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How to pick the right HDTV for you

If you haven't yet sprung for a high-definition TV set, the days before the Super Bowl are a good time to make the upgrade. Sports look great in HD, and football in particular is easier to follow on a big, sharp screen. Here are some ideas to keep in mind if you decide to go high-def. Associated Press

What size screen should I get? Take the distance you'll be sitting from the TV, in feet. Multiply it by four to get the number of inches of screen diagonal you should get. That's the minimum size.

If you're choosing between a smaller TV with premium features or a larger TV for the same price, go for the larger one.

LCD or plasma? Liquid-crystal displays, or LCDs, have become the default choice for HDTV buyers, with nearly 90 percent of the market. But don't rule out plasma sets. These can be cheaper for the same size of screen, and yield excellent image quality, with deeper black images than most LCD screens. However, plasma ones are thicker and heavier and use more power than LCD screens. Plus, they have glossy glass surfaces, which can produce annoying reflections.

Rear-projection sets are still around. Consider these if you want the largest possible screen and don't mind that they're not flat, wall-mountable slabs. Image quality can be good, but they're less bright than flat panels and even dimmer when not viewed straight on.

720p or 1080p? This refers to the resolution of the screen, with 1080p being the sharpest. But chances are you won't notice the difference unless you sit fairly close or the screen is very big. A 720p set is fine for DVDs, which aren't high-definition. If you plan to get a Blu-ray player or to hook up an Xbox 360 or other video game console to the set, 1080p makes more sense.

Refresh rate: A 120-hertz "refresh rate," coupled with image-processing technology variously known as "Motion Flow" and "Smooth Motion" — what does this mean? Well, TV is shot at 30 frames per second, movies at 24 frames per second. This is fast enough to give us the impression of continuous motion, but not fast enough to make high-action or camera-panning scenes look smooth and steady. High-end TVs now compensate for this by computing extra frames and inserting them between the existing ones. Combined with a screen that refreshes the image 120 times per second, this means smoother football action.

Hook up: You'll want to have as many High-Definition Multimedia Interface inputs as possible. HDMI cables provide the best connection between a TV set and a signal source like a set-top box, DVD player or game console.

High-definition signal: Don't forget about the signal. The cable or satellite company can walk you through getting an HD signal, but if you're in a hurry to watch the Super Bowl or don't have pay TV, connect an antenna and tell the set to scan the airwaves. The local NBC station should be broadcasting in high definition.

How to pick the right HDTV for you 01/25/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 25, 2009 3:30am]
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