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1080p LCD TVs, Cheap LED TVs
LCD TV Resolution and LED Backlighting
1080p LCD TVs.High-definition LCD TVs are available with resolution of 720p or 1080p, and the distinction is important. LCD TV resolution is determined by the number of pixels displayed on the screen; the more pixels, the better the picture quality.
This number is almost always followed by the letter "p" or "i". The letter refers to one of two ways that the TV refreshes (or redraws) a frame onscreen, which it does several times a second. "P" stands for progressive scan, which means every pixel in the image is refreshed each time the TV redraws the action onscreen. "I" stands for interlaced, which means the image is redrawn twice -- first all the even-numbered lines in the image, then all the odd-numbered lines. Progressive is the better of the two options because interlaced resolutions may suffer from screen flicker, which is not desirable.
You'll find good quality 1080p LCD TVs and others with 720p in the budget range. Among those we researched, the Vizio E320i-A0 and Sony Bravia KDL-32BX330 support a maximum 720p resolution. The others are 1080p LCD TVs. Some viewers find that 720p suits their needs just fine, but Blu-ray looks best on a 1080p LCD TV. If you have a Blu-ray player, opt for this higher LCD TV resolution.
Refresh rate goes hand-in-hand with LCD TV resolution and is measured in Hz. All the cheapest LCD TVs we researched feature a refresh rate of at least 60Hz, although we're finding more and more entry-level models that support a refresh rate of 120Hz. The Vizio E422VLE, LG 32LM6200, Toshiba 40L5200U, and Samsung UN40EH6000 are examples of 1080p LCD TVs with a 120Hz refresh rate.
Crutchfield's TV buying guide notes that LCD TVs with lower refresh rates may suffer from motion blur. That is, if you're watching a fast-paced football game, you might notice a bit of ghosting as the players run around the field. LCD TVs with 120Hz refresh rates shouldn't have that problem. Regular programming viewed on an LCD TV with a 60Hz refresh rate should be blur-free, as well, which seems to be the case with the models we researched but for the LG 32CS560, as noted earlier.
LCD Contrast Ratio.Contrast ratio refers to the difference between the brightest and darkest color values the screen can display at once. This specification is written as a ratio -- 600:1, for example. The larger this number, the better. One drawback of low-price LCD TVs, according to a buying guide in Tech Hive, is that they don't display dark color values very well. This isn't due to cheap manufacturing practices but is simply an inherent limitation of LCD TV technology.
LCD contrast ratio is the feature TV manufacturers love to manipulate the most. For example, the marketing of many LCD TVs touts their dynamic contrast ratio, which is usually well over 10,000:1, sometimes as much as 100,000:1 or more. But a TV's dynamic contrast ratio is not the same as the static contrast ratio. We won't go into the complex distinctions between the two, but know that the static contrast ratio is the more accurate indicator of a TV's true ability to display extremes of light and dark. Almost no manufacturers report the static contrast ratio anymore, so be wary of claims about cheap LCD TVs with huge dynamic contrast ratios.
LED Backlighting.LCD TVs use one of two methods to light up their screens. Regular LCD TVs rely on fluorescent lights built into the screen and are less costly and more common in the budget segment than LED TVs. Among the models we researched, the LG CS560 and Vizio E422VLE are examples of traditional LCD TVs with fluorescent backlighting. Cheap LED TVs are considered LCD TVs but the screens are lit with LED lights instead of flourescent. LED TVs tend to be brighter and display better black levels than regular LCD TVs, and, of course, carry higher price tags.
There are two types of cheap LED TVs: edge-lit and "full-array." Edge-lit LED TVs, such as the LG 32LM6200 and Toshiba 40L5200U, contain a series of LEDs built into the edge of the screen. Full-array LED TVs, such as the Vizio E320i-A0 and Samsung UN40EH6000, have lights across the entire back of the screen. Both edge-lit and full-array LED TVs may support local dimming, which improves black levels because it can darken specific areas of the screen, as necessary. LED TVs with local dimming are pricier still, and none of the TVs among our picks specify that they support local dimming.
Vizio E422VLE Review
LG 32CS560 Review
Toshiba 40L5200U Review
Samsung UN40EH6000 Review
Vizio E320i-A0 Review
LG 32LM6200 Review
Sony Bravia EX400
Sony Bravia XBR-55HX929
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