How to Buy a Widescreen HDTV???

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by TommP, Apr 18, 2002.

  1. TommP

    TommP Extra

    Mar 11, 2002
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    I've been shopping for a widescreen HD RPTV for about an hour now, and have many questions. I've spent some time reviewing posts here in the Display Devices Forum over the last few days and seem to become more confused with every post I read.

    Instead of asking you all to recommend a name brand and screen size for me, I'd rather learn about what features to look for (and what the heck they mean).

    I watch my fair share of analog TV via digital cable, but will put up with the various drawbacks of 4:3 viewing on 16:9 in return for enhanced DVD viewing (not prog scan...yet).

    So, what technical/compatability/convienience features should I look for in a widescreen HDTV???

    Will I be pricing myself out of anything really cool by sticking to a $2500 budget?

  2. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

    Apr 15, 1999
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    2500 will buy you a very respectable 50-51" HD-ready widescreen RPTV.

    Since you'll still be watching a lot of 4/3 analog tv, you want to get one with decent line-doubling and stretch modes.

    Poor line doublers can make the picture look artifacty, with jagged edges or smearing of fast moving images.

    If you're not getting a progressive scan dvd player right away, make sure the set's line doubler can do "3/2 pulldown" to convert the 24 frame per second image on film based dvds to 30 fps video. Most all sets have this feature and it can be turned on and off either independently (Sony's Cinemotion) or by selecting a "movie mode". With a set that does this well (Sony and Toshiba are quite good) you won't see much if any difference between an interlaced or progressive dvd signal, and can delay purchasing a progressive scan player.

    All widescreen sets offer at least 4 ways of displaying 4/3 images:

    1--a standard 4/3 image in the center of the screen with gray bars on the sides.

    2--a uniform sideways-only stretch over the entire screen surface--makes everything short and fat, but no image is lost off top and bottom. This is called "full" mode and is the mode you want to use for anamorphic dvd after setting the player for a widescreen tv.

    Some sets still lock into full when fed a 480p signal from a progressive scan player, which means you'll have black bars on the top, bottom and sides when watching a non-anamophic dvd. Look for a set that does not lock into full when fed 480p--Tosh, Sony, Mits, Hitachi, don't lock into full for 480p. I could be wrong but I think Panasonics do lock into full on 480p. Pioneers don't any more, but start at over $3k.

    3--Zoom--this zooms the 4/3 picture equally vertically and horizontally. Fills the screen side to side, and nothing looks too fat or skinny, but the top and bottom of the picture are cut off. Most sets will allow a vertical scroll in this mode to allow you to expose stuff that's normally cut off the top and bottom.

    4--Variable stretch--This is the one mode that varies tremendously from brand to brand. All those above look pretty much the same on all sets, but the variable stretch is done differently by each maker. It basically stretches more at the sides than at the center, so "talking heads" look normally proportioned. Some brands throw in bit of vertical zoom and/or compression to minimize the funhouse mirror effect this mode creates when the camera pans.

    Toshiba, Sony, and Pioneer are much better at this mode than Mitsubishi and Hitachi.

    Most any of the major brands like Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Sony, and Toshiba (in alphabetical order) will do a very nice HD and dvd picture.

    The main differences lie in thier handling of ntsc pictures and the amount of tweaking necessary to get the best picture. From my experience and research, the best "out of the box" sets are generally Sony and Toshiba, followed by Pioneer, Hitachi and Panasonic, with Mitsubishi needing the most tweaking but offering excellent performance after tweaking.

    Along with any set you purchase, I'd consider setting the user controls with the AVIA or Video Essentials calibration discs an absolute must to obtain the best picture and lengthen the life of those hardworking crt guns.

    Spending more than 2500 will get you bigger screen size. 2800-3500 will get you the same performance at 57-65 inch screen size, or a relatively small and imho not very significant performance increase at the 50-53 inch size.
  3. Brad_V

    Brad_V Second Unit

    Mar 8, 2002
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    I watch my fair share of analog TV via digital cable, but will put up with the various drawbacks of 4:3 viewing on 16:9 in return for enhanced DVD viewing (not prog scan...yet).


    A 4:3 HD set (that can do "squeeze mode") gives up nothing to a comparable widescreen except for having bigger black bars when watching widescreen content. On the flipside, a widescreen either has to display 4:3 content much smaller or has to stretch it. The only "enhanced DVD viewing" you will get from a comparable 16:9 set is smaller black bars.

    All depends on how important those factors are to you.
  4. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

    Jun 3, 1999
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    Steve and Brad have pretty much said it all.

    I'd just like to echo their thoughts by noting that $2,500 puts you in very nice territory; there are many worthy display options open to you.

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