How to choose your new television
Walk into an electrical shop today and your eyes will pop with wonder. A panoply of black, chrome, plasma, widescreen and LCD with slimline anodised steel sits shimmering before you. New televisions have never been so cool. Pictures are sharper than ever, the audio will have you checking behind the sofa to find the source of the voices, there are more channels than you can shake a remote at, and the designs are sensational.
And what about digital and high definition? Well, what about them? If you want to watch the Sky 3D channels or a blu ray player you’ll need a HDTV. To find out more about these changes, read on. After you’ve read our guide, you’ll confidently be able to choose your new television (see some tv reviews here).
What’s all that about then? If you already subscribe to digital TV, you’d be forgiven for wondering what the bloomin’ ‘eck the ‘digital switchover’ is. Indeed, the radio advertising campaign has hardly helped, with a series of viewer questions put to ‘experts’, none of which is ‘What’s a digital switchover?’ – Doh!
OK, so what is a digital switchover? Well, simply put, beginning in October 2007, region by region, analogue TV signals are being switched off and replaced by digital signals. In short, these signals are sharper than a car salesman’s suit.
The switchover will bring with it a host of new TV programmes as standard. These include BBC Three, ITV2, E4, More 4, S4C2, Cbeebies, CBBC, CITV and ITV3.
It’s a five-year rollout across the UK. If you don’t convert your TV to digital, you won’t be able to watch it. Converting will simply mean buying a ‘Freeview’ digital box if you don’t yet have one, or subscribing to a digital provider like Sky or Virgin. And if you’re thinking of upgrading your telly from the brontosaurus in the corner to something a little more slinky, you should consider getting one with a digital box built in. Look for the ‘digital tick’ logo.
Benefits of digital tv
With Freeview, you can get over 40 channels. As well as the five main ones, you can also tap into channels for children, movies, entertainment and lovers of Henry VIII. You can even get digital radio through your television. Nice.
Of course, your picture quality will be pretty cool, too. Digital telly won’t have the same interference that saw analogue TV look like it was filmed behind a layer of rice paper. You’ll get true widescreen on a lot of channels, too. This means the picture isn’t as stretched as Stretch Armstrong’s arms. And it’s great for films. That’s movies to you young folk.
On top of all that, of course, you’ve got interactive services, too. If you like voting for stuff, such as who to kick out on Big Brother, or you’re a sports fan who likes a choice of matches, this is for you.
High Definition TV – HDTV
That’s all well and good, but what’s high definition? HD, or HDTV, means clear, sharp television pictures. So how do you get it? Well, you’ll need an HD-ready television. These are tellies with resolution high enough to cope with HD. You’ll also need a set-top box and to subscribe to a broadcaster offering HD programmes.
Choosing a new TV
There’s more to buying a television than simply being stunned into submission by sleek and stylish glossy black bezels. You’ll also need to consider the size of your budget, the precise delicious look you want, whether you need LCD or plasma, the size of your viewing room in relation to the television and the distance you’ll be sitting from your TV.
It makes sense to choose an HD-ready digital model. This is because you’ll get Freeview and automatically be ready for the switchover in your area. And, obviously, with HD, you’ll get a pretty nifty improvement in picture quality.
How much you’ll pay comes down to the screen size, resolution and manufacturer. They make for great viewing but do mean you’ll be dipping deeper into your pocket. Add integrated tuners, HDMI inputs, picture-in-picture, comb filters and virtual surround sound and you’ll be forking out even more. Probably for a book that can help you understand the jargon. Or just read on.
How far will you be sitting from the TV? Get your tape measure out. Sit too close to a 52-inch tv and the effect will be lost. Too far away and you won’t feel part of the action. Your television should also be in proportion with the size of your viewing room. If your lounge is eight by eight and you’re planning on introducing a Panasonic 102” telly, you might only get in the room when liberally smeared with butter. Which could spoil your viewing experience. And eventually smell.
Today, almost everything is flat-panel. This is because flat screens take up less room, look superb, offer great picture quality and can be mounted on the wall, like a Rembrandt.
But which flat-panel will you plump for: LCD or plasma? Well, they both work and give you a great picture. So what’s the difference?
Without assaulting you with impenetrable jargon, plasma is best for extra-large screens of 50” or more. It also copes better with speeding objects, so is preferable for sport.
If it’s resolution, brightness and a work of art for your wall you want, go for an LCD, which are lighter and slimmer and compete well with plasmas in the smaller sizes. In my book, LCD has the edge over plasma. Hey, but what do I know?
If you’re unsure, check them both out. Ask your mates. In fact, pop down to your local Currys or Comet, ask loads of questions and generally bother the sales people. It’s what they’re there for. Then come home and order it online as it’ll be much cheaper.
Nicam Stereo, Dolby ProLogic, Surround Sound, what’s it all about?
Nicam Stereo is a crisp stereo sound embedded in the speakers. Virtual Dolby sends the audio around the room. Dolby ProLogic uses five speakers. Most programmes use this. Dolby Digital 5.1 comes with your HDTV. It’s available from DVDs, Sky Plus boxes, the Xbox and PlayStations. If you’re an HD subscriber, you’ll need a good Surround Sound system – audio that’s so clear it makes crystal look murky and is an essential part of the HD experience.
The Right Connections
So the back of your telly looks like Spaghetti Junction, but the right connections are vital. Here’s a quick guide to getting clued-up on cabling. What are you planning to connect to your TV? DVD player? Games console? Camcorder? Digital set-top box?
Your friend here is SCART. Most modern TVs come with SCART sockets that enable you to connect digital boxes, DVD players and so on. For a better connection and picture, try component video inputs. For HD broadcasts, you’ll need an HDMI or DVI cable. Trust us on this one, for the best picture and audio, you really need these cables. They’re not that expensive but the additional quality is superb.
Want to hook up your PC to your telly? Many televisions now have a PC input to keep games enthusiasts in high-definition happiness.
If a pedestal stand is just not high-impact enough for you, you might want to consider a floor stand. Wall brackets? The ultimate space-saving solution and ten times more beautiful wall art than some lousy signed Van Gogh original.
Make sure it’s a solid wall and not above a radiator.
What about DVD players and recorders? That’s a whole new ball game. See our DVD player buying guide for our thoughts.
Hope that helped a bit. Ready to buy your new TV? Check out our television reviews.
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