The Top 5 HDTV Myths

Posted: Jun 26 2014, 9:38am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 26 2014, 9:41am CDT , in Home Entertainment

The Top 5 HDTV Myths

What you know about HDTVs is probably false. Ok, maybe not everything, but from the emails and tweets I receive, it seems there is a tremendous amount of bogus info out there, accepted as fact.

It’s easy to believe marketing, or the blue-shirted saleskid at your local Big Buy. Sadly, neither source is infallible (and both are arguably inherently biased). So myths pass from person to person until they’re accepted as facts.

Except they’re not. They’re myths. Here are some of the biggest, disproved.

Also check out What is the Best TV?, Do I Need A 3D TV?, and Getting The Most Out Of Your HDTV.

Myth #1: Ultra HD “4K” TVs are better

The latest push from TV manufacturers is Ultra HD, also called “4K.” It has a 4 times the resolution of your current TV, or 3,840×2,160 vs your TV’s 1,920×1,080. For the most part these UltraHD TVs are very expensive, though a few budget models are available.

Here’s the thing, resolution is only one aspect of a TV’s picture quality. It’s the easiest to quantify, certainly: 2160>1080. However, that’s not as compelling an argument as it first seems. Contrast ratio and color accuracy, for example, are far more important aspects of picture quality. Lack of motion blur or the Soap Opera Effect would be two other aspects many would point to as more important as well.

Then there’s the fact that in smaller screen sizes, you won’t be able to tell the difference between Ultra HD and regular HD (unless you’re sitting really close).

Are there some great looking Ultra HD TVs? Absolutely. Are they worth the premium? Not really, especially when you consider there’s basically no content available yet. Sure Netflix and Amazon have announced a few shows, but there are no 4K Blu-ray discs (yet), and if you buy a Sony TV, you can get access to their content (but only with their TVs).

In other words, don’t feel you need to get a 4K TV any time soon. For now a good “regular” HD TV is going to produce as good, if not better, of an image.

Myth#2: Specs and Features

This one is really frustrating. You can’t compare the specs from different TV manufacturers, and of times their like-sounding features aren’t comparable either.

What do I mean? Well the easiest example is contrast ratio. One company’s 1,000,000:1 is another company’s “infinite,” and both are complete fabrications. It’s not like MPG in cars, there’s no federally-specified method for measuring contrast ratio. So manufacturers can be as “creative” as they want.

Then there’s refresh rates: 120 Hz, 240 Hz, etc. These faster refresh rates were developed to help overcome one of LCD’s major shortcomings, called motion blur. This is as it sounds, anything in motion blurs slightly. It became such a successful marketing tool that cheaper and cheaper models needed it to be competitive… well, they needed the number perhaps sans the actual technology. Using other methods, like backlight scanning or black frame insertion, manufacturers will list the number “120” with some proprietary alphanumeric (“120 motion resolution” or “240 Clear” etc). These could be a 60 Hz “regular” LCD, with a flashing backlight, that performs little better than a vanilla 60 Hz TV.

The takeaway is the frustrating part. The only way to separate the wheat from the chaff is to research whatever spec or feature you’re focusing on. Most of the better TV reviewers will explain what many of these mean in their reviews as well.

Myth#3: LED LCD is better

This one still persists, the LCD is somehow the “newer” or “better” technology over plasma. Panasonic’s recent abandonment of plasma manufacturing certainly didn’t help.

The truth is, both technologies have their strengths and weaknesses. LCD tends to be brighter, and a little more energy efficient. But plasma has better contrast ratios, less (if any) motion blur, and a wider viewing angle.

With fewer and fewer plasmas on the market, this is becoming a moot point, but if it’s still worth mentioning.

Oh, and in case it wasn’t clear, all “LEDs” are LCDs.

Myth#4: Weight

This is a weird one. A lot of people still think plasmas are too heavy to mount, or that big TVs can’t be wall mounted. Pretty much every TV can be wall mounted. Yes, large TVs are heavier than small ones, but why are carrying them around anyway? You only need to get them out of the box once.

Before you judge a TV on its weight, it’s probably worth, you know, checking its weight.

Myth#5: Bigger isn’t better

No matter what TV you’re considering, you can get a bigger one. It won’t seem too big when you get home.

OK, maybe it well, but you’ll get used to it, and then be unable to understand how you got by with a tiny TV. The most common regret I hear from people who have just bought a new TV is that they wished they got the next size up.

I sit 9 feet from a 102-inch screen. So yeah, you get a bigger TV than you might think.

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