With the importance of movies, TV series and video games, an entertainement system HAS TO have a TV in it. It is actually one of the most important component of the entertainment system at least in the main rooms. Different points have to be checked when choosing the TV. Let us go through.
I think of the TV firstly as a display, it of course embed a TV tuner that lets us watch the broadcast TV, but this is not something I’ll go into because firstly it is very localised due to different broadcast standard but it is as well a very mature tech that is anyway present in all TV with the latest revision that matches your location. The features that start to make sense are, in my mind, the ability to reproduce 3D content and the connectivity/Smart functions. Apart that, I see only the display technology that matters. Let’s start with that one.
CRT (Cathode Ray Tube)
This is the very first technology used to build TV. You have a screen build by a tube and all the related electronics is build in the same case. the issue is that first, the TV is quite deep, limiting the size of the screen (who want a 120cm screen if it is 120cm deep…), but it is also quite limited in resolution. I encourage you to visit Wikipedia page for more details on the technology if you are interested in it. What matters to us is that this technology is dead and you won’t buy a new CRT TV.
Plasma TV were the first ones to offer flat panels, the technology is still there but the inability to produce smaller displays at reasonnable cost makes it only applicable for bigger displays.
LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) / LED
LCD TV were the first flat panel that could compete in the entry-level. They are basically formed by 2 parts : one LCD panel that take colors as per the image requirements and a backlight to make it visible to our eyes. The backlight can be either with fluorescent tubes or with white LEDs. those later ones are actually called LED TVs by manufacturer (which in my mind is not correct as they are still LCDs).
OLED TVs have a panel where each pixel is made of small LED for the 3 basic colors Red, Green, Blue (RGB). They light in just the proper amount so the combination makes the expected color, the human eye can’t separate them as, at viewing distance, they are too small to be separated. These screens are very thin as they do not need the backlight and all the related light diffusion material.
Which one to choose?
I’ll pass quickly on the CRT TV as this is now definitely something of the past. That let us with 4 technologies : on one side stand the Plasma while on the other hand the 3 pixellized technologies, LCD, LED and OLED. As of today, my choice will go to LED for the space saving while still remaining affordable. Though, the OLED should catch up very quickly as the big brands are really putting effort in it. As for Plasma and LCD, they are slowly dying because of their relative thickness (I mean, compare to a LED and OLED panel).
Since 2010, 3D became a hot topic and every new TV should now be able to support this technology. Not that it is a first need now as the contents are still rather limited, but the future seems to move toward 3D with much more determination now compare to the previous attempts. I though would wait until the technology is really mature and for now, my 3D experiences will be in theaters only.
Simply because now, there are 3 technologies competing : shutter glasses, passive glasses and glass-free. The latter one has a definite advantage of not requiring to wear glasses while watching a 3D movie. though, I still have some concerns about the angle it can be viewed from. The Shutter glasses technology, although very interesting as it might be applicable to retrofit a 2D display is, I think, just a transition technology, like the “HD ready” label was for the HD displays. The shutter, even if the technology improve will still be source of headache when watching long time, and on top of that, it will be more expensive than the passive glasses. So you understood that my choice goes to passive glasses. After trying few of them in the shops, I am sure of the quality that can be achieved and glasses are definitely more wearable than the active ones. I’ll though still wait a bit until there is a standard for the glasses and more content available.
Of course, the bare minimum will be to have the HDMI input. One is enough if you use an AV receiver to connect all sources. Ensure that it is of the latest version, that is to say v1.4, as it will determine what you can play the latest content or not (3D,…). On top of that, a network connection is welcome, not only for the extended features that come with the so called “Smart TV” but also as it gives a new way of controlling the device. So far, I’ve seen only few of them having a remote App for your smartphone, but that is just matter of time.
I will not spend time talking about the other functions for now as the necessary ones come actually with the media center.
What about the image quality?
Well, that, as for the sound quality is a matter of taste. you might have your TV in a well lit room where the brightness will be important, you might have it in a dark room where on the opposite you will need very deep blacks, you might like a warm image or a cold one… the best is for you to choose yourself in the shop the TV that suits better your tastes. I can just advice you to go through some settings in the shop with the vendor so you can figure out the flexibility of each panel. Though nowadays, everything tends to be standardized so you might see no difference.