Well, it’s Christmas, and what makes a better gift than a TV that’s bigger than your wall? I was talking to my boss last night who just recently bought an HDTV, and we were chatting about it, so I got the idea to post my tips on what to look for in an HDTV if you’re considering a purchase.
HDTVs is actually one area where I have done a TON of research. When you’re buying something that costs over $1k and you plan on having it for 10 years, you should too.
First, get a good brand. There are only three brands worth buying: Sony, Samsung and Sharp. The rest are crap. In fact, most manufacturers will buy their stuff from Samsung. Personally, I prefer Sony, but whatever floats your boat.
Second, rear projection TVs are the way to go — the picture is better and the TVs are much, much, much cheaper than LCD flatpanels. Also, don’t even think about buying plasma (they are getting phased out anyway) as they’ll burn your screen out.
If you can stand having an extra 5 inches sticking out from the back of your TV, rear projection sets are the way to go. Check this out … Circuit City is selling a Sony 1080p 55″ rear projection TV for $1800. A Samsung 46″ LCD HDTV is also on sale for $1950. Whee! (I couldn’t find a good comparision online, but go in the store and you’ll quickly see what I’m saying is true).
Third, protect your investment with a decent power supply — get something with stage 1 or up filtering. You’re gonna pay a lot for the TV, don’t get a $12 power supply from Wal-Mart to keep it running. Expect to spend at least $150 for something decent.
Fourth, HDMI is the way to go for DVDs. Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players are insanely expensive, and not worth the price (yet). Go get a nice upconverting DVD player if you don’t already have one. You can easily snag one for under $100. The HDMI cables are more expensive, but again they are worth the picture quality. Personally I think they look better than Component. I’d recommend buying your cables online instead of spending $60 for a Monster cable that is 3 feet long in the store.
Fifth, you don’t need to get a huge cable deal to get some HDTV channels. Comcast, even with their most basic cable plan ($12/month) will give you the local channels in HDTV (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX). The picture will blow your eyeballs out of the water. Sure, go ahead and spend $$$ if you want on Dish Network and get a lot more HD channels (in fact, from what I’ve gathered … they are the best deal. Its about the same price for lots of HD channels as it is for Comcast’s basic cable), but you don’t need it.
Sixth, look for online coupon codes. It’s worth waiting a month if you can snag a 10% off coupon somewhere. Or, just watch the weekly circulars and see how low the price on your TV will go. If you missed the opportunity, just wait, and it will eventually go back to that same price. If you can’t get some coupons, then be sure to buy from a store that will match the price for up to 30 days *after* the sale. That way, if they do sell it cheaper later, you can get the price difference back in your pocket.
Seventh, and as much as I hate to recommend this, if you are responsible enough to manage your money, open a store credit card and take advantage of their no interest for x amount of months deal. Put the cash that is going to go towards the purchase and put it in the bank, and float it so you can earn interest on it. Then, be sure to pay off the balance in full before you hit the due date, otherwise you’ll get hit with nasty back fees and insanely high interest rates. I really don’t recommend this route unless you *know* you can do it safely.
Eighth, don’t worry if its not “full” HDTV or not. Make sure that it is at least 720p though. Some smaller TVs will tout themselves as HDTV compatible or some crap like that, but they look poopy. The 720p pictures still look amazingly gorgeous. There’s nothing wrong with future-proofing though, and going with the best possible picture, and if it’s a difference of only a few hundred dollars, go for it. In three years you won’t remember if you saved $200 or not going for the cheaper price, but you’ll remember that you stuck yourself with the lower quality.
That’s about all I can think of … just be sure to do a lot of research. Check the connectors on the back. Play with the remote. Look at the features the TV has. Ask lots of questions. And for heaven’s sake, don’t buy on impulse. TVs are heavy and hard to lug back to the store. Especially in the snow. And then the cashiers sneer at you when you want to return stuff.
Have fun, though. HDTVs certainly live up to the hype. :)