Choosing a television
Today’s shopper has a huge variety of televisions to choose from. So whether you’re looking for home cinema, HD ready, something that you can hang above the fireplace or just a lot more channels – our guide to televisions will help you decide what to buy.
CRT versus Flat Screen
CRT stands for Cathode Ray Tube, which is the technology that has brought us television since its inception. CRT televisions are heavy, relatively fragile and large – they have to expand in depth as screen size increases so aren’t ideal for larger format televisions. The advantage of CRT televisions is that they are cheap relative to flat screens, so if space isn’t a consideration you could pick up a bargain.
Flat screen televisions offer a crisper and clearer image than CRT televisions because they have more pixels per square inch. They also have a perfectly flat screen, so can be viewed from a wider angle.
There are two types of flat screen television, Plasma and LCD.
Plasma televisions are available in larger formats than LCDs and are well suited for use in darker environments – so they are an ideal choice when setting up a home cinema system. They are generally about 10% heavier than the equivalent sized LCD television and use slightly more power.
LCD televisions are becoming the preferred technology as their price becomes similar to plasmas. LCD televisions are thinner, lighter and use slightly less power than a plasma television (and around 60% less than a CRT).
Whitehaven in Cumbria made the news recently for being the first region to go completely digital. Between now and 2012 the whole country will be switching from an analogue to a digital signal.
So what do you need to do in order to receive the new digital signal? There are three ways that you can do this:
1) Buy and connect a digital tuner (also known as a Freeview Box) to your existing television.
2) Get a television with a built-in digital tuner – these are called integrated digital televisions (IDTVs).
3) Cable and satellite providers offer free-to-view and subscription channels. You may need additional equipment for this, usually available directly from the supplier for a one-off payment.
There are a number of advantages to going digital, as well as future-proofing yourself for when your region switches off the analogue signal. Digital signals don’t suffer from interference so you should have a clearer picture. Also, many programmes are broadcast in true widescreen, which is great for watching films (because the image doesn’t have to be ‘squashed’ to fit on the screen).
The other big advantage is that you get many more channels, typically around 40.
Bring the cinema into your home with surround sound. Instead of speakers mounted in the television, multiple speakers provide sound that envelops you as you watch your favourite programmes or film. Most people combine their Home Cinema system with a large flat screen television for the ultimate home television experience.
High Definition Television (or HDTV)
HDTV covers all the programming and equipment that’s needed in order to produce and watch HD television. In order to watch HDTV, you’ll need an HD ready television, a digital set top box (that you can get from broadcasters such as Sky and Virgin Media) and a subscription to a service that delivers HD programmes. The BBC are trialling some HD broadcasting but there are no free to view HD channels currently available (as at November ’07).
Televisions that have all the technology to bring you sharper and clearer television are badged ‘HD Ready’. Read the HD Ready televisions reviews to help you decide what to buy.
What should my budget be?
Televisions range enormously in price from under £100 to more than £10,000 for a state of the art HD ready home cinema system.
As a rough guide, a CRT television will set you back around £200 for a 21” screen size – about the average size people have in their lounges.
For smaller flat screen televisions around there are far more LCD than plasma available, and you should expect to pay between £150 and £200 for 15” and around £300 for 20”.
Once you go up in size you have more choice between LCD or plasma. A typical 37” will cost around £600-£800.
A home cinema speaker set can cost anything from about £200 upwards. You’ll almost certainly want a big plasma to go with it so budget £1000 for a basic setup.
One last thing to think about when deciding what to buy is the number of scart sockets you’ll need. If you have a video player, DVD player and the kids have a games console then you need to make sure they can all be connected – or you’ll forever be scrabbling around changing scart leads over!
Thanks for reading our guide and happy shopping.
Prepared November 2007