TV technology has gone far beyond simple screen sizes and ergonomic remotes, and the new world of TV features can be a rather confusing place to explore. If you don’t yet know your aspect ratios from your digital tuners, help is at hand in the form of our guide to the main features of today’s TVs.
The Basics – what am I looking at?
CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) : The familiar big, bulky boxes of yesteryear require a lot of room (no neat wall mounting here) and a strong back if you ever decide to move.
Projection: The affordable large screen TVs of the late nineties and early naughties use a projector to create an image from a video signal, that is projected onto a screen. Front and rear screen projection TVs exist, the former using a projector that is separate from the TV, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) the latter, rear projection, is produced inside the box behind the screen, more like a CRT set up.
Flat Panel: In the world of TV, thin is definitely the new fat. Plasma and LCD screens are thin, light and far more attractive than their CRT ancestors. They are also able to display High Definition (HD) pictures. LED screens, the latest in flat screen technology, enable even thinner profiles and are more energy efficient than LED and Plasma tv screens.
The HD signal resolution is twice that of standard definition giving a much crisper, clearer picture. However, access to HD channels is needed in order to make use of a HD enabled TV. Look out for 1080p which is the highest level of resolution currently on the market.
The very latest in TV technology is 3D TV. Using a combination of set and active shutter glasses to produce exceptional depth of image and cinema style ‘jump out and grab you’ moments – this is TV to impress the neighbours with.
The contrast ratio of your TV shows you how white your “white” pixels will be and how black your “black” pixels are. The higher the contrast ratio the better as it will display what you’re watching in the most vivid colours, offering you a viewing experience that’s just like you’re there.
Settings and Modes
These allow you to optimise your picture and sound for films, sports and games and include familiar settings for sharpness and brightness. In the case of wide screen TVs aspect ratio adjustments allow you to stretch or zoom images not formatted for widescreen (including most TV programmes).
Analogue or digital
Not a choice you will be able to make for long. In the UK the analogue TV signal will be turned off by the end of 2012 at which point you will need a set top digital box, or an Integrated Digital TV (IDTV) in order to watch.
Several TV manufacturers have built in Freeview or Freesat HD boxes. This offers you the chance to see HD channels straight of the box as well as expanding the amount of channels you would normally see.
Programmable Video Recording
PVR is an integrated digital hard disk recorder allowing you to record TV direct through your TV using your TV remote and an onscreen display.
Look out for the Hz of the TV, this shows of often the screen image is refreshed and is important if you’re a gamer, sports fan or film buff as it prevents motion blur and image ghosting.