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Televisions Buying Guide

Finding the right television doesn’t have to be confusing or difficult. Use the Sears TVs Buying Guide to help make it an easy, stress-free process.

 
 

With the continual release of new television technologies and varying sizes, prices and brands, you may find it confusing trying to find the TV that’s right for you. Some people merely choose the biggest TV they can afford, but there is much more to be considered. It doesn’t have to be a difficult process, though. Just a little bit of research and knowledge can make the job much easier. Your TV should last you at least 10 years or longer, depending how much you use it, so be sure to get the right TV, otherwise you may have to replace it sooner than you’d like.

How to Choose

Before you decide on your TV, there are three main factors to consider:

1. What will you be using it for?

Gaming? Sports? Movies? Sitcoms? A little bit of everything? Each type of TV is subtly better than its counterparts for specific types of programs or usage. For instance, gamers or sports fans will likely want a plasma TV due to its picture quality and ability to show fast motion with less blurring; movie fans will appreciate the cinema-like experience provided by a projection TV; and finally, those who’ll be using their TV for a little bit of everything will appreciate the versatility and stable technology of an LCD TV.

2. Where is it going to be?

You’ll need the correct TV for specific areas of your home. For example, in a recently-finished basement, a projection TV is ideal. Is it for a large bedroom with a small or covered window? Try a plasma TV. Or in the kitchen, a small LCD TV is perfect.

3. How much do you have to spend?

Obviously, the larger the TV, the more you will spend, but similarly-sized plasma TVs are usually more affordable than LCD TVs. The newest units with the newest technologies will cost the most, so keep your eyes peeled for last year’s models and you may find a great deal.

 

Types of Televisions

Generally, LCD and plasma TVs are the most popular choices on the market.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screens consist of a “sandwich” of two layers of clear glass (the “bread”) which are polarized and glued together. The liquid crystals are stored between the glass (the “meat”) and an electric current is passed through the crystals. The images we see on-screen are created by varying the electrical charge, thus allowing them to block light or letting it pass through.

A plasma TV, on the other hand, consists of individual cells. Within each cell are two separated glass panels which hold gas in plasma form. These cells are then electrically charged at specific times when the TV is on, causing the charged gas to change colour (red, green or blue), creating the images we see on-screen. Each grouping of red, green, and blue gas is called a pixel.

Their main differences are:


LCD TVs
  • LCD technology has been around for longer than plasma technology.
  • There are much more choices available in screen sizes and manufacturers.
  • LCD TV screens usually come with a matte finish, which makes them better for rooms that have a lot of light because they help keep reflections to a minimum.
  • LCD TVs with (especially with LED backlights) are more energy-efficient.
  • LCD TVs are, for the most part, a more expensive option.

Plasma TVs
  • Plasma screens provide deeper blacks, which create a better picture.
  • Wider viewing angles.
  • More affordable.
  • “Burn in” is a slight possibility. This is when a static image that is on the screen for long periods of time – such as a channel logo, sports or stock ticker, or the bars that are on the sides of the screen for non-HD programming – becomes ‘burned’ or ‘etched’ into the screen. Burn-in isn’t as much of a concern now as it was a few years ago, and many times burned-in images will go away over time.
  • Only available in screen sizes of 40” or larger.
  • Plasma screens tend to reflect more light so they might not be the best choice for a sunny room.

Variations

You may see other “types” of TVs available. However, these aren’t actually different types – they are variations of an LCD or plasma TV:


LED: This is actually an LCD TV that features an LED (Light Emitting Diode) backlight, producing a brighter overall picture and deeper blacks.


3D: A 3D TV is just a plasma or LCD that has 3D technology included, allowing you to watch 3D movies and programming. Please keep in mind that you will require 3D glasses and only certain movies and programming are 3D-compatible.


Other TVs

Projection TVs: A projection TV consists of a ceiling-mounted projector that displays its picture on a wall or large, white screen. These types of TVs are great for cinema-like experiences, but the drawback is that they have to be used in a room that has a sizeable wall free of any decoration, and should be in a room that has 100% controllable lighting (such as a basement).


Tube & Rear Projection TVs: For the most part, tube TVs and rear projection TVs have been rendered obsolete and few manufacturers even offer them any more.

Specifications

You will find many different specs and technical jargon when looking for your TV. While much of it is helpful, some of the information is extraneous, so below are a few basic specs that you should keep your eye on.

Resolution

This is the “p” number that you will see listed (e.g. 720p or 1080p). The “p” stands for pixels, and the more pixels in your TV, the better the picture will be. 1080p is the best picture you can get and can only be achieved from Blu-ray® discs or some video game consoles. 720p is still high-definition and is what HD TV programming and DVDs are at. There may even be a few 480p TVs floating around, but it’s best to avoid them as they will be getting close to their end date.

Refresh Rate

The Refresh Rate will be 60, 120 or 240 Hz for LCD TVs, meaning that the screen refreshes 60, 120 or 240 times per second, so obviously, the higher the number the better the picture will be, especially if you watch a lot of fast-moving sports or play video games because it will mean less blur around fast-moving objects. The Refresh Rate isn’t a consideration for plasma TVs because their response time is virtually instantaneous.

Screen Size

Screens are measured diagonally and are usually in a widescreen format, meaning that they will appear longer and more rectangular than older tube TVs. So a 32” LCD or plasma TV will be roughly the same size as a 27” tube TV.

Inputs

The only audio/video input you need these days is HDMI, which provides completely uncompressed video and audio, and is the only way to view true 1080p movies or video games. HDMI is now standard and it’s almost impossible to find a TV manufactured in the last 2 years or so without at least one, and most now feature several. Next in line are component cables, which are HD quality, but provide only video. The third-best input is S-video, which will not provide a true HD display, and once again is video only. And finally there is the standard white/red/yellow cables that are included with your TV which should be used as a last-result and in emergencies only. They do provide audio along with the video, but the quality of both is far less than the other options. Many TVs these days also feature a USB input which is ideal for watching digital movies or viewing images and home movies directly from your camera or camcorder.

For other terms that may be unfamiliar, please refer to our Electronics Glossary.

 

Seating Distance Chart

You’ll want to make sure your TV is the right size – too big and it’ll dominate a room and tire out your eyes; if it’s too small, you’ll miss all of the fine details that a high-definition television can provide. Please refer to the handy chart below to ensure you get the right-sized TV for your room or location.

Screen Size
Recommended Range
19"
2'6" - 6'
22"
3' - 8'
26"
3'4" - 9'
30"
3'8" - 10'
32"
4'2" - 10'6"
34"
4'3" - 11'
37"
4'6" - 11'6"
40"
5'4" - 12'
42"
5'5" - 12'5"
46"
5'8" - 13'
50"
6'3" - 14'6"
52"
6'5" - 15'
55"
6'8" - 16'
65"
8' - 23'
70"
9' - 25'