Plasma TV’s are a popular choice for picture quality within the new generation HDTV family. The main thing to consider is balancing your feature priorities with your budget – it must be noted that once you go beyond the entry level screen size of 42 inches, the price can jump significantly.
The following guide will give you the key features to look out for and prioritise when shopping around.
For many people looking to upgrade their home entertainment system, the viewing screen size rates as most important. Ranging from 42 inches to 65 inches, the cost rises notably once you look at 50 inches or more. Fitting your budget isn’t the only thing to weigh however – it’s important to consider not only the space availability in your home, but also the viewing distance. The latter is crucial since if you’re watching the TV at a closer distance than recommended by the manufacturer, you will start to lose viewing quality because the picture pixels can then be distinguished. Generally, it’s recommended you need 2-3 times the screen width viewing distance for screen sizes measuring 42 inches or more. It must be said that this factor also includes your signal quality, because 720p or 1080i on a HDTV will enable a closer viewing distance than traditional or enhanced televisions.
It’s important for your plasma TV to include all the inputs you’ll need to interact with your other devices. These include:
RGB – the standard 15 pin PC input.
HDMI – a purely digital connection which allows for the highest resolution in HDTV viewing. Try to get a TV with a multiple amount (preferably three) of this connection type as a majority of plug-ins come in this form. It’s also key to have HDMI connections that are HDCP compliant, especially if you choose an unknown rather than a big name brand for your TV.
A/V – these allow video game or camcorder plug-ins.
Composite – a single line video output for satellite and cable receivers as well as DVD players.
S-video – this allows for a higher quality than Composite and is now found in many newer DVD players and most cable and satellite set-top boxes.
Component – at the high end and exceeding S-video, this divides the video signal into blue, red and green for better viewing quality. It is fast becoming compulsory on progressive scan DVDs and some of the latest cable and satellite boxes.
Ethernet port – this network connection is a highly useful feature in terms of interacting with your PC – you’ll then be able to play music, view photos and stream video files without the need for a separate media player.
The native display resolution of a plasma TV is not to be glossed over. The level of resolution that a TV supports vastly determines the picture quality, and the whole point of high definition content is that it makes exceptional viewing a reality. The first plasmas to be introduced onto the marketplace came with resolutions that were mostly intended to support traditional TV’s. These are no longer available – these days the standard minimum resolution found on entry level 42 inch and smaller plasma TV sets is 1024×768 pixels. A 720p HDTV signal supports a resolution of 1280 pixels by 720 lines, while 1080i/1080p HDTV supports 1920 pixels by 1080 lines. In comparison, previous EDTV plasmas generally came with a native pixel resolution of 852×480 pixels, which is less viewing quality than one would expect from an HDTV for the price.
The above information gives you the main factors to keep in mind when looking for the plasma TV that best suits your needs and budget. The important thing is to do your research in comparing the different models and brands currently available so that you can be sure to find a great deal.
Barry Knightly owns a Plasma TV and electronics repair business.