as a safe bet. Plasmas give you more bang for your buck at the big end of town, and while LCDs can give you better resolution, the price difference is currently too wide. However, if money's not an issue and you want the sharpest image in town, then a large LCD is for you. At the smaller end of things (15" to 36" TVs), LCD is the only way to go if you want something slim and tasteful. And the best thing is that LCDs are getting cheaper all the time

    Don't the plasma screens (none / 0) (#3)
    by Che's Lounge on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 09:40:08 AM EST
    need to have an important component (illumination) replaced every 5 years?

    placement in house (none / 0) (#4)
    by dutchfox on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 10:02:51 AM EST
    Well, I was in a house over the weekend and the owners had placed their Big Screen atop the mantle, over the fireplace! Warm your feet while you sit in your recliner watching Colbert.

    Plasma/LCD (none / 0) (#5)
    by nolo on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 10:08:14 AM EST
    is not a gimmick, if for no other reason that people hate the big box of CRT televisions.  Plasmas tend to be more expensive and more fragile than LCDs, but they reproduce "blacker than black" image better than LCDs, thereby giving you truer black images.  LCDs, on the other hand, have a brighter image and more vivid color but have trouble reproducing black, which tends to be more of a grey.  LCDs have better "off axis" (from the side) viewability.   The newest LCD sets are liquid crystal on silicon, which tend to have a better black level.  Production cost and stability weigh in favor of LCD as the "wave of the future."*  Here's a nice side-by side comparison of the pros and cons of both technologies.

    Plasma screens are now going as big as 70 inches, but they're monstrously heavy.  This Thanksgiving, though, I had the opportunity to watch a film on a  DLP (digital light projection) rear projection TV with a 50-55 inch screen, and the picture was pretty amazing.  According to my SO, DLP (which Texas Instruments apparently developed) can give you a brighter picture than standard rear projection sets, and does not have the image "burn in" problem that rear projection and plasma screens have.  Here's the link to  TI's informational webpage. I haven't done a lot of research into this one myself, and I don't know what the prices look like, but I can tell you this -- I couldn't even tell it was rear projection, the picture was so good.  It's worth checking out.

    As for mounting, the easiest is to place the TV on a low stand, preferably one that can accommodate your center speaker and your AV gear (DVD player, cable box, etc.).  Placing them in cabinets can create issues with heat distribution, and it makes wiring much more complicated. On the other hand, wiring is less visible in a cabinet setup, so if you prefer not to see all the nuts and bolts of your setup, a properly ventilated cabinet is fine.  Also, you will want your setup to be on a separate electrical circuit, as this will help protect your investment.*

    Make sure you get a HDTV or HDTV-ready unit.  Don't bother with EDTV-- total snake oil.  Also, as my SO can attest, the greatest source of customer dissatisfaction with AV and home theater equipment is not knowing how it works.  Make sure you buy your setup from a store with knowledgeable salespeeps and a reputation for good customer support.

    I can't think of much else to add, so that's all!!

    *This is all according to my SO, who is Very Knowledgeable about these things, as he used to sell and install high end audio and home theater.  If you want to ask him questions directly, feel free to shoot an e-mail to my address.

    Not your daddy's rear projection (none / 0) (#6)
    by Fr33d0m on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 10:34:44 AM EST
    I recently replaced my failed Mitsubishi rear projection with a Sony WEGA.  Budget determined what I could buy so I ended up in the rear projection LCD market.  So here are some notes from the not so bleeding edge:

    1.  There is a bulb that may need replaced every few years.  Well of course there is, LCD needs light to be seen.  I've never seen any comparisons of cost over 5-10 years for any of the new breed of TVs and have heard that the Plasmas don't last all that long.  So I am not sure if spending a couple hundred or less on a new bulb every few years is that big a problem.

    2.  Text looked like crap (sorry for the technical term) until I turned on gaming mode.

    3.  I'm happy with how the video looks for the most part, what I'm not so happy with is the number and kind of connections available, or with the connection to my older Sony Theater setup.  It works but is less than ideal.  There is also a minor issue (to me) of warm up time.  Mostly it reaches full brightness within a few seconds, Sometimes it takes about a minute for the image to get bright enough to view.  If you don't have a DVR that will allow you to pause the Daily Show while you wait for the TV to warm up, it could be a problem.

    I do recording at the satellite box if necessary, not the TV.  I have heard of some plasmas that have DVR built in, but I think I prefer my external DVR for ease of replacement.  I don't often go to tape from here, or to DVD, but I could.

    As I looked at TVs in various stores, the plasma image didn't appear all that superior to me.  I have seen some color banding on the WEGA since I've had it but I think that may be Dish Network's fault.  There is supposed to be some issue with movement on LCDs but my uncultured eyes fail to see it.  I keep gaming mode on all the time because of some problem with text and that may be the cure to whatever movement problems exist.  Also I have no reasonable mounting surface for a plasma.  Living in California, I think I should prefer something with a substantial base.  I didn't see that in any of the plasma's.

    So in short I'd say the LCD projections are a good buy at the lower end of the spectrum.  I don't necessarily advocate Sony, in fact, avoiding Sony was one of my goals initially.  Overall, I'm happy and continue to be impressed with the image quality and viewing angle.

    Try what I did. I took the family to... (none / 0) (#7)
    by Bill Arnett on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 12:53:27 PM EST
    ...Circuit City and immediately swept them to the back wall where the LCD projection, DLP, and most of the plasma screens are. After that dazzling display of beautiful sets I then steered them to the LCD flat screens, where their jaws dropped at the sheer, stunning clarity and "looking out through a window" 3D reality of the picture.

    I purchased a 37" Polaroid Flat Screen and it has the most stunning picture of any television I ever owned. I think the difference between picture resolution is that with plasma and projection TVs you are always aware that you are looking at a glass screen, with takes away from 3d aspect of the picture, while the flat LCDs, with their soft, no glare surface make it like I said above, like you are looking through an open window at the world outside.

    Also, plasma TVs us more than 4 times as much power as the LCD flats and are very susceptible to "image burn-in", whereas the LCD flats, like your computer screen, has just enough "wiggle" in the switching transistors that control the pixels to make image burn-in MUCH less likely by far.

    The new LCD flats can be viewed from previously unattainable extreme angles without any picture washout (much like old computer LCD screens compared to the newer ones).

    As to mounting it depends on personal preference, mine being to have the middle of the screen at eye level. How much wiring you need to run to the screen can make a difference also, especially as to how complicated the installation might be.

    For maximum resolution from ancillary devices you will want to take advantage of the multiple inputs on the back of the set, and those wires have to go somewhere, which can also complicate installation.

    But man, when you watch a progressive scan DVD for the first time the picture will blow you away. Couple that to a killer speaker system and you're set. (I use Polk Audio speakers all around, towers that go so deep on bass that a subwoofer is unnecessary in the front, voice matched Polks for the surrounds, running through a Yamaha pre-amp into a Carver Signature 1 Magnetic Field Amplifier tested to provide up to 1,400 watts of the cleanest power available without breaking in to a sweat. What can I say? I have a LOT of time on my hands, and about 1,200 DVDs to watch and I MUST have audiophile quality picture AND sound.)

    And remember, don't waste time comparing one excellent picture to another when you're looking to buy. Choose the one with the features you like and want and don't worry, ALL the HDTVs will have a beautiful picture in your home.

    Boy, was I clear as mud regarding... (none / 0) (#27)
    by Bill Arnett on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 12:17:07 PM EST
    ...mounting. I SHOULD have said that I prefer mounting that puts center-scrren at eye level to a person sitting comfortably.

    It also depends on the space between you and the screen; if you are going to be within 10-12 ft of the screen, mounting the screen high, like above a fireplace, will have you craning your neck to a pretty steep angle, which can cause discomfort.

    OTOH, if the set will be mounted 15-20 ft from your viewing position, the angle of your neck with be much less and therefore more comfortable.

    I recommend you experiment BEFORE making a permanent mount.


    What you want... (none / 0) (#8)
    by mattd on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 01:40:49 PM EST
    ...is this $10 E-book from the publishers of TidBITS:

    Take Control of Digital TV

    77 pages on every aspect of purchasing a digital TV, with 24 pages of free samples, plus free updates after purchase.  Check it out.

    tv (none / 0) (#9)
    by neuron on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 02:22:16 PM EST
    I have a 50 inch plasma screen TV on a small stand. It is HDTV and absolutely fantastic.
    I have had it for the past year and since the
    prices have fallen so go for it! Mine is a

    Thank you all (none / 0) (#10)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 02:44:26 PM EST
    Thanks for the great explanations.  The room is 10 feet wide by 13 feet deep.  There's a window to the right of where the screen would go.  Ceilings are 10 feet high.

    Is a 50 inch too large or too small?

    I'm going to check out Circuit City.  I won't buy today, this is a big decision, so please, keep your comments and personal experiences coming, they are really helpful.

    Question: Is there a feature that allows you to record from the tv to the computer without using a dvd-r, or do you have to first record on the dvd-r and then from the dvd-r to the computer.  

    10x13x10 might affect how HIGH UP you... (none / 0) (#28)
    by Bill Arnett on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 12:26:10 PM EST
    ...mount the TV, as craning your neck to a 20-25 degree angle would be pretty uncomfortable.

    By no means is 50" too big, but for that size room I would definitely opt for mounting it so that center-screen is at eye level while in your favorite viewing position.

    Having a window just off to the side will facilitate hiding wiring behind curtains.

    So checkout the 50", but I would respectfully suggest that you not discount something like a 44" LCD Flatscreen, the clarity of which will blow you away.

    I cannot answer or make suggestions regarding your last query. I DO know for certain you can use the LCD sets as your computer monitor, and I believe that is true of the plasmas as well.


    I have an LCD and I love it (none / 0) (#11)
    by roy on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 03:53:46 PM EST
    The colors are great, especially for watching cartoons.  And, uhm, foreign documentaries.  Yeah.

    Two cautions:

    Fiddle with the controls before buying.  Modern TVs have a ton of nifty options, and a bad interface can ruin the fun.  Takes me five minutes to set up to watch a DVD with all the settings just right.

    Watch more than just whatever they put on the screen at the stores before buying.  Somes places make a point of showing the TV at its best, which is good to see, but you also want to know what it looks like at its worst.  LCDs, for instance, can have ghosting that makes action-heavy or smokey scenes look weird.

    I just went through this process and (none / 0) (#15)
    by Achaetes on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 07:13:49 PM EST
    I finally settled on the Panasonic 46" mentioned above. Why? Because: 1080i and 1080p (ready for blue ray HD DVD player), low glare, 2 HDMI connections -side and rear, 1 pc connection, 2 component and 2 composite -1 side 1 rear each, no burn in on the screen (important when you have an active household and sometimes pause the TIVO for long periods or if you watch a tremendous amount of a one sport where the plasma can burn in light or dark spots from playing fields, ice or water etc.), it's a flat screen set that will hang on the wall in a place that would otherwise be impossible to have a TV, and finally because it has a built in QAM tuner (HD over the air receiver).

    As far as recording to your computer and your dvr you might try a search on ebay for a wireless usb video sender. There are several reasonably priced models available (the one I favor is about $30). I would choose this so that I wouldn't have to run expensive wires all over my attic to connect the TV to the computer. You will also have to have a good video card or usb device that allows the computer to accept the TV signal and some software to record that signal. To make the most of this setup you would have the dvr connected to the tv, and the tv output connected to the wireless video sender. The video receiver is hooked up either to a usb port or the proper composite or component connection of the computer video card.

    As for "why do you need this?" That is purely subjective but I sat down and watched my 1st dvd today on the sysem (Moulin Rouge) and it was FANTASTIC! After I came down from the flash backs and picked my jaw up off the ground I had to wonder what took me so long to upgrade! :/

    LCD and Projectors (none / 0) (#17)
    by Randinho on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 07:33:38 PM EST
    I have a 32" Samsung LCD HDTV with a 3500:1 contrast ratio. It has two HDMI slots (one being used for the cable box, the other for a DVD player). It also has a 15 pin PC monitor input and I sometimes use the laptop with the HD monitor.

    Contrast ratio is an important factor to consider: the higher the better image you'll have in my experience.

    If you have a separate room you want to use and you can get it dark enough, you might want to consider an HDTV projector. My brother builds and installs systems. He has an HDTV projector in his house projecting onto a 96" glass-beaded screen. The image is breathtaking.

    a few comments about i/o (none / 0) (#18)
    by spiritrover on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 08:00:54 PM EST
    I'd like to make a few comments about inputs and outputs to the set, though if you're looking at 50" units, I expect most of these are covered.

    Regarding inputs:  I infer from your post that you'll be using the set's tuner for most of your viewing, which will work fine.  But for adding HD set-top boxes, or (eventually) HD DVD, you will want to ensure that the set has an HDMI/HDCP input.  HDMI is an all-digital connection, and HDCP is a content-protection protocol that the content industry is fighting to make a requirement to the new HD DVD sets.  Comcast's Motorola HD set-top boxes use HDCP to protect certain channels and on-demand content, and there's nothing more infuriating than trying to make a digital connection that doesn't work because the display unit doesn't support HDCP.  DVI is also a common type of digital input, but I've seen HDCP-related compatibility issues using DVI.  Electrically there's no problem connecting HDMI to DVI, but HDCP incompatibilities through this kind of connection are problematic.  HDCP is a terrible idea poorly implemented, but all you're trying to do as a consumer is minimize the inconvenience it causes you.

    I would also ensure that the set has component video in, because that's generally the best input from current DVD players.  Although HD content will provide the absolute highest-quality viewing, a progressive-scan DVD player through component inputs will look very good.

    Regarding outputs, you mentioned that you want to record to a DVD recorder and/or a PC.  Firewire from the set to the PC is a very convenient way to capture video on the PC, but it's not so common.  You can easily take composite or s-video out from a PC and get that into either a PC or a DVD recorder.  If the DVD recorder will take component video, that'd provide the hightest quality, followed by s-video, followed by composite video.  For capture by the PC, if your PC doesn't have a capture device, you can get a device like a Pinnacle Systems Dazzle, which will allow you to capture s-video or composite video from the PC.

    For the PC, there are companies like Snapstream Media (www.snapstream.com) which provide DVR capabilities for a limited list of TV tuner or video capture cards.  One place to start looking for PC video capture solutions might be the supported hardware list from snapstream.

    Sorry this ran on so long.  Good luck with your purchase, and do be sure to have HD content available when you set up your new TV.  HD content is absolutely unbelievable.

    I'm Back from the Store (none / 0) (#19)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 08:50:29 PM EST
    Thanks for the additional comments.  

    Here's where I'm at.  I took Bill's suggestion and went to Circuit City.  I went at 5:30 because I find stores that are open evenings are emptier then since most people are home for dinner.  I spent 90 minutes with the Assistant Sales Manager and learned a lot, but of course, it's just one view.

    Plasma is out (particularly since the tv will be near a window and glare is a factor and because it will be some months before the plasmas can accomodate the new format that's coming next which, from my viewing in the store, makes a huge difference.)

    So, it looks like I'll get a 46" LCD.  The Samsung LMS-4695D is the one I liked the best.  It will sit on a stand, not be wall mounted. It has two HDMI slots on the back and a computer monitor hookup.

    Then came the receivers and speakers. This was tough, but the Denon AVR 987 was the best one.  It's advantage is that it allows you to hook up two devices to it and then run only one HDMI cord to the tv.  It also accomodates a lot of devices.  

    Recommended speakers/subwoofer was the Bose 5.1, Acoustimass 6 (AMS111BLK)

    As for the stand, this was the one I liked the best.

    Of course I want a blue-ray dvd player (even though I just got a dvd recorder/burner with VHS in it so I can transfer vhs tapes to dvd), but they are really expensive and we don't know whether Sony or TI is going to win this battle.  Sony lost with beta, but maybe they've learned.  It was shocking to see the blue ray picture...it's so incredible.  

    Any thoughts?

    Most excellent! (none / 0) (#29)
    by Bill Arnett on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 12:34:18 PM EST
    It does really pay to go look, doesn't it?

    Good Choice (none / 0) (#20)
    by Randinho on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 09:39:08 PM EST
    The Samsung was a good choice, although given the fact that no one is yet broadcasting in 1080P, I might have waited. For receiver, my personal preference would be for the Onkyo TXSR604, which may be a better deal for the money.

    As for speakers, I might have ben inclined to get Klipsch or JBL speakers. In any event, you'll be happy with what you got, no doubt.

    great suggestions (none / 0) (#22)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 10:26:33 PM EST
    I haven't bought yet, so I will check out Randinho and wg's suggestions.  The fire Wire and USB is a big deal so I will probably go with that one.

    I'm surprised that the tv was easier to narrow down than the speakers and receiver.

    question for Sprintrover (none / 0) (#23)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 01:23:30 AM EST
    Sprintrover, your comments were really helpful.  Question for you on the hdcp:  The Samsung says

    Digital cable ready (DCR) tuner with CableCARD slot: Use your Samsung TV's remote control to enjoy the world of digital cable and HDTV. CableCARD means that your TV connects directly to your cable signal without the need for a separate cable box. Simply plug your cable company supplied CableCARD into the slot in your Samsung TV, connect your signal and you're ready to go.

    Does that mean it supports both hdmi and hdcp, since it's using the cable company (comcast) card?  Or is it a bad idea to get this set because it doesn't have hdcp?

    Some More Suggestions (none / 0) (#25)
    by Randinho on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 10:09:25 AM EST
    With regard to the receiver and speakers, I wouldn't be too surprised. My brother installs these systems and he speaks highly of Onkyo. I have a Yamaha receiver, but my next one will probably be an Onkyo.

    As for the speakers, I believe that Bose is a great marketing company and they are busy selling the name as well. You might want to mix and match and that may enable you to save some money. For example, I have a pair of Vector Research front speakers that I bought years ago that work fine. I got them through Dmark for $129.99 for the pair. My center channel speaker is a JBL that I bought for $79.99 about 10 years ago. My subwoofer is an Acoustic Research powered subwoofer that I bought for $119.99 in 2001. My brother gave me some Denon rear speakers in 2000 that I replaced these year from J & R's clearance center with some JBL's that I got for $70 for the pair that have both woofer and tweeter in them are rated at 100 watts per channel and a much better dynamic range than the Denon's. I'm saving the Denon's for  when I get the 7.1 receiver and will use them for my rear center speakers.

    Whatever you do, don't get the extended warranty. They push those at most large electronics chains and it is a rip-off.

    Ditto on NO extended warranty... (none / 0) (#30)
    by Bill Arnett on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 12:43:02 PM EST
    ...with most modern electronic devices if they survive the initial 90 "burn-in" period -and every one warrantees for at least 90 days - then the odds are that the set will function for the expected lifetime of the IC chips and semiconductors used, and THAT can range as high as 25 YEARS.

    They make a killing on those warranties, as they are so rarely used.

    You will be thrilled with your choice. Just wait 'til you see it in your home without the distractions of other TVs!


    wg's right (none / 0) (#26)
    by spiritrover on Sun Nov 26, 2006 at 11:40:29 AM EST
    I've only seen HDCP issues going from HDMI connections to DVI connections, so since your selected set has HDMI connections, you should be fine.

    HDCP doesn't apply to the coax cable input and CableCARD, no worries there.

    Looking over these comments, you'd have a hard time doing better than just following wg's advice.