A Guide to Buying a Digital TV
The Top 7 Things You Should Know
- Energy-efficient models can reduce your carbon footprint and electricity bills
- Before you invest in a giant TV, make sure it will fit and look good in your home
- Most TVs of 32 inches or over will offer Full-HD resolutions
- You may need to budget for external speakers if you want the full cinema experience.
- You may need to buy a range of cables to connect other gadgets with your new TV.
- Make sure you'll have enough Scart sockets and HDMI slots for all your needs.
- High-definition TVs that don't offer Full-HD will likely be referred to as 'HD-Ready'.
Why invest in a Digital TV?
The vast majority of new televisions now available are digital. More precisely they are IDTVs, or integrated digital TVs, meaning that, as well as an in-built analogue tuner, they also boast an internal digital tuner. This means they are able to pick up digital television broadcasts without an external box. With the UK and much of the rest of the world steadily switching over to digital, this will soon be the only way to watch all items in the TV guide, including those shown on BBC TV, in the home. As of 2011, the 'analogue switch off' in Britain is due to be completed by the end of 2012.
The first thing most people go for when shopping around for a new digital television is screen size. This is hardly surprising given that recent advances in technology mean it's possible to almost capture the cinema-going experience in the comfort of your own home.
In general, larger screen sizes show high-definition images better, though you often need to be sat some way back from the screen in order to appreciate this the most.
However, don't automatically go for the 'bigger is always better' maxim. Firstly, consider how much space you have for a new set. Additionally, think about how a massive new TV will look in your living room; while you may want it to be the centrepiece of your home, TVs can easily dominate a room.
Most new TVs will be LCD screens, or use even new LED technology. However, some people prefer plasma TVs, which tend to be larger, with screen sizes up to 71 inches.
Full-HD is the top standard for digital TVs of 32-inches and above, offering resolutions of 1080p. Some smaller high-definition TVs will be limited to 720p resolutions, although it will probably be difficult for most people to notice the difference from across the room with the naked eye. These will likely be referred to as 'HD-Ready'.
One downside in the movement towards ever-slimmer and sleeker TVs has been in sound quality, with modern sets often lacking the large, clear speakers that many old-style cathode-ray models boasted. Additionally, the focus has switched towards offering viewers the best possible image, with sound all-too-often a secondary consideration.
Again, however, with a bit of research, it's possible to determine which models offer the best quality of sound. Make use of online review sites and other sources of expert advice to compare volume and quality of the sound on offer and don't be afraid to head to the high street and ask to hear a model in action - you can always make notes and then shop around on the internet for a better price later.
As of 2011, for true cinema-style sound quality, it's still a good idea for you to invest in external speakers or a full home cinema system, with the vast majority of digital TVs compatible with a range of surround sound speaker sets and sub-woofers.
Many digital TVs come equipped with USB ports, enabling users to directly connect a wide range of digital equipment, including laptop computers and camcorders and so view images and movies on a bigger, clearer screen. Additionally, many also boast SD slots meaning images taken on a digital camera can be viewed in high definition with minimal fuss.
It's well worth considering if these are features you would use, though, generally speaking, they don't add too much to the cost of a new set. Make sure that the TVs you are considering have enough Scart sockets and HDMI ports for all of your devices, including Sky boxes, DVD players and games consoles.
Though they may offer a full cinematic experience in the home, large digital TVs, and particularly plasma-screen sets, can come at a cost to the environment. Indeed, a 2010 Oxford University study warned TVs alone are set to cause a major rise in household emissions over the next few years.
For the eco-minded consumer, many manufacturers are starting to offer energy-efficient digital TVs, while even climate change sceptics can benefit from such models due to the money-saving benefits they offer.
Once again, it pays to do your homework and read up on the energy consumption levels of individual models, with a number of specialist websites out there to help you enjoy new technology and a small carbon footprint.