The mind-boggling range of choices might make you feel your old television set belongs to the Jurassic age. But, which flat screen should you buy? What about the size? RAJIB GHOSH gives the low-down on the latest technologies in the market

If your family is like mine, October and November are stressful months. Stressful on the wallet that is. On the top of the agenda is a television set upgrade.

While it may appear to break your heart to let go of your trusted good ol' CRT TV, the bewildering range of emerging technologies does make you think that perhaps your existing TV is from the Jurassic era whose time has come.

So which Flat TV do you buy? What size? What about the fact that size 30 ladies on Indian TV serials end up looking like size 36 on the widescreen TVs?

The new generation

New generation Flat Panel TVs are called LCD TV because the display screen is made up of a Liquid Crystal Display. In an LCD screen, a light source at the back generates pure white light, which is further colourised and filtered by an array of light gates created by liquid crystal technology. Another popular screen technology is Plasma, where the screen is an array of 1 – 2 million tiny bulbs which produce the primary colours. Plasma is preferred in large displays (40” and more) because of economies of production while LCD is preferred where smaller size (50” and less) and fine images are required. Other screen technologies such as AMOLED have not caught on primarily due to their high cost.

A development in LCD panel is IPS Panels. Unlike the advertisement, IPS panels are not hardened to withstand screen knocking. IPS panels actually promise better image viewing angle. While conventional LCD TVs have a viewing angle of at-least 135 degrees, IPS panels increase it to 170+ degrees. This eliminates a typical LCD problem where the image brightness and vibrancy suffers if you viewing the image from the sidelines rather than front and centre. The problem is more noticeable vertically than horizontally.

The latest buzzword in Flat Panel TVs is the LED TV. In these TVs the light source used to produce white light is made up of an array of LED bulbs instead of Fluorescent Lamp technology that is used in conventional LCD TVs. The screen itself continues to be a LCD panel. LED backlight has the advantage of uniform brightness and long life. If buying an LED TV, be sure to ask the salesman if the TV is “Edge Lit” or “Full Back Lit”.

Class 2 Mathematics helps you calculate the optimum screen size for your home. Simply multiply your viewing distance in feet by 4 to arrive at screen size in inches. For example, if you are sitting 8 feet away, then a 32” inch TV is ideal for you.

To calculate viewing distance by screen size, divide the screen size in inches by 4 to arrive at the viewing distance in feet.

An important point to note is that CRT TV images are actually 1.22 times taller than LCD TV images. To get the image height of a 21” CRT TV, you need a 26” LCD TV. A 32” LCD TV image has the same height as a 27” CRT TV Image.

What about the problem of rotund images on TV? The underlying issue is that our broadcasters produce content in 4:3 ratio, while the LCD TV screen features 16:9 ratio. The almost square images of 4:3 format have to be “stretched to fit” on the rectangular 16:9 screen. Do not despair though, all LCD TVs allow you to retain the 4:3 image factor (black vertical bars appear on the sides).

Should you still consider a wide-screen TV? I say yes. Movies in India have been produced in wide-screen ratio since the 70's. DVD discs feature widescreen image size. New HD channels such as Discovery and National Geographic are in widescreen. And most of all, your home video recordings are probably in widescreen format too.

3D TV technology is being widely demonstrated across India as the next leap in TV technology. But, it is still a decade away from becoming commonplace. Broadcasters are slow at adopting emerging technologies because it is phenomenally expensive at their end to change equipment and processes.

For example, widescreen content has been commonplace in the last decade, but broadcasters are only warming up to it now. Perhaps 3D TV is the future but the festival season is already here!

OPTIMUM SCREEN SIZE

To calculate optimum screen size of LCD TV, simply multiply viewing distance in feet by 4 to arrive at screen size in inches. For example, if you are sitting 8 feet away, then a 32” inch TV is ideal for you.