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LCD TV Size, LCD Inputs
LCD Aspect Ratio, Inputs, and Extra Features
LCD TV Size.You might think the larger the TV, the better the experience. Not so.
A buying guide produced by CNET puts that distance at roughly 1.5 times the TV screen's diagonal measurement. For example, the recommended minimum viewing distance for a 32-inch LCD TV, such as the LG 32LM6200, is 3.4 feet and the maximum is 8 feet, making this LCD TV size just right for a bedroom, kitchen, or small living room. For an LCD TV size of 42 inches, the best viewing distances are a minimum 5.3 feet and a maximum 10.5 feet, which works well for an average-size living room or playroom.
A related factor is the aspect ratio, which is the ratio of the screen's width to its height. Old tube-type TVs have an aspect ratio of 4:3. If you've ever watched a widescreen movie on such a set, you probably noticed the black bars above and below the image, which preserve the widescreen effect. The newest crop of TVs -- even LCD TV sizes as small 26 and 32 inches -- are widescreen displays that feature a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is much closer to the aspect ratio of feature films and eliminates the black bars on widescreen DVD playback. (The only exception is when the DVD displays a wider than normal aspect ratio, such as 2.35:1, but most don't.) Note, however, that standard definition programming (there is some left) is still displayed in the old 4:3 aspect ratio, so you'll see black bars to the right and left of the picture when watching such broadcasts.
LCD Inputs.The point of buying a widescreen TV, even a budget model, is to get high-definition picture quality. In order to do that, you need high-quality inputs when transferring video signals to the television from other devices, such as a DVD player, Blu-ray player, or console game system.
Most low-cost LCD TVs feature several types of inputs and outputs. The highest quality input such models offer is the HDMI input, which supports high-definition video and audio signals. Some models boast at least three HDMI connectors, as do the Toshiba 40L5200U and Vizio E422VLE, while a few others, such as the LG 32LM6200, boast four HDMI ports. The remaining LCD TVs we researched -- the Vizio E320i-A0, Samsung UN40EH6000, and LG CS560, feature two. If you have a Blu-ray player, you'll want to connect it to the television using an HDMI cable in order to experience the highest video quality the player offers. Viewers who want to connect multiple devices to one TV should look for a model with at least three HDMI ports.
After HDMI, the next best quality LCD input is a component input. Component inputs should be color-coded red, green, and blue on the back of the TV. Most inexpensive LCD TVs have one or two sets of component inputs. If you use a game system or an older DVD player that doesn't support HDMI, connect to the LCD TV with the component inputs instead. Some budget LCD TVs (including the LG 32LM6200, Toshiba 40L5200U, and the Sony Bravia KDL-32BX330) have a PC input so you can connect your PC to the TV. If your PC or laptop has an HDMI port, you can also connect your PC to your TV using that connection.
A handful of sets in the cheap price range combine component and composite ports into one connection, which reduces the number of ports taking up space on the back of the TV. Composite ports aren't used very often these days, so you'll most likely use this type of port for component connections.
Budget LCDs may also have S-video and composite inputs for connecting to older devices, such as a VCR. The video quality of these inputs is pretty low, however, so try to avoid connecting newer equipment using these LCD inputs. LCD TVs of any price should also have one or more audio outputs so you can connect to an external stereo system for better sound or to create a home theater. All the LCD TVs on our list include audio output.
Other LCD TV Features.Although the best cheap LCD TVs provide commendable images, we learned from our research that experts and consumers aren't wowed with the sound. Indeed, reviews indicate that the cheapest LCD TVs are notorious for bad audio quality. This shouldn't be surprising, really, given that there's not much room in a thin TV case to fit high-quality speakers, which in any event would increase the cost. So audio is one area where manufacturers tend to skimp. LCD TVs in the Cheapism segment feature a pair of small speakers, usually in the 5- to 10-watt range, that generally sound tinny. That said, the models we researched garner few loud complaints about the audio and reportedly deliver sufficient volume to fill up a room.
The extra features that really grab consumers are Internet connectivity and support for Internet widgets. The only two TVs in our lineup with these Smart TV features are the LG 32LM6200 and Vizio E320i-A0; the Vizio E422VLE also comes with Smart TV functionality.
The only 3D TV on our list -- for now, anyway -- is the LG 32LM6200. 3D TV is definitely a frill in this price range. And Television Info says this series from LG offers the best 3D viewing in the market today. If you must have a budget LCD TV that supports 3D, you won't find many choices, although we expect that to change in the not-too-distant future.
LG's 32LM6200 also includes an innovative motion-controlled "wand" remote that displays a crosshair on the screen; just move the crosshair over a menu item or an app icon to select it. The wand remote is a big hit among some consumers, as well as experts from review sites such as LCD TV Buying Guide.
And finally, all the models we researched are Energy-Star certified.
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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