How to Evaluate DLP, LCD, Plasma TV and HDTV Quality

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How to understand the difference in quality between DLP, LCD, and Plasma TVs.

Steps

  1. Know the environment where you will use the TV. The level of ambient light will be a major factor. Also know the viewing distance--this will determine the size or resolution that will look the best.
  2. Know the program material that will be viewed. Most video sources including DVDs are 480. HDTV signals are usually 1080 sometimes 720.
  3. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each technology to make an informed choice--see tips below.
  4. Carry a few test DVDs into each store so you are always seeing the same scenes. Note that the setting (viewing distance/angle, especially ambient light) will make a difference in the perceived quality. The settings/calibration can make some difference too.
  5. Keep notes with model numbers and relative rankings between units since you will likely not be able to compare all models side-by-side at one store.
  6. Dont buy much more than you need in size, resolution, or technology. If you have the space and easy access, getting a used previous generation top-of-the-line CRT rear-projection TV from for the large dark rec room might be just the ticket.

Tips

  • Each technology has its strengths and weaknesses and so you have to pay attention to different aspects to access the total quality of a TV in the intended environment.
  • DLP is thinner than CRT/LCD rear projection TVs. They are also brighter so more suitable where there is more ambient light. Its weakness is in producing dark blacks, especially closely spaced dark and light features. Use scenes with a fine high-contrast texture, such as a white cliff face with black speakles. The best latest DLP TVs will look good, while others will look washed-out, gray and blury. Another good scene is a distant view of a forest with a mixture of rich green leaves and black shadowy underbrush.
  • LCDs are pretty good and tend to look like computer screens.Watch fast scenes like sports with a small ball (tennis, golf) as LCD refresh rates are not as fast. Watch slow panning scenes for artifacts that dont move with the panning scene. One cause for this may be variation in pixel response due to manufacturing tolerences. Another cause may be the smoothing technology to upsample a TV or DVD signal to 720 or 1080--this is true with other technologies too. There are differences in the implementations, so it matters too.
  • Plasma is considered to be the best. It can look hyper-real or exaggerated or lack that movie-theatre film quality of projection TVs. There are however considerable differences between models. Be careful because they get really hot. The burn-in problem is not as bad as the earlier generations and with careful use, not much worse than normal CRT direct view TVs of decades ago.

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