Archive for the ‘Buying Guide’ Category

TV Buying Guide: LCD vs. Plasma


TV Buying Guide

TV Buying Guide

By Anne Ahira

As the popularity of big-screen television and home theaters has grown over the past few years, there is really only one question on the minds of consumers who are shopping for a new set:

Which is better Plasma or LCD TV? This argument has become particularly heated as both sets have only recently become direct competitors.

You see, for years Plasma sets were the unquestioned leader when it come to big screen TVs, but as the technology improved, LCD sets got bigger and bigger until they finally challenged Plasma sets in this all important market.

Why is it so crucial to gain a lead in this market? As we mentioned, the trend in home televisions is quickly moving away from the stand alone set and toward wall-mounted big screen sets that are a part of a home theater.

If you have never heard of them, a home theater is really nothing more than a big screen set that is connected to a surround sound speaker system. In this article we are going to take a look at the TV buying guide to determine which new technology is actually superior.

The question of which is better can be a difficult one to answer since these sets have many similarities, such as high resolutions, bright screens, and colorful images. But for the first few years of their existence they did not compete directly with each other, since the technology prevents plasma sets from making small screens and LCDs were generally of average size.

Then the LCD suddenly got bigger and people were left with a difficult decision. It is important to note before we take a look at the TV buying guide that there are really no significant differences in these two technologies, which is why they are such fierce rivals.


When it comes right down to it, picture quality is the main reason that consumers have made the transition away from traditional sets and toward Plasma and LCD sets. For years the Plasma set was the uncrowned ruler when it come to picture quality, much of which is determined by contrast ratios.

This is a simple measure of the blackest and the whitest parts of the screen. Though the ratio does differ, many of the top Plasma sets in the TV buying guide claim an amazing 40,000:1 ratio.

While LCD sets have certainly come a long way over the past few years, they still cannot compete with Plasma sets when it comes to contrast ratio. This is especially true when you look at the mid level sets, which often have much lower contrast ratios.

However, when it comes to the top of the line LCD screens, the difference is much closer than it has ever been. This leads us to believe that someday LCD sets may actually surpass Plasma sets with regard to contrast. But that day has not yet come.


Plasma sets are famous for their claim that they can display 16.77 million colors. Can you imagine how long it took to count them all! Just kidding! The truth is that Plasma screens offer an incredible range of colors and that the richness of these color combinations is the envy of the industry.

LCD sets, on the other hand, are known for having a higher number of pixels per square inch than Plasma sets, which helps produce comparable color quality. However, when consumers compare sets with similar pixel count, they quickly discover that Plasmas produce cleaner, more vibrant colors.

Viewing Angles

For years this factor was the only significant technological advantage that Plasma sets held over LCD screens. According to Plasma makers, their sets allow for near perfect 180 degree viewing angle, which means that anyone that can see the screen can see it clearly wherever they might be sitting.

Again, LCD makers have made significant progress in this area. In fact, years ago you could not clearly view an LCD screen unless you were right in front of it. But nowadays many of the top manufacturers have produced televisions that offer a full 120 degree viewing angles. Of course, this still puts them at a significant disadvantage to Plasma sets.


When you are making a substantial investment in a new piece of technology for the home, there is really no more important consideration than longevity. And both technologies make simply astonishing claims.

Many LCD makers state that their sets can be watched for an average of 60,000 hours. That means that you could keep your set on for 24 hours a day for more than seven years without experiencing an interruption in service.

For the LCD set, really the only consideration is the backlight, which can become a problem when it ages. It is a little known fact that when these sets get on in years and the backlight begins to wear, the colors can change a bit.

Believe it or not, the TV buying guide Plasma screens can also last for 60,000 hours. Whether this is true or not is difficult to say. After all, who has seven years to waste away in front of the tube? What we do know is that many industry insiders are skeptical of these claims and most concur that LCD sets hold an edge when it comes to longevity.

Screen Burn In

LCD sets are seldom prone to burn in, which is a kind of premature aging of the pixels. This may be why they last a bit longer than Plasma sets, which have long been known for this dreaded condition.

However, just like LCD sets have done in other areas, Plasma makers have worked long and hard to correct this deficiency. In fact, with most new Plasma sets the TV buying guide tells us that the likelihood of a burn-in is extremely small.


Although there are a number of other factors to consider in the TV buying guide, such as cost and availability, we did not mention them because the technologies were about equal in those areas.

In the end, we believe Plasma still hold a slight lead when it comes to large screen sets, though they would be wise to watch their backs because LCD sets are clearly closing the gap.

Surround Sound Buying Guide for Home Theaters


Surround-Sound Buying Guide

Surround-Sound Buying Guide

By Anne Ahira

As the technology has improved and prices have come down, more and more families are purchasing big screen high definition television sets.

This has lead to the rapid increase of what are commonly called home theaters.

What is a home theater? Well, really it is nothing more than a large screen television set that has been connected to a series of speakers.

In this article we are going to review a standard surround sound buying guide.


Since home theaters are fairly new, few consumers have much experience with surround sound systems. As you might expect, these shoppers tend to make a lot of rookie mistakes and often end up buying speaker packages that are either too expensive or ill-suited for their needs.

As with computers and other high-tech devices, the general rule is to only buy what you need and what you can afford. That is why we will begin by discussing budget.

Before you make any major purchases, especially when considering a product you don’t know much about, it is important that you decide exactly how much you are willing to spend before you visit the store. In the next few paragraphs we will discuss a few of the most basic packages that can be found in any surround sound buying guide.

$500 or Less

This most basic of packages will often include five small speakers and a subwoofer. There are also virtual-surround sound systems that have just two speakers that can be placed by the set and a subwoofer.

These packages are often ideal for small rooms, like the bedroom, that measure only a few hundred square feet. A basic package like this will not be adequate for a large family room or a den that opens up into other rooms or hallways.

The sound will simply get lost and will not provide users with a true home theater experience. However, many young couples make the mistake of purchasing much larger, more elaborate and expensive systems for their bedrooms when really a package like this one is all they need.

Before you buy

Make certain that the package includes a receiver or DVD player or changer that can control the surround sound system.

$1000 or less

This package is not much different from the previous one in that it is ideal for large size bedroom or small living rooms that are only a few hundred square feet. The surround sound buying guide for these packages will obviously offer more features and higher quality speakers.

There is also often a difference in size, power, and volume with these speakers. Generally speaking, they will include a receiver, a high-quality virtual-surround HTIB and a 5.1 speaker package.

Before you buy

Since this is a more substantial investment, you should closely examine all of the competing models. Since these packages are the most popular, middle of the road sound systems, there should be many attractive options to choose from.

$1,500 or less

If you are willing to spend thousands of dollars on a big screen high definition television, then it makes sense to purchase a quality surround sound system. These packages are designed for use in large living rooms that measure several hundred square feet.

And while it is true that they can be used in smaller rooms, it will most certainly be a waste, as smaller, less expensive speakers could likely do a respectable job. But if you want to truly get the most out of your home theater, a more powerful, higher quality sound system is necessary, especially in larger rooms.

What does this package include? The surround sound buying guide tells us that these systems often include a top-of-the-line HTIB that has a midline receiver, an HDMI DVD player, and a quality subwoofer.

Before you buy

This is a substantial investment, so it is important to do your homework before you visit the store. Make sure that the package includes everything you are looking for. And for this kind of money, it certainly should.

More than $1,500

What do we mean when we say more than $1,500? How much can surround sound cost? The answer is several thousand dollars. While you are scooping your jaw up off the floor, we will explain that these packages are highly exclusive and they are often only purchased by people who have specific needs.

For example, die-hard sports fans who want a transcendent experience will watching the big game, or video game lovers who need to hear every pop and ping while playing their favorite games.

The surround sound buying guide tells us that these packages are meant for large living rooms, but really they can be used just about anywhere. In fact, these speakers can even be installed all over the home to improve sound quality in a number of rooms. This is also known as zone speaker technology.

What does the package include? A surround sound system of this quality will offer a top HTIB that comes with a top-rung receiver, a HD DVD or a Blu-ray player, and then either a speaker package or select speakers and subwoofers from the company’s catalog.

Before you buy

When you are considering spending this kind of money, it is important to get exactly what you want. That is why it is probably a good idea to find a surround sound system that allows you to choose select speakers from the company catalog rather than simply purchasing a set package.

A few more tips

Never assume that a surround sound package includes a subwoofer. While it is true that these packages almost always have one, oftentimes in the less expensive packages the subwoofer will not be a standalone model.

This means that one of the speakers will be half speaker and half subwoofer. Now, there is nothing wrong with this, and some of these models do produce fine sound, but they are not as effective as the stand alone speakers. That is why it is always a good idea to find a package that includes a standalone subwoofer.