Televisions

Choosing the right TV will be your most challenging purchase.  Don’t  do your research in a big box store!  There are so many options out  there, and most big box store employees will fill your head with bad  information.

Volumes have been written about TVs and the many differences that  comprise them.  It would be impossible for me to go through each item  thoroughly, but I will give a brief description of the most important.  You can  have an art piece that can match cabinetry when the  TV is not on. We can even take a picture of the fireplace before we hang the TV and when it’s off it will blend in like its not there (ie. mimic the drywall texture or brick). Following this guide will give you a strong base, so you can make an  educated and confident decision. Have more questions? Feel free to contact us!
Ok.  Let’s get started.


How to choose picture size

How to judge picture quality

OLED vs. LED

1080p  vs. 4K

Streaming capabilities

Contrast ratio and refresh rate

Inputs and Outputs

How To Choose Picture Size

 

Ready for some simple math?  Here is how you do it:

  1. Find the distance from your chair to your TV in INCHES
  2. Divide that number by 4

That is max HEIGHT of your future TV.  Note: this is HEIGHT not  picture size.   Now you just look into the TV spec sheet to see how tall  it actually is.


Let’s see an example:

Dave sits 10 feet away from the TV.  10 feet = 120 inches. 120/4= 30  inches.  Dave found out that he can buy a TV up to 30 inches tall.  He  does research and finds out that a TV 30 inches high has a picture size  of 50″.

Now Dave calls So Cal Home Theater and tells them he wants an awesome  50″ TV.  They deliver a brand new Samsung LED panel and install it in  his living room.  Dave celebrates by having all his buddies over for the  Charger game.  Dave has never been happier.


Are you serious about 3D TV?  The size equation goes out the window.   When you watch 3D, the guys at THX recommend that the screen dominate  your field of vision.  That means at 10′ you should have an 82″ screen.   I know that’s not possible in most homes, so the rule of thumb: get the  biggest stinkin’ TV you can get.


How To Judge Picture Quality

What comprises good picture quality?  There are a  lot of factors such as black levels, color accuracy, and contrast ratio  but the one that really sets a TV apart is its processor.  You want to  know how well the TV can handle various types of pictures sent to it  from different devices.  A great TV can handle dark movies on Blu-ray,  live action sports on cable, your favorite DVDs in your library, and the  most detailed images with crisp accuracy.

A low quality TV won’t perform well in all categories.  They can  freeze, make the picture look blurred, cause jagged edges, or miss  details on dark scenes- only to name a few.  A great test for any TV is a  live sporting event.  Watch how it handles the edges of the players’  jerseys, the lines on the field, panning across the crowd, or the  numbers on the players’ back.  On a low quality set, you will see a lot  of jittery edges and blurred details.


How do I choose a set that will perform well under all circumstances?  The best way is to read reviews by the pros- NOT CONSUMERS.  Try magazines and websites like CNET and Home Theater MagazineConsumer Reports  does an adequate job as well, but they don’t have the expertise that  others do.  A good review performs a battery of tests and provides an  honest review.  Home Theater Magazine and CNET have been my go-to  sources for years.


DO NOT TRY TO JUDGE PICTURE QUALITY AT A BIG BOX STORE!!  

Here’s why:

The engineers at TV Company A know they will be competing against TV  Company B on the showroom floor.  They know we are going to look at the  picture and say things like, “Wow, look how bright the picture and  colors look compared to the other TVs.”  For that reason, they crank up  the brightness and colors to the max to make them pop on the showroom  floor.  The picture you see at the store is not the picture you will see at home.

Big box stores have a variety of TV’s from low quality to mid quality  (they don’t get true high quality sets).  They know what will show the  TV’s weakness so they protect it by only showing certain types of  images.  Computer animation is a big box store favorite because it will  look great on any set of any quality.  They would never show a live  sporting event or they would never sell a low quality set again.   Everything they show is processed to look great on all their displays.

If you would like some one-on-one advice, please feel free to call.   We carry almost every TV on the market, even exclusive high-end models  that are only available to custom installers.  Even if you make your  purchases elsewhere, we can still point you in the right direction.

OLED vs. LED

OLED


How it works simplified:


Myths:


Pros:


Cons:

 

LED

 

How it works simplified:

An LED TV and an LCD TV are identical except for how they are lit.  An LED (Light Emitting Diode) is a tiny diode that emits light when energized.  An LED TV is made up of several layers with the front layer being the actual LCD.  The picture on the LCD can't be seen until a light is shined through it.  A typical LCD panel uses 2-3 fluorescent bulbs in the back where as an LED TV can use hundreds or even thousands of LEDs to light the screen.  LED TVs come in two forms: edge lit and back lit (also known as local dimming).  It's important to understand the difference between the two since they offer completely different pros and cons.

Edge-lit TVs have the LEDs placed around the TV in the edges as the name suggests.  Back-lit, or local dimming, TVs have the LEDs placed in the back- also as the name suggests.


Myths:

Each pixel on an LED TV screen is an actual LED that lights different colors.  EXTREMLEY FALSE!!  It drives me nuts when I hear people (especially salesmen) say this.  The picture is made by using LEDs to light an LCD screen.


Pros:

  • Local dimming sets can produce outstanding black levels.  Local dimming sets have the ability to dim areas of the screen to add detail to dark scenes.  Their black levels are comparable to those produced by plasma TVs.  Edge-lit sets do not have this ability.
  • Edge-lit sets can be extremely thin and lightweight.  Just as the name describes, the LEDs are placed around the edges of the TV which allows it to be very thin.  Samsung makes an incredibly thin LED TV that, when combined with a special mount, looks like a picture hanging on the wall.  Local dimming TVs can be thin too, but not as thin as an edge-lit TV.
  • Very low energy consumption.  LED lights use a fraction of electricity that other types of lights do.  Combine that with the other energy saving technology they employ and you're at about half (or less) of what a plasma TV consumes.

Cons: 

  • More expensive than an LCD TV.
  • Has all other weaknesses of a typical LCD panel.

1080p vs. 4K

1080 refers to the lines of resolution.  Lines of resolution and  processing these lines of resolution can be a little confusing, so we  will keep it simple.  A 1080p TV has more TRUE lines of resolution than a  1080i TV which makes for a finer, more detailed image.  Obviously, a  1080p TV has more lines of resolution than a 720p TV.

When you are deciding if you should buy a 1080p TV, the first thing  you need to know is how big your TV will be.  At less than 45″ the human  eye won’t see the difference between 1080p, 1080i or 720p, so don’t  waste money on a 1080p TV UNLESS it has another feature you want such as streaming Netflix.  Now days, 1080p has become the standard so getting a  nice TV without 1080p would be like buying a nice car without air  conditioning.


Pure  and simple, 4K means a clearer picture. It's more pixels (8,294,400 to  be exact) on the screen at once that creates images that are crisper and  capable of showing more details than standard HD. 


4K  resolution, at least the way most TVs define it, is 3840 x 2160 or  2160p. To put that in perspective, a full HD 1080p image is only a  1920x1080 resolution. 4K screens have about 8 million pixels, which is  around four times what your current 1080p set can display. Think  of your TV like a grid, with rows and columns. A full HD 1080p image is  1080 rows high and 1920 columns wide. A 4K image approximately doubles  the numbers in both directions, yielding approximately four times as  many pixels total. To put it another way, you could fit every pixel from  your 1080p set onto one quarter of a 4K screen


Is there really a big difference between 1080p and 4K? YES!  You  won’t believe how good your Blu-ray movies will look on a 4K TV.  The  picture is so clear, you’ll feel like you’re looking through a window.   Unfortunately, cable TV and satellite don’t have all 4K content, but I’m  sure it’s coming soon.

Streaming Capabilities

Streaming is one of the most popular ways to interact with media.  A TV,  Blu-ray player, or receiver with streaming capabilities can directly  access movies, music, YouTube, videos, local weather and much more directly  from the internet.  There are a few ways to do it, and it will depend on  the equipment you buy as to which method you use.

1. Run a network (cat5) cable from your router directly to the streaming device.  This will provide the fastest and most reliable connection.  This method works for any device with network abilities.

2. Buy a wireless (also called Wi-Fi) adapter module.   This is often called a Wi-Fi gaming adapter.  It is a wireless module  that connects to your device using a standard ethernet cable providing a  connection to your Wi-Fi network. This is only for older devices that do not have wi-fi built in.

3. New devices (TV, Blu-ray, receiver, etc) have built-in Wi-Fi.   That means they have the capability to use a wireless network that you already have set-up.  With any wireless method, you will need to have your network key if  you are using a secure network.  If you don’t know your key, you will  most likely have to reconfigure your network which sounds harder than it  is.

Some of the more popular media streams you can get are Netflix,  Spotify, Pandora, Hulu, Amazon and YouTube.  If you haven’t tried  any of these, you don’t know what you’re missing!

Contrast Ratio and Refresh Rate

Contrast Ratio:  The contrast ratio should tell you  how the brightest whites compares to the darkest darks.  The greater the  contrast ratio, the brighter the bright will be and the darker the darks will be.  Sounds simple enough right?  Wrong.  TV manufacturers  know that when we look at two TVs with two different numbers, we will  buy the bigger number.  For that reason, manufacturers have employed  various means to cheat the system and produce elaborated numbers.  It’s  usually best to ignore the numbers, or if you really want them, find a  third party review that ran their own tests.  I like CNET and Home  Theater Magazine.  They give honest reviews and perform a battery of  tests.


Refresh Rate:  The refresh rate determines how many  times a picture refreshes (or puts up a new image) in a second.  For  example, a 120hz TV refreshes the image 120 times per second.  This is a  really important feature for LED and LCD TVs.  It’s meant to minimize  jutter, and to make a smoother picture.  It works very well.  The reason  behind it is pretty technical and has to do with the number of frames  per second that are sent to your TV from a cable box or DVD player  matching up with the number of times the TV refreshes in a second.   Don’t worry about that too much.  It’s just important to know that 120hz  does the job.  Some will argue that refresh rates are getting too high  and are making the picture look too soft.  When you start getting into  240hz and 600hz, it’s going into the “bigger numbers sell more TVs” type  of thinking.

Inputs and Outputs

Inputs:  The more the better, but it’s important to  have a variety.  3 HDMI inputs in the rear with one on the side should  be a minimum.  Make sure you have at least one component video input and  a composite video input.  PC inputs are a plus especially if you have  media on  your PC that you want to show or if you want to use it to play  video games from your PC.  The side inputs are very handy for  connecting temporary devices like video cameras or karaoke machines.


Outputs:  The only output you might need is a digital audio out.  If you use your TV to stream media and you have a surround sound system, you will need to output the  audio to your receiver.  All new HDTVs have a digital tuner built-in.   If you connect a compatible antennae to your TV, you can get free  digital and HD channels over-the-air.  Once again, you will need to get  the audio to your receiver through the digital audio out.  If you need a  long (over 20′) digital audio cable, you should try to get a TV with a  digital coaxial out instead of an optical audio out.