Six common HDTV showroom pitfalls

Many shoppers are looking to take the HDTV plunge these holidays and beyond -- and stores eagerly await them.

Many shoppers are looking to take the HDTV plunge these holidays and beyond — and stores eagerly await them. Even if you plan to buy online, it's smart to eyeball sets in a local big-box store, but don't take everything you see or hear at face value. Here are some issues to be aware of.

Check the Content

In a recent visit to a Best Buy store, we noticed that the inexpensive sets were playing a recorded HDTV loop (sales reps couldn't say whether it was 720p or 1080i, the two broadcast HD formats), but the pricey units in the store's upscale Magnolia area were playing different content — some of broadcast quality, but some from media. Not surprisingly, the set playing a Blu-ray movie looked best, since Blu-ray is one of the only sources of native 1080p content.

Best Buy wasn't systematically promoting its fancy sets, though: Next to the set with the Blu-ray hookup, another expensive HDTV was playing a standard-def DVD movie, which made it look markedly inferior to its neighbor. More and more sets offer 1080p resolution, so try to play a Blu-ray Disc for your evaluation.

Examine the Hookup

At the same Best Buy, the content loop on the main floor traveled through coaxial cable to the antenna-in port; the Magnolia sets were using either component (analog) or HDMI (digital) inputs. Reportedly, some retailers use lower-quality composite-video hookups to make inexpensive sets look worse than pricier models linked via component video or HDMI. Peek around the back of sets to check their connections, and try to compare only those playing the same content through the same hookup.

Avoid the Brightness Trap

In brightly lit stores, LCDs tend to look brighter (and more attractive) than plasma sets do — especially since most manufacturers ship them with brightness at its top setting. If you expect to watch television in a well-lit room, you'll want a bright screen to stand up to the illumination. But if you watch TV at night or in low lighting, you might find excessive brightness irritating. Turn it down to see if the picture still looks good.

Consider Distance and Viewing Angle

Regardless of how far from your set you sit at home, emulating that distance in a store with narrow aisles is difficult. Also, some LCDs don't look great when viewed at an angle, so check a set's image quality from the sides and from above. If a TV is on a bottom shelf or high on a wall, try to have it placed at a more real-world level.

Resist Cable 'Upsells'

Don't splurge on high-end digital cables. Since digital content isn't subject to the vagaries of analog media, you should be fine with a decently shielded cable for $us10 to $20, depending on length.

Verify All Sales Claims

A salesperson at Sears insisted to a colleague of mine that all consumer electronics stores charge a 10 per cent restocking fee for returns; but that isn't the case. Unless you do your own research, you'll never know whether the rep is offering help or a hard sell.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Yardena Arar

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?