Picking the Display Type that Works for YouLCDs and plasmas both have their strengths. The type of video display you choose should depend largely on how you plan to use it. In the past, it was common for plasma displays to have a very "glossy" screen, which tended to reflect a lot of light. LCDs have traditionally had less glare issues. This, plus their higher light output, makes LCDs ideal for bright rooms or for daytime viewing.
By comparison, plasmas are often best suited for areas where there is more light control. They perform their best in darker areas where they aren't competing with ambient room lighting. Plasmas also generally offer superior "off-axis" viewing, which is a fancy way of saying the image can be seen better when viewed from an angle. In a room where there is a wide range of seating locations, or the TV will not always be viewed straight on, a plasma display may be something to consider.
While LCDs used to struggle with off-axis viewing, technology advances have been closing this gap over the years. A surefire way to know if a display will work with your situation is to determine where you will sit at home before visiting a store to look at TVs. Take note of not only the viewing distance, but the viewing angle. You'll then be able to replicate more accurately your normal viewing behavior at the store and get a better idea of how the display you are considering may work in your home.
Making the best choiceWhile the range of choices available in the TV market can be a bit overwhelming, the variety of available displays means there is likely a TV out there that is just right for you. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when choosing a flat screen display:
- Think about where you will put the display
You already know to check whether off-axis viewing is a concern for you, but how many people will be using the display, and from what distance? It's tempting to stand in front of a display when viewing dozens of them at a store, but take the time to view them from the same distances and angles you expect to watch from at home. And speaking of angles, consider that displays are often most comfortably used when the screen is at eye level. Placing a display over a fireplace may look nice when standing up discussing it, but make sure that viewing angle is still right for you if you usually watch while sitting down.
- Check the reflectivity of the screen
Turn off the TV and walk around. Looking at the screen with the power off makes it easier to see how much ambient light it will reflect. Displays with matte screens, common to LCD TVs, are better if your room at home has a lot of bright light. Keep in mind that most retail stores are tend to have a lot of lights shining at different angles. Think about what lights are usually on in your home when you watch TV and where they would be relative to the TV. Also, don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson about the reflectivity of the screen.
- Test the TVs using content you know
Bring one of your favorite DVDs and ask the salesperson to play it on the TVs you are considering. Most retailers show content in which images change quickly. This can make it hard to get a real sense of the TV's picture. Although there are many factors that can affect a display's picture, testing TVs using content you are familiar with can make it easier to focus on the picture.