Buying guide: TVs

We show you the differences between LCD, plasma and LED televisions

What is CRT? CRT stands for Cathode Ray Tube. It was the technology commonly used in televisions until flat panel TVs became popular. Televisions based on CRT have a limited number of horizontal lines and hence cannot do High Definition. The way the technology works is that a small device at the back of the television shoots a beam of electrons (microscopic particles) at the glass at the front of the TV. This glass is coated in a material that lights up when the beam touches while another layer on top of that creates colour. The beam is moved backward and forward extremely fast using magnets, creating pictures on the screen.

What is a flat panel? Flat panel refers to any thin television technology. Flat panels are generally thin enough to be mounted unobtrusively on a wall. The two types of flat panel televisions are LCD and plasma.

What is LED? LED stands for Light Emitting Diode and is a type of technology that appears in high-end LCD televisions. It creates much better contrast, blacks and colours than older technologies. At the moment there are only a handful of units on the market employing this technology and they are not cheap, but the results are worth it. Given time we should see more and more become available.

Does lighting in the room affect the type of TV I should buy? You should only be concerned if you have a room that has a lot of windows or ambient light that cannot be blocked. Regular or fluorescent lighting won't affect how most televisions look, and generally it can be turned off. Since plasma televisions generally have a glossy finish on the screen, light can be reflected, making the image hard to see. An LCD television would be your best choice in this situation.

What is the difference between Digital TV (DTV) and regular (analogue) TV? Analogue television is lower in quality than digital TV. Digital TV is ghost-free in widescreen and offers features that analogue does not. Analogue television signals can be degraded severely by the simplest of things. Did you know that if you have a lot of trees in your area they can cause ghosting in your analogue TV picture quality? Digital TV doesn't have this problem. If you are in an area that supports digital TV, it will always be high quality.

What is the difference between Digital TV and HDTV? HDTV is a type of digital television. Even though many people tend to call it simply digital TV, the other type is actually called Standard Definition TV (SDTV). The difference between SDTV and HDTV is all about resolution. The resolution a show was created in will determine how good it will look when broadcast. If a TV program is shot in Standard Definition and then played on a High Definition channel, the TV network converts it to HD. However, since it was shot in SD, this rarely looks as good as something shot in HD. If it was originally created in HD, it will look stunning when viewed. Many of the morning variety programs across the networks are created in HD at a resolution of 1080i, the highest quality that most flat panel TVs support. Unfortunately, at this time not all programs are supported in HD and very few of them are actually made with HD in mind.

What do I need to get to be able to watch HDTV? To watch HDTV broadcasts you will need a set-top box or integrated HD tuner that supports HDTV signals.

Will my current TV still work when digital and HDTV take over? This will depend on how old your TV is. If it has "video in" ports then you will not have to upgrade once digital TV takes over. Most set-top boxes can be hooked up to any Composite video connector (yellow cable).

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