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How to choose the TV you want

How to choose the TV you want

| On 27, Dec 2012

(this article appeared on page u2 of The Toronto Star on December 26, 2012. It was not posted in the online edition)

Picture quality, size and the number and type of inputs are the key factorsHow To Choose...

by Maarten Heilbron (Special to The Star)

Searching for tech. bargains on Boxing Day is a Canadian tradition. According to Future Shop’s Elliott Chun, retailers expect Boxing Day to be the single largest sales day of the year. And they are preparing an array of enticing offers to attract shoppers.

Although many sets are available online, it’s worth venturing out, as Richard Bowden at Bay Bloor Radio reminded me: “There are some real one-of-a kind opportunities in the store.”

Many stores started discounting at the end of November to coincide with American Black Friday sales. December bargains were plentiful, but, for many products, the best prices are available today.

A smartphone or tablet is an exceptional tool for shopping in store. You’ll have to make decisions quickly and summoning up online reviews therehelps you steer clear of a product already identified as flawed or faulty. Bar-code scanning apps can help, but nothing beats a Google search.

Danielle Jang at Best Buy recommends advance scouting and a checklist for your preferred products to help you stay on track and on budget. Ads and flyers in today’s paper and online will give you a sense of what to expect. At this time of year, annual “best of” lists can help you target specific brands and models.

Chun forecasts that TVs will be the number-one seller again this year.

For TV sets, LED-illuminated LCD and plasma remain the two primary display technologies.

Advances in plasma technology mean that, in larger sizes, plasma is often your best price-quality proposition.

Both plasma and LED/LCD sets appear on most recommended lists. LED/ LCD sets will perform better in a bright environment. LED/LCD sets are also thinner and use less energy.

The set you choose may support 3D, but I would not pay a premium for this feature. The lack of 3D content makes it one you may rarely use, if ever.

Don’t be distracted by numbers such as refresh rates higher than 120Hz, extra-wide viewing angles or unrealistically large contrast ratios!

I recommend you make your choice based on picture quality, size and the number and type of inputs (jacks).

Picture quality may be hard to judge in store, as sets are not always optimally configured. And Boxing Day is not a good time to ask the staff to make adjustments. Checking a trusted site online can confirm your choice.

While the size of the set depends on your viewing space, bigger is nearly always better; complaints about a set being too big are rare.

Ideally, a set should have 4 HDMI inputs to accommodate a digital TV receiver, a blu-ray or DVD player, a game console and a streaming player. An HDMI port on the front or side panel is handy if you plan to connect a camera or camcorder. Take an inventory of your gear before you start shopping. Use HDMI when possible, but if you have older devices with component (red, green, blue) or composite (yellow, white, red) outputs make sure the set has the inputs you need.

A USB port to view images or play videos from an external hard drive gives you extra flexibility.

“Smart” TVs use Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet to access content such as YouTube or to access online services like Netflix or Cinema Now. While these are useful, Bowden recommends choosing a TV for looks over smart features. A smart accessory, like a streaming Internet player would also provide access to online video services. Look for devices like the Apple TV box, Roku, Boxee or the a Sony streaming player.

Jang suggests looking beyond the big-ticket items for accessories that provide new functions without entailing the purchase of a brand new device. These include home theatre systems for better sound. From simple soundbars you can add to your set to systems with six or more speakers, there will be good deals, says Chun of Future Shop.

Bay Bloor Radio’s Bowden says they will have some excellent speakers at low prices.

My final tip will save you about $48. If you need HDMI cables, head for the dollar store! HDMI cables carry digital signals, so they either work or they don’t. I paid $2 for a two-metre cable. Paying more will not get you a better quality image.

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