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Super Bowl viewing: It's all about the TV

Best Buy associate Melvin Gonzalez explains the features of a Sharp 70-inch LED 3-D television to Wade Osborne on Monday at the N Dale Mabry Highway store in Tampa.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Best Buy associate Melvin Gonzalez explains the features of a Sharp 70-inch LED 3-D television to Wade Osborne on Monday at the N Dale Mabry Highway store in Tampa.

On Sunday, millions of football fans in jerseys and face paint will huddle around a TV set with a bowl of chips and a can of beer. They'll boo the refs, pay attention to commercials and look for wardrobe malfunctions.

Many will watch on TVs fresh out of the box. More people buy TVs for the Super Bowl than for any other single event.

A whopping 7.5 million people are expected to purchase a new set for the game, according to the latest survey by BIGinsight for the National Retail Federation. An additional 3.9 million will buy entertainment centers, couches and chairs, presumably to watch their fancy TV in comfort.

Stores hope to score big. Best Buy, Walmart, Target and other retailers that sell electronics have Super Bowl sales going on all week, with discounts as deep as November's Black Friday.

Best Buy says it sells more televisions in the weeks leading up to a Super Bowl than any other time of the year. Nearly every television — from the mack daddy 90-inch Sharp LED to the more modest 43-inch Samsung plasma — is on sale, most of them a few hundred dollars off regular price.

Call it a manly pride thing, but the big ones are the most popular. No respectable sports fan would be caught dead hosting a party without picture-perfect viewing equipment. You can run out of chicken wings by halftime, but if your TV doesn't measure up, forget about anyone coming back next year.

For expertise, I looked to Mick Carpenter, a 14-year employee of Best Buy who works at the South Tampa store on Dale Mabry Highway. He has sold a bunch of TVs in the past several days, most of them to people who plan to christen them during Sunday's big game. All have TVs at home, but wanted to supersize to 55-inch models and up.

For those like me who haven't bought a TV in the 21st century, people are leaning toward LEDs or plasmas. Don't bother talking about flat screens and high-def. That's like asking if a phone has texting. You'll sound like a caveman.

LEDs came out a few years ago as an improvement over the LCDs, which had problems with ghosting, especially when viewing sports and other action-packed programs. Plasmas have been around for a while, but are much better than earlier models. They no longer have issues with images permanently burning into the screen. They also don't use as much energy or emit as much heat.

Plasmas offer the best bang for your buck, hence their popularity around the Super Bowl, Carpenter said. A 50-inch that sold for $10,000 a decade ago now goes for less than a grand. And prices are expected to dip even lower as manufacturers try to lure people to upgrade their older sets.

The decision between LED and plasma usually comes down to preference. LEDs are thinner; plasmas have a more natural, darker-looking screen. Both have a shelf life of eight to 10 years, quite a bit shorter than my mammoth tube TV, which refuses to die even though part of me wishes it would.

Also popular are "smart" TVs with Web browsers and "smart apps" for playing games and accessing Netflix. One Samsung model has a built-in camera for using Skype. And, yes, some people will watch the Super Bowl in 3-D. Imagine walking into a party and seeing everyone wearing the goofy glasses? Not sure I'm ready for that, but watching sports on the 3-D display was pretty cool.

Susan Thurston can be reached at sthurston@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3110.

>>FAST FACTS

LCD vs. LED

If you're looking for a new television, chances are your decision will come down to an LED set or a plasma set. But you'll also see LCD sets advertised. What's the difference? LED televisions are actually LCD sets that use LED backlights, rather than fluorescent lamps to light the screen. They're not a whole other type of television. An LED-lit set will typically cost more than a comparable LCD set.

Source: consumerreports.org

Super Bowl viewing: It's all about the TV 01/28/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 28, 2013 9:39pm]

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