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Getting the Big Picture

Plasma TVs <> LCD TVs
Rear Projection Televisions

Evan Powell, March 24, 2005

Time to upgrade that old TV? You've got lots of options. Let's look at what is good and not so good about each type of video product, so you can choose the best alternative for you.

Back when I was a kid, buying a new television was easy. You'd go into your local Sears or Montgomery Ward, and there you would find a wall of televisions. You would find one that was the right size for the money, and that was about it. Load it into the car, take it home, and plug it in. No muss no fuss.

Those days are long gone. Today, if you are like most folks, television buying (sorry, that would be video display system acquisition) is a terrifying experience. When you step into your local TV Mega store, you are blinded by a dizzying array of large, strange looking TVs in all shapes and sizes. Over here are the flat screen LCD TVs, right next to the new LCOS TVs. Over there are the Plasma TVs. Behind them are the RPTVs, which come in DLP or LCD or LCOS. Some are HDTV and some are EDTV. Of course, they all do HDTV and SDTV which you'll get through your STB, but the quality of the picture will depend on whether you use component analog or DVI (HDCP), which of course you get with HDMI.

Most folks recoil in shock at this blizzard of techno-babble. Why did the marketing wizards in the consumer electronics industry create this mess? Well, I'll tell you: I don't know. But the fact is that we're all in it together. So let's take a few minutes to sort it out. After you read this article it will be easy for you to enter a TV store and assume full command of your entertainment future.

Big Picture 101

There are four categories of products that produce big video images: (1) projectors, (2) flatscreen TVs, (3) rear-projection TVs, and (4) direct-view CRTs, otherwise commonly known as conventional televisions. Some of these products can come either with or without an integrated television tuner (channel selector). When they do not have a TV tuner, they are referred to as monitors instead of TVs or televisions. Many people prefer to get monitors if they are relying upon external set-top boxes for channel selection since it is a good way to save some money.

Each of these different types of video products has advantages and limitations when compared to the others. Reading through the following links will help you decide which will be the best solution for you:

Projectors-Advantages and limitations

Flatscreen TVs-Advantages and limitations
(includes both Plasma and LCD TVs)

Rear-projection TVs-Advantages and limitations

Direct-view CRT-Advantages and limitations

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