Will Bueché

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What I've leaned about LCDs so far

Posted in Personal by Will on Thursday, September 20th, 2007 ~ 3pm

For my own reference, these are some things I’ve learned about new lcd tvs. This has not been fact-checked in any way. I am just writing this to help myself conceptualize the situation.

Resolution: “1080p” is high definition, and the newest lcd televisions are available at this most-desirable resolution. A similar-sounding resolution known as “1080i” (with an “i” instead of a “p”) does not in fact exist but is actually “720p”, which is a lower resolution only somewhat higher than regular television’s resolution of 480p.

The number refers to the number of horizontal lines the screen has — the higher the number, the more finely detailed. Another way to conceptualize the resolution is by looking at how many pixels make up the screen. “1080p” is 1920 pixels wide x 1080 pixels high, whereas “720p” is 1280 pixels wide x 720 pixels high. Never assume you are looking at a true 1080p set until you read the fine print and see “1080p” and “1920 x 1080″ in the specs; there are many more 720p sets out there than there are authentic 1080p sets. (Though you may as well buy a 720p set if the set is small, say, 32″ or smaller).

1080p is the best for sets that are 37” or larger. It is also the most expensive, but since 720p is only slightly cheaper in price, it makes the most sense wait for a good deal on a 1080p rather than getting something only half-way there. “There” being the closest you’ll ever get to Kate Beckinsale in lycra, with vampire teeth, standing in your living room.

By the way, that DVD of Underworld is only encoded at 480p, but the better DVD players will upscale the image, creating the illusion of a high definition image. Actual high definition movies will be available on HD-DVD and BluRay.

LCD tvs are far from perfect. Some stop working within weeks, some within months, for no apparent reason. Even the top of the line models such as the Sharp Aquos have production problems. Most famously, according to home theater experts a two-month production run of Sharp’s 42″ 1080p panels were affected by dark bands across the screen, and this is why their 42″s are currently priced the same as the non-defective 37″s; they figure that people won’t mind the defect if they got a good deal.

Another problem exists in using LCDs for gaming. Although many people use their LCD tv for gaming, there is a fraction of a second lag between your actions and the on-screen representation of your movement. Some people don’t notice, others are driven crazy. The same lag is present while watching movies but that is less critical since the movie characters aren’t trying to kill you.

Another problem with LCDs is how they cope with fast action scenes in movies. The refresh rate of the current generation of LCD monitors isn’t quite fast enough, so during fast movement there is some blur. Faster refresh rates that will eliminate the blur entirely (“120Hz”) are starting to appear, but only on sets that are double to triple the price of similar sized models. So, unless you’re willing to wait a couple years for this to become common, you can expect slight blurriness during fast movement if you get an LCD.

So the long and short of it is: 1080p. Very expensive. Might not last even a year — hope for the best, be prepared to cry. Fast action blurs a bit on current generation of LCDs. Games experience a slight lag.

Basically many problems, huge cost. But nice if you can get it since it recreates the movie theater experience at home.

As for myself, I dunno. I know which model I want but if prices do not drop by several hundred bucks, I cannot justify it. Similarly I cannot justify getting a 720p set instead. Though if the 720ps also dropped by several hundred bucks, then I’d certainly consider that, even if I might regret it later.

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