Whether your buying your first HDTV, or your third, you should find this buying guide useful. The following information is based on my own experience, a great article in the August 2007 issue of The PerfectVision Magazine, and other resources on the Internet.
1. Stay away from the light. Location, location, location. It doesn't matter where your home is located but finding the proper "room" real estate is all important. Whether your going to put your new HDTV on the wall, on a TV stand, or a desk, placement in front of a window is not a good idea. Besides blocking you view, the light coming in will compete with the picture, giving it what I would call a washed out effect. You should also avoid placing the TV directly across from a window or sliding glass door unless there are draperies or blinds which block the light. Like our out-dated CRT televisions, an HDTV panel is susceptible to those annoying light reflections that make it hard to see the screen.
2. A perfect spot on the wall. Ideal placement is at the long end of the room, centered on the wall. This allows more viewers to be seated near the center of the screen and optimizes the sound from a home theater system. Some HD televisions have wider viewing angles than others. Be sure to pay attention to this when shopping for a new one.
3. Beware the corners. Corners are rarely an ideal spot for an HDTV. You may have viewed an LCD or projection TV and noticed that the picture fades when you view it too far off to the sides. This problem is not as bad as it used to be and improvements are made regularly. However, until this problem is eliminated all together, it should be taken into consideration. Another problem is neck twisting. Unless the room is rather large, you and your guests could end up watching the TV with heads turned to the side. We all know what a pain in the neck that can be. Problem number three is loss of sound quality. The Perfect Vision states In many cases, corner placement is less than ideal for the audio system because asymmetrical speaker positions can make things sound unbalanced.
4. Higher is not always better. Are you one of those people who think a wide screen HDTV would fit perfectly above the fireplace like a beautiful painting? Better think again. You may go through a lot of trouble to mount the TV high on a wall only to notice a slight discomfort, from craning your neck, by the end of a movie. The optimal height is to have the center screen level with your eyes while in "viewing position" (sitting). This may not look great on a large, bare wall, but you can always ad some pictures, paintings, or other decor above and around the TV. On the other hand, a little height may be necessary if you plan to mount the TV in the bedroom and watch it while your little head is comfortably resting on a soft pillow. Doesn't that sound great? Using a Tilt Wall Mount by Omnimount will surely provide solutions to the above problems and give you more options for wall placement.
5. Dealing with bright rooms. Do you watch TV during the day? If you're planning to watch your new HDTV in a room - during daylight hours, and it cannot be darked with drapes or blinds, you may want to consider an LCD or rear-projection TV, because of their high brightness levels. Plasma televisions can handle some ambient light but reflections on the screens can still be a problem.
6. How big should your screen be? So, you want the biggest, wall hogging, visible for miles, make your friends jealous, wide screen, high definition, just like going to the local theater, HDTV on the market? Well, I'm here to tell you bigger is not always better, at least not in the case of an HDTV. The main consideration in screen size is distance at which you plan on watching it. Having a screen that's to big for the distance is a lot lot sitting to close to the screen in a theater - it's just too overwhelming for most of us. The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommends a screen size (measured diagonally) that is 0.6 times your seating distance. THX recommends a diagonal screen size of 0.75 times the distance, with a minimum size not less than half the seating distance. The way this works out is, according to the THX recommendations, a 5 ft. viewing distance would require a TV with a minimum diagonal size of 30 inches. I don't know about you, but I could see a much smaller TV just fine from only 5 feet. That's why these recommendations should only be used as a guide. Personal preference, viewing angle, and vision problems should be taken into consideration. I recommend scoping out the TV's at your local retailer to get a better idea of the size then using the Internet to do a price comparison. HDTV viewing distance chart. Here's a much more accurate chart courtesy of carltonbale.com. Click the image for a larger view.
7. Shopping guide. Now that you've decided where to put your new HDTV, taken light into consideration, decided on the height and screen size, it's time to go shopping...but wait! What about all the various brands, and types like LCD, plasma, front-projection, rear-projection. Here are some quick tips: Projection televisions don't offer the level of picture quality you'll get from LCD and plasmas, but the prices are significantly lower. Plasmas have had a better reputation for better overall picture quality and black levels, but LCD's are quickly catching up. The differences between plasma and LCD vary greatly. Sound and Vision magazine has a very in-depth comparison guide between LCD and plasma televisions which I highly recommend reading. I've included their Scorecard based on consumer tests below.
Once you've decided on which type, I recommend starting on our home page and reading our HDTV Reviews to help you decide on which brand and model HDTV. You'll get full descriptions and find out what the actual owners are saying about their new High-Def TV sets. If you on a budget, you can always look at last years models. Some of the slightly older models are still available, have all or most of the latest features, yet can save you a thousand dollars or more. Some people are still weary of buying online. The question here is can you actually get the best price from an online retailer. I'm here to tell you that you can. Some online retailers like Amazon.com offer better prices than electronics stores, but what about shipping. Amazon also provides free shipping, in many cases, and don't under estimate the amount you can save by not paying sales tax on big ticket items. I recommend that you make a list of the best picks for you, go check them out at your local retailer, then do an online comparison.