If you Google “hdtv buying guide” you will get about 1,070,000 results. So why write another HDTV buying guide? Because none of the one million seventy thousand guides already written are understandable. Not a one and not a bit. OK, I’ll admit that I haven’t read all 1,070,000 results, but I did read the first 20 or 30 or so and they all say about the same thing. They tell you stuff that jumbles your mind: Which is better, Plasma or LCD or 1080p or 1080i or 720 or 60Hz or 120Hz, and so on and so forth until your head is spinning. The reason the guides are so complicated is that the people writing the guides are techie geeks. I don’t mean any offense, but they know too much for their own good and don’t know what’s good for you. I don’t know what’s good for you either, but I can tell you what you need to know and what you don’t need to know, and I won’t give you a headache or make you feel like an idiot.
If you are reading this, it’s probably because you are still watching square TV. Square TV is the term I came up with fifteen years ago when I began producing programs in HDTV. I call the old NTSC TV system “square TV” because compared to widescreen HDTV, the picture looks square. The wide screen is the second best thing you’re going to like about your new HD set. The first thing you’re going to like about it is the clarity. The HDTV picture is so clear that when the broadcast stations switched to DTV/HDTV last year, the news anchors started worrying even more about their makeup. The picture is so clear that it reveals every blot and blemish! What does all this have to do about buying a new HDTV? Well, the truth is, HDTV is so much better than square TV that virtually any new HDTV set you buy is going to please you. Yes, any HDTV you buy is going to be OK. If you want, you can stop reading now, and go out and buy one that you can afford. I mean it — stop reading now and buy the HDTV you can afford. Oh, you want a little more guidance? OK, I’ll give it to you in three easy steps in order of importance. (But remember, you don’t have to complete all the steps. Stop whenever you’ve had enough and go buy your new HDTV. )
Step 1. Budget: The Only Important Consideration
This is obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be stated, especially when it’s the only really important consideration. What can you afford? In case you’re thinking that you’re going to have to sell the farm to buy a new HDTV set, stop worrying. HDTV sets are cheaper now than color sets were when TV went from black-and-white to color. You can actually buy a nice new HD set for under $500, even as low as $200. So, dig in your pocket, see how much change you have, and head to the store.
Step 1 1/2: Pick a Major Brand
Easy. Just make sure you buy a brand you recognize. Here are the brands you should consider: Samsung, Panasonic, LG, Vizio, Sony, Mitsubishi, Toshiba. Just don’t buy one from the back of someone’s truck.
Step 2: Screen Size
Your screen size is going to be primarily determined by Step 1, your budget. The more you can afford, the bigger screen you’ll get. Naturally, in the case of HDTV, the bigger the better (to a limit, of course). The most popular size/price are screens that are between 40 and 42-inches. The best way to approach this step is to find out what’s the biggest screen you can get for your money, then head to the store and buy an HDTV.
Step 3: Resolution
Here’s where it gets a little technical but don’t worry. If you want to keep reading, there are only two numbers you need to be familiar with: 1080 and 720. Don’t worry about the letters after the numbers (1080i, 1080p), it doesn’t matter. Just remember that the bigger the number, the better the resolution. 1080 is better than 720. But keep in mind that whichever one you pick for the price you can afford will be so much better than your square TV that you will be very pleased. That’s it. Head to the store and buy an HDTV.
Yes, I know. The other HDTV buying guides all tell you that you have to decide between a LCD or Plasma and how many hertz the refresh rate is and a lot of other technical stuff, but it doesn’t matter. Whether you get a LCD or Plasma screen or a 60Hz or 120Hz or 240Hz, or even whether you get a 1080i or 1080p or 720, the picture is going to look so good to you that it won’t matter. It would be kind of like choosing between a new Mercedes or BMW when you’ve been driving a 1990 Chevy. Either one is going to thrill you.