Whether it's for watching the game, for movie night or for challenging the kids to a friendly Rock Band jam, TVs have become the centrepiece in most of our family rooms. But, it seems as though every year, a supposedly superior, more cutting-edge model sweeps the market, casting your current set back to the Stone Age.
Use this guide for the latest options and hottest features to figure out which one will colour your household happy.
A version of this article appeared in our November issue under the headline "Dream Screen," pp. 60-62.
Most of us spend more than 10 hours a week in front of our TVs, so it’s important to place it where it feels good to watch. Wiring often dictates where your screen should go, but if that’s not a concern, focus on placing it in relation to the seating in your room, says Eric Archer, a home-theatre designer at Automated Lifestyles in Toronto.
From a decor perspective, a TV hung over the fireplace may look nice, but it forces you to crane your neck. A 50-inch screen should be five to seven feet from your couch and positioned at eye level from where you’re sitting, so you can look straight ahead at the centre of the TV. Above all, it has to be comfortable for you.
Movie buffs might tout the superior picture of a specific type of screen, but that doesn’t mean it will work with the lighting in your room.
Plasma screens, which use tiny fluorescent lights to create the TV picture, are ideal for playing video games or watching action-packed sports because they can track fast-moving images without motion blur. However, they’re ideally suited to dark rooms, so if you don’t have dimmable lights or blackout curtains, you might want to consider an LED or LCD screen says Kerry Bestward, owner of AV Design Consultants in Cambridge, Ont.
LED screens look good in bright rooms and they’re the most energy-efficient of the three flat screen options. Because they’re backlit with eco-friendly light-emitting diodes they’re slowly overshadowing their LCD cousins, which are backlit with fluorescent lamps.Photo: DCConnell/iStockphoto
To get the most detailed and realistic resolution with any type of screen, opt for a larger total number of pixels — they’re coloured dots in your screen that combine to make an image. When you’re shopping around, you’ll see the resolution expressed as the number of pixels per row, and per column (for example, LG’s 47-inch LED HDTV has a resolution of 1920 x 1080).Photo: Marina_Di/iStockphoto
By connecting to your home Internet access, Smart TVs allow you to enjoy streamed movies, TV shows and music you’ve purchased on your computer. Best of all, you can access them whenever you want, directly from your couch. Plus, you’ll have access to your favourite social-networking apps.
If your screen isn’t already equipped with Smart TV features, you can upgrade with a special add-on. Try Apple TV, which retails for $119 (apple.com) or LG, which sells a Smart TV Upgrader Box for $99 (bestbuy.ca).
If your kids go gaga for 3-D movies at the theatre, maybe you’re considering going for this increasingly available — and popular — feature at home. And just because you have a 3-D screen doesn’t mean you have to watch 3-D content all the time. You’ll still be able to access your favourite 2-D programs (however, you won’t be able to watch them three-dimensionally).
Geoffrey Singer, a Toronto dad of one, passed on 3-D capabilities because he felt there wasn’t enough family-friendly 3-D content to warrant the higher price. (A 47-inch 3-D set goes for about $2,000, compared with as little as $700 for a regular flat screen.)
Singer plans to mount his new screen on the wall so he’ll have ample space to play Xbox with his son, Adam. Though he had to convince his wife that a 40-inch screen wasn’t overdoing it, she now agrees it’s the perfect size for movie nights.
“We make a big deal out of it,” says Singer. “I’ll make popcorn using our old-fashioned, crank-operated popper. And we’ll sit hip to hip on our small sofa, cuddling under a blanket and sharing the bowl.”
1. Panasonic Plasma, model # TC P5OGT50, $1800
This 50-inch plasma screen is crystal clear in 2-D and 3-D and will look impressive even when it's turned off because it's so large and sleek.
2. Samsung LCD, model # LN46D630, $900
This LCD screen is a good option for lower budgets and you can still connect to the Internet.
3. Sony 55-inch XBR65HX950 Series 3D HDTV, $3,600
Watch Avatar as it’s meant to be seen with this 3-D-enabled TV. And don’t worry about catching the latest Downton Abbey, as you can easily switch back to your favourite 2-D programs.