What to Look For When Buying an LCD TV


Written by Rob Clarke in Gadgets
Viewed by 39 readers since 05-10-2009

Back before LCD televisions became the norm, buying a TV was usually a much simpler experience that revolved chiefly around the size of the screen and whether or not you got a VHS player bundled with the package. LCD flat panels require slightly more research if you want to get the best deal but once you get through all the new terms and technical jargon it’s actually quite easy to understand. If you’ve managed to hold off buying an LCD until now, here are some things to look out for.

Contrast Ratio

Contrast ratio can be one of the most difficult things to understand without being shown a direct comparison. The contrast ratio is made up of the difference between the brightest white and the darkest black the screen can produce. A 500:1 ratio means that the screens brightest white colour is 500x that of the darkest black. Ideally, you should look for sets that provide a ratio of 1000:1 or higher. Don’t get too wound up about this though. The contrast ratio is only how the TV will look in absolute ideal conditions. Any reflected light at all will change the contrast ratio from the technical specs.


Scaling occurs because an LCD TV, unlike a traditional CRT, is only really any good at displaying in its natural resolution. Anything smaller will be scaled up while anything larger will be scaled down. Some TVs do this quite poorly resulting in artifacting and jagged lines. It can be difficult to see the effects of this in stores where all the content being played is running the in native resolution for the system. You can ask in forums or check online review sites to get an idea of how well a particular TV can cope.

Native Pixel Resolution

The key to the pixel resolution of your screen is simple – the higher the better. The larger the screen the more likely you’ll find it can cope with a higher resolution. However, don’t assume that just because you’ve found a big screen it will run in a good resolution by default. It can vary from screen to screen. Most HDTVs will offer full 720p resolution and many more will run in 1080p (1280×720 and 1920×1080, respectively). 1080p is the desirable resolution for watching Blu-ray discs. 720p is still ‘high definition’ however, and several different TV companies have adopted it as their broadcasting standard.

Motion Response Time

The response time measures how quickly your TV can keep up with fast moving images. This is mostly important for things like sports games and action films but is generally something to look out for. If you plan on using your TV to play HD video games, response time is even more important. Contrary to most other specifications for LCD televisions, you should be looking for the smallest number here. A response time of 8ms or less is brilliant, but 12ms is still perfectly good. If a TV doesn’t list its response time, it’s safe to assume it’s probably higher than these standards and might be one to avoid.

Other Things to Check

All of the usual things that you would normally think about when buying any television should apply. How long does the warranty last? Where will I be putting the TV and can I wall mount it? What kind of connectivity does it have?

By far the best way of buying a TV is to watch it in action. All the technical specifications will help guide you the right way but most of the well known TV makers all make some stunning systems. Sometimes the only way to truly decide which one you like the best is to watch it in action and simply choose whatever ‘looks’ the nicest. Remember to be aware that stores are likely to up the contrast and over saturate colours to make television look more appealing,


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