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Television: Bigger is Better?
September 1, 2004 11:11 AM   Subscribe

What size t.v. should I get? [more]

My 27" t.v. just went on the fritz. I needed to replace it anyway because I think that it's too small. My sofa is 14.5' from the t.v. and it's been difficult to see the screen well. How large of a screen should I get in either wide screen or regular?

Also, I'm on a tight budget, so I'm not looking to get too fancy.
posted by Juicylicious to Shopping (26 answers total)
 
Well, according to the FAQ on Crutchfield.com, 57 inches. But that seems sorta extreme, ya know?
posted by jacquilynne at 11:24 AM on September 1, 2004


As big as you can afford so long as it doesn't overpower the room. I know that sounds like a greedhead answer, but we're talking about image resolution. It's like asking what size type should you read. Bigger is more legible, contains more detail, is more compelling to look at. And you're buying the thing to look at, right? I'm happy with 32" in my current set-up, but the sightlines in my space are shorter than yours.
posted by blueshammer at 11:32 AM on September 1, 2004


You mean, my 13" Sony is passe?
posted by ParisParamus at 11:50 AM on September 1, 2004


If you need a big TV, but don't want to spend a lot of money, get a projector.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:52 AM on September 1, 2004


Damn, someone recently posted a useful Q&A on TV selection. I remember one of the salient points being that the height of the screen should be no more than 1/3 your distance from the screen, otherwise you'd see all the scan-lines.

Of course, at 14.5', yeah, that's 58". Hope you've got a strong back!
posted by adamrice at 12:12 PM on September 1, 2004


I was about to get a bigger tv to replace our 14" unit that we bought used, then realized that my pc monitor would make everything look great, so I'm turning my pc into our entertainment center instead.
posted by mecran01 at 12:21 PM on September 1, 2004


If I were you, I'd go with a 36 incher. Either that, or take advantage of this opportunity to break the glassy eye-shackles and give up TV altogether.
posted by Jart at 12:51 PM on September 1, 2004


I've got a 43" Samsung DLP which I think looks pretty nice from a 15-foot distance. You're in for a couple of grand if you want a TV like that, though. (Although I'd argue that the bang/buck ratio on a DLP rear projection display is pretty darn good compared to other large display options).

Aspect ratio -- wide or 4:3 -- should be dictated by what you display on the equipment. If you're watching a lot of movies, a 16:9 display has some obvious advantages. If you're just sitting in front of The Toob, a traditional 4:3 display will do the job just fine.

Given budget constraints, I'd suggest something more along the lines of a 32" to 36" CRT. Definitely steer clear of rear projection units that aren't DLP; they're prone to burn-in from TV station logos and game playing and DLP doesn't suffer from this.
posted by majick at 1:17 PM on September 1, 2004


What is "DLP?"

I went to Circuit City & Best Buy. I can get this Sony widescreen at CC for $1399 and this Sony home theater system for $350. Plus, $200 rebate and $100 gift card, free delivery and 18 mo. 0% financing.

Otherwise, I can get a 36" tube t.v. for aprox. $600.

This t.v. is for my living room. I usually only watch movies on it. But I only watch a half dozen movies per month. I am concerned that the Sony will overpower my living room. I won't be able to use my Ikea t.v. stand anymore. What I'd really like is a widescreen flat/thin t.v. that doesn't take up so much room. But, those are going for several thousand dollars. What are the chances of those going down in price over the next couple of years?

I am soooooo confused.
posted by Juicylicious at 1:57 PM on September 1, 2004


Juicy:

There are lots of ways that big-screen tv's work.

Some of them are CRT-- they have small tv tubes in them, turned up to hugely bright levels, that project red, green, and blue images onto the screen you see. The problem is that CRT projectors are prone to burn-in as the coating on the tubes wears out -- if you watch a lot of Comedy Central, eventually you're going to see their little corner logo all the time, even when watching other things. They also can require more maintenance and general fussing.

Others use technology basically taken from presentation projectors. There are different techs called DLP, D-ILA, LCD, and LCOS. The differences between them aren't hugely important; see which you like best (ie, some people don't like that way that DLP looks). None of these, AFAIK, are subject to burn-in.

I would avoid a CRT projector like that Sony. I'd also avoid plasmas -- the current models have something like a 4- or 5-year lifespan -- or the flat-panel LCD's, since they still don't seem to be able to handle rapid motion well unless you spend $5000+.

If you want to spend less than $2000, I'd just go ahead and get a 36" tv (or 34" widescreen if you want) plain-old tv. But get one that's rated for HDTV; they'll have better pictures for DVD than a tv that's not "HDTV-ready."

If you're willing to suck it up and spend $2-3K, I'd go for a DLP or LCD rear-projector.

And avoid home-theater-in-a-box systems. They skimp on *everything*.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:19 PM on September 1, 2004


DLP is Digital Light Projection. A small IC with a set of silicon mirrors draws the image on your screen using a light source from the back of the TV.

DLP was originally designed to work with the three primary colours (Red, Green, Blue) using three separate mirrors (one for each) but lately most cheap versions of DLP technology use a single mirror and a set of quickly interchanging RGB filters.

Single chip technology will be fine for you if you don't notice the rainbow effect (during a high contrast black and white scene, move your eyes). If you notice it you'll go crazy watching it.

Also, note Samsung is now infamous for dumping their old crap DLP TVs on the market. They have a serious defect, which is why they are dumping the old models. They don't do lip-synch. The image is delayed a random amount, which you will notice during some scenes. Avoid Samsung DLP TVs like the plague for a while until they fix this. Also, their DVD players present the same problem (REALLY fun when you mix the two).

Projection CRT based TVs are still my favourites, although most people have fallen out of favour with them.

If you plan to play video games on your TV, avoid CRT projection.

Personally, if I had lots of $$$, I'd go for a high resolution CRT projector. But that's just me -- I like to set up things that are a pain in the ass.

But, those are going for several thousand dollars. What are the chances of those going down in price over the next couple of years?

Hard to say, but plasma screens are subject to burn in, just like CRT Projection screens. Don't play video games on them. [For evidence, watch old episodes of The Screen Savers].
posted by shepd at 2:21 PM on September 1, 2004


Sorry for the jargon. DLP is Digital Light Projection

Thin-screen displays, like LCD and Plasma displays, aren't cheap and though they are getting cheaper, it'll be a while yet before a decent size is inexpensive.

If a TV will "overpower" your living room, yet you're sitting fifteen feet away, you might want to reconsider the room's layout or where you put and use the TV. DLP displays are smaller than most other projection TVs, a bit less deep than the largest tube TVs, but not "thin." They also go for couple thou.
posted by majick at 2:26 PM on September 1, 2004


you could move your couch closer
posted by jacobsee at 3:56 PM on September 1, 2004


yeh, what majick said
posted by jacobsee at 3:57 PM on September 1, 2004


I got one of Samsung's liquidated (ie defective DLP units, a 56" HLN, and it's nothing but trouble. The lip sync problem is hellish and the colour wheel (the spinning RGB filters) have been making irritating high pitched noises when they spin. It's in the shop for repairs just a few months since buying it. Do not buy a Samsung DLP television.
posted by Evstar at 4:28 PM on September 1, 2004


If you're a movie watcher then you must definitely look for a widescreen TV. Keep in mind that, for example, a 34 inch widescreen TV will give you a much larger letterbox image than a 34 TV with the normal, 4:3 aspect ratio.

It isn't clear whether you were seriously considering spending $2K on a television or not. You can get some medium sized high definition CRTs in the $1500 range. They take up a lot of space and use a lot of power, though.

The size recommendations for high definition TVs tell you to get a much larger screen than what used to be the norm. In fact, much of the extra clarity of HD is lost if you move back to "normal" viewing distances -- HD is supposed to be immersive. Personally I find it oppressive to sit that so close to the TV under most conditions.

You've got a really wide range of technologies available at a lot of different price brackets. The size you want and how much you want to spend and how large a television you want will really determine what kind of technology you can get.

If you're really mostly a movie watcher, you could consider getting an "enhanced definition" ("ED") flat-panel plasma TV. It isn't quite high definition, but you may not need HD at your viewing distinaces. Plasmas produce really good colors for movies, and only with plasmas can you spend a little less to get the slightly lower resolution, which is nearly indistinguishable from HD outside the recommended "immersive" viewing distances. Anyway, 480p is the best resolution most progressive scan DVD players can produce. A 480p plasma will also convert an HD signal (720p or 1080i) to a very nice 480p picture.

There are some knocks about plasmas -- they consume a fair amount of power and produce a fair amount of heat, and people worry that they can retain static images if they're onscreen for a long time. The "image burn-in" problem is a big worry, but the truly knowledgeable people over at avsforum have dismissed it as silly. But if you want to watch not-overwhelmingly-large movies at the exactly the right level of quality, plasma may be for you. Conscientious, reputable Internet dealers will sell you a best-of-breed Panasonic 37 or 42 inch plasma for under $2500.
posted by coelecanth at 4:40 PM on September 1, 2004


I got one of Samsung's liquidated (ie defective DLP units, a 56" HLN, and it's nothing but trouble. The lip sync problem is hellish and the colour wheel (the spinning RGB filters) have been making irritating high pitched noises when they spin. It's in the shop for repairs just a few months since buying it. From what I've read, the issue hasn't been resolved in their newer models either. Essentially, Samsung is charging consumers many thousands of dollars to test its technologies. Do not buy a Samsung DLP television.
posted by Evstar at 4:54 PM on September 1, 2004


Sorry about that^

I left for dinner and came back thinking I hadn't posted what I wrote yet.
posted by Evstar at 5:30 PM on September 1, 2004


If you're a movie watcher then you must definitely look for a widescreen TV

It's not that big a deal. A 34" widescreen will have an image about 30" wide, and a 36" 4:3 set will have an image about 29" wide, and the widescreen will probably cost a lot more. Widescreens look better as furniture tho.

The "image burn-in" problem is a big worry, but the truly knowledgeable people over at avsforum have dismissed it as silly.

My understanding is that it's not burn-in that's the problem. The problem seems to be that plasmas bleed off brightness, so that 4 or 5 years later you're down to 50% or less.

If juicylicious wants to spend less than $2000, I'd still go with a good tube-based 34" widescreen or 36" 4:3 HDTV-ready model.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:40 PM on September 1, 2004


Plasmas do lose brightness, it's true, but they change the most in the first 500 hours of use, and nobody runs their plasma at maximum brightness anyway; most people turn them way down; it's still a pretty new technology but I've yet to hear of anyone who had to get rid of one because it was too dim to use. Manufacturers rate them in the upper tens of thousands of hours for usage.

Nevertheless I myself passed on buying a plasma because I know that if there's an excuse to worry about how my content or viewing habits are damaging the television, I will in fact worry, whether or not it's rational -- and what's the point of spending that much money on something and then having to worry about it whenever I turned it on?

This is a funny time for television buying -- there are more competing technologies than ever before, and it means you've got more and better options then ever before. But paradoxically the sensation you get is of one of making more trade-offs and compromises than you ever had to before. Maybe the thing to do is spend a couple hundred to repair the 27 inch and then take a couple months to really shop around. And definitely check out avsforum.
posted by coelecanth at 8:25 PM on September 1, 2004


I'm gonna pile on a question or two if that's okay: for people who are recommending projectors (like benq or infocus), is there any reason *not* to get one of them? I only watch DVDs and want the biggest image for the least amount of money... however, what are some reasons to avoid a rear projector and a good quality screen or wall painted with that special goo?
posted by dobbs at 8:34 PM on September 1, 2004


Thanks for the info everyone.

I stood in my living room and imagined the widescreen, along with its gigantic stand taking up space. I've decided to go with a 36" 4:3. This is what finally did it for me:

A 34" widescreen will have an image about 30" wide, and a 36" 4:3 set will have an image about 29" wide

Now I have a HDTV problem. I guess some models are HDTV Ready and others are HDTV. I have digital cable, but I don't have the HDTV pkg. The guy at CC told me that it's better to get the "ready" models because the HDTV models only get HDTV in the broadcast channels. I don't really understand that though. And, the only HDTV 36" 4:3s that I can find cost aprox. $900. I think that if I can't get widescreen, then I really don't want to spend more than $750. Am I looking in the wrong places?
posted by Juicylicious at 9:06 PM on September 1, 2004


You're not looking in the wrong places. A good HDTV-ready 36" set will cost about that. But generally, HDTV-ready sets will be a lot better out of the box than cheaper 36" sets. You'll probably see a big price gap, with some sets at $900--1500 and others $600 or less. The more expensive ones will almost certainly deliver a much better picture.

Features to look for are:

*Anamorphic squeeze. This smushes the picture vertically; the practical upshot is that you tell your DVD player that you have a widescreen tv and the tv uses a widescreen window; you get marginally to substantially better picture depending on your dvd player

*Progressive scan. Shows you a whole frame of DVD at once instead of interlacing them; helps eliminate flicker.

*Reverse pulldown or reverse 3:2 pulldown. Helps make dvd's look more filmlike, used with progressive scan.

Features that are required -- don't bother buying a tv without them:

*Component inputs. Run the component output from your dvd deck into them, and the detail will be amazing and sheee-it the colors will be like you've *never* seen on a tv.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:00 PM on September 1, 2004


And get a tv without an HDTV tuner, one that's just HDTV-ready.

I'm not suggesting an HDTV-ready tv because you need to be watching Law and Order in all its hi-def glory. I'm suggesting it because grabbing an HDTV-ready set is an easy way to get a set that should do a very good job playing dvd's because you want similar hardware for both.

What the salesdrone means is that an in-the-tv HDTV tuner can only be used to get signals from a big antenna, so you'll only get network stuff. If you want HDTV over cable, you'll be using your cable box as an HDTV tuner anyway and the internal one will just be $500 or so wasted

By all means keep your options open with respect to a 34" widescreen or 36" 4:3. Both will take up a similar chunk of living space. I'd get whichever gets you the best combination of features and price in your town.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:10 PM on September 1, 2004


"...for people who are recommending projectors (like benq or infocus), is there any reason *not* to get one of them?"

Projector bulb lifespan.

A projector and a rollaway screen would have been absolutely perfect for my current living room, so I looked into this as a possibility. Unfortunately, the consumable cost -- expensive bulbs every few hundred hours of operation -- made the decision for me.

"Do not buy a Samsung DLP television."

I had ballast and color wheel sync problems that made the TV fail to boot once in a while, after my first month of owning a Samsung DLP, but after a quick phone call they sent a repair dude out here to take care of the problem.

The video delay problem isn't too awful if you have an audio system that allows you to introduce some compensating delay. I poked around in my receiver/decoder/amplifier, tacked on about 20-something milliseconds of delay, and can't really see the problem any more. The TV seems to introduce about 40-60ms of total video delay, but delaying the audio along with it has made it imperceptible.

And if you're just using the cheap built-in speakers, recent firmware allows an adjustable audio delay to compensate for video delay. Audio delay is hardly the ideal solution, but it fixes the problem to my satisfaction.
posted by majick at 10:50 PM on September 1, 2004


I should add that Samsung had a service guy on site within two days. Comparable service with Sony products has required that I ship them off -- at my expense -- to some repair depot, wait an indefinite number of weeks, and get the item shipped back, possibly repaired or possibly not.
posted by majick at 10:54 PM on September 1, 2004


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