What do you need to consider before you buy your LCD TV?

Determine the right screen size based on your budget and your floor plan. Until now, LCDs have been more common in smaller sizes (27" and less). One reason is that quality-control issues have long limited display size: Increasing the size of an LCD panel means adding pixels and three transistors for each additional pixel. It also makes distributing the light evenly more difficult, which, in turn, interferes with color reproduction. This is why colors may appear slightly off or faded in LCD TVs larger than 37".

New factories are coming online in Japan and Korea that can mass-produce the super sized sheets of glass embedded with transistors that are necessary to achieve large-scale LCDs. All of which means you'll be seeing larger flat-screen LCD displays with increasingly smaller price tags. Samsung and LG recently unveiled 55" prototype LCD TVs at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. The price of these panels has yet to be disclosed, and you probably shouldn't expect to see them for sale (at any price) in the US any time soon. After all, the vast majority of LCD monitors sold in the US are 20" or smaller. So, if you're choosing purely based on flat-panel display size, Plasma is still clearly the better choice.

To get the most out of your investment, remember what your mother always said about sitting too close to the TV-that it's no good for you. Well, she might have been thinking about your health, but we're thinking about your viewing pleasure. For the optimal viewing experience, you need to maintain the right distance between your viewing area and your television screen.

The right distance depends on the size of your TV:

  • For 20 to 27-inch displays, you should be able to watch comfortably from 2.5 to 5 feet away
  • For 32 to 37-inch TVs, you should sit back 6 to 8 feet from the screen itself
  • For 42 to 46-inch TVs, you'll need 10 to 14 feet between you and the screen
  • 50-inch LCD displays look best when viewed from 12 to 16 feet away
  • Get the lowdown on HD compatibility

If you're one of the 55+ million households sitting astride cable systems that can carry HDTV signals, your LCD TV will enable you to take advantage of the slightly better (10-15%) picture you can get from a higher resolution unit displaying HDTV broadcasts. Most LCD units come with built-in ATSC tuners, which enable them to pick up over-air HD broadcasts using antennas. In addition, manufacturers have begun packaging ATSC and cable tuners in LCD TV sets, making them optimal for watching HDTV-on local as well as national broadcasts.

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