Televisions overview

Jan 11, 2011 No Comments by

Has there ever been a better time to buy a new TV?


But before you bin your old CRT (cathode ray tube) TV and fork out for a shiny flat screen (and, yes, there are still half a dozen people in the UK who still watch a hulking great box), here are a few things to bear in mind:

The ‘digital switchover’ does not mean that your old TV is now defunct.  It’s the tuner inside the TV that won’t work any more; the screen will still function perfectly well.  All you need do is connect a Freeview tuner to your TV and maybe replace the old aerial and you’ll be sorted.  If you have Sky or cable you won’t have noticed any change. Basic stuff, but my dad dumped a perfectly good TV at the local tip because of this misunderstanding.  Having said that, if you were unaware of all this it’s likely you will have dumped yours too.  Well done, you muppet.

A new, flat, digital TV will not necessarily give you a better picture than a CRT TV.  Most CRT TVs can display 576 horizontal lines – [don’t] look closely and try counting them.  The most basic of High Definition (HD) TVs can display 720 horizontal lines and are labelled ‘HD Ready’.  Most of these basic sets display 768 horizontal lines, though. The best definition is 1080 horizontal lines, known as Full HD.  You will see ‘i’ and ‘p’ after these numbers and they stand for ‘interlaced’ and ‘progressive’ and relate to how the images are scanned by the TV.  Progressive is good; interlaced is less good.  1080p is Full HD; 1080i is not.

Theoretically an HD TV should mean a clearer picture, but what ends up on the screen depends on the quality of the source.  Standard TV transmissions – and certainly anything made before 2005 – are not high definition.  The effect of this on a screen that is HD is a bit like blowing up a photo too much – it can get blurry.  VHS video can also look blurred and woolly on an HD TV.  DVD usually looks better but again, it depends on the quality at which the DVD was recorded.  Some old movies can look truly nasty when shown on an HD TV, even if they are on a DVD.

The US embraced HD before the UK and consequently many of their TV franchises such as CSI, 24, Law and Order etc were all made in HD.  And even though they might not be broadcast in HD here in the UK, they will still look cleaner and sharper on an HD TV than programming that wasn’t shot in HD.

Other factors to do with TVs, such as 3D, how much to spend and what size screen to get are covered in the Buying Guide but one factor that is inescapable is that big, widescreen HD TVs are now cheaper than they’ve ever been.