AfterDawn's Hardware Section
With all the available options, brands, and technology to compare, it's best to start researching well in advance of your purchase. The more you find out before you get to the store, the less time you're likely to spend trying to get the answers after you get there. If you haven't already, check out our Hardware section to find information on Flat Panel Televisions. Using the Advanced Search you can narrow down your selections by a number of criteria mentioned in this guide, and find details on others.
High Definition Video ForumsIn addition to our HDTV database, we also have four High Definition Forums where you can get advice from AfterDawn members and often find people who've already purchased, or at least looked at the models you may be interested in. There are even Blu-ray and HD DVD forums if you'd like to get an idea of what affect the latest disc formats should have on your purchase.
Manufacturer's InformationAll HDTV manufacturers have a lot of information on their websites regarding both general technology and specific models. Although a lot of it's pure marketing, if you know what to look for there's usually a lot of useful information to go with it. In particular it's a good idea to locate some owner's manuals for models you're planning to look at in person. You can find instructions for basic operation, picture setup, and various options for zooming or stretching the picture. You should also look for details on the manufacturer's warranty for each HDTV you're considering.
Features vs. PriceWhen you start your research you should have an idea of what characteristics your ideal HDTV would have. You probably won't get this perfect model, but you can eliminate features that aren't mandatory (or financially feasible) as you do your research. When deciding what you can't live without make sure to ask for some advice from someone who has experience with a particular feature. By eliminating features only found on the best models you may find you quickly reach an acceptable price range to look at.
|* You may find that you can only afford a 1080p HDTV by sacrificing screen size. For larger screen sizes there's certainly validity to prioritizing resolution over screen real estate, but if your TV is smaller than 40" you're not likely to get the full benefit of 1920x1080 resolution. For smaller screens you're generally better off with high quality image processing (deinterlacing and scaling) rather than higher resolution which you might not even notice.|
For some things there's no substitute for looking with your own eyes. Even if you're not ready to buy your HDTV yet the only reliable way to figure out whether you need a bigger screen, higher resolution, or various other features is to look for yourself. Of all the variables that go into your viewing experience, arguably the most important is your own vision. No amount of advice from friends or images on your computer will give you as much insight as 5 minutes in front of an actual TV screen.
Narrowing Down Your ListOnce you've figured out what features you have to have, and have hopefully also decided on at least a range of screen sizes you should try to put together a short list of models that seem appealing. Try to include models from more than one manufacturer, or at least from different lines if you've already zeroed in on a single manufacturer. If you're going to buy from a local retailer you'll need to make sure you have some idea of what brands and models they sell. They may be able to get HDTVs they don't have in stock. If you're not buying from a local store they can still be a good resource for your in-person comparisons. This can be somewhat tricky if you can't find examples of the exact models you're considering, but hopefully you can find similar models for an accurate comparison.
Online Comparison ShoppingAlthough it can be useful to compare prices online, be careful not to assume that online prices are equivalent to what you'll see at a brick and mortar retailer. Don't forget to include shipping costs if you're considering buying online, or even want to compare prices to a local retailer. If you can find a local store that specializes in a particular brand you may also be able to get more detailed information than you'll find on your own.
Take NotesPut together whatever information you might want when you get to the store. Depending on the range of features you're considering and how much help you expect store employees to be this may include details on native resolution, number and type of inputs for SD and HD video as well as audio, and any quirks you may have read about in your research. You may also want to print out portions of the owner's manual relevant to picture adjustments and zoom/stretch modes.