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Buying a TV? 11 things you must keep in mind

Buying a TV? 11 things you must keep in mind
A new TV is a pretty expensive purchase, along with being a long-term investment. But nowadays, there are many variables presented to you when buying a new TV, from screen type to screen resolution and internet-connectivity to 3D content. 

We answer 11 burning questions you may have before putting down a sizeable investment on a new TV set...

1. 4K vs 1080p Full HD: Which one to buy?

March 20,2015
4K vs 1080p Full HD: Which one to buy?
This is the big question right now, especially since players like Micromax & VU are bringing the prices down. Micromax's latest 49-inch 4K LED TV with Android is priced at Rs 49,990. If you want to be future-proof and believe in keeping a TV for as long as it lasts, then 4K is the way to go.

India is amongst a handful of countries where 4K broadcast is already available (although content is limited, more will come soon). YouTube has a lot of 4K content online too and you can enjoy it with TV-connected media players. If you don't have any plans to upgrade to 4K for the next two to three years, you can go with a Full HD set.

2. The 3D Debate — Is content available?

March 20,2015
The 3D Debate — Is content available?
If you really plan on watching 3D, then you need a way to get 'real' content. Any 3D TV can up-convert to 3D, but it's not as convincing.

YouTube and others have 3D content, newer gaming consoles support 3D (games and 3D Blu-Ray movies) and you could playback 3D video files from a media player or computer. Real 3D games and movies are limited but available. It's a nice feature to have if you're a 3D enthusiast.

Check the difference between active and passive 3D technologies in TVs. Active 3D uses battery-powered 3D glasses which need to be synced with the TV to work. They are expensive to buy (Rs 5,000-9,000 each) and typically one or two pairs are provided. 

Passive 3D (like LG's Cinema 3D) uses simple polarized glasses -- these are easier on the eyes and cheaper to buy and replace (though admittedly, they cause a loss in overall resolution).

3. Upgradeable TVs: Sales gimmick or useful extra?

March 20,2015
Upgradeable TVs: Sales gimmick or useful extra?
Currently, only Samsung and Vu offer an option of upgrading your existing TV to get new features and add functionality. Samsung offers an Evolution Kit that is compatible with select TV models. This Evolution kit connects to your old TV and offers the updated interface and functionality as the newer generation TV.

As the Evolution Kit costs around Rs 17,000, it is better to go for the model with support for upgrades when it comes to Samsung In comparison, Vu television offers to upgrade the internal hardware of your TV to add PC functionality. Vu Engineers will come to your house; install the computer components inside your TV. You can choose Windows 7, Windows 8 or Mac OS X as the operating system for your TV.

However, the price of the upgrade could vary between Rs 30,000-70,000. In the same price, you can now get a good laptop for your computer requirements.

4. Improving TV audio: Do you need this?

March 20,2015
Improving TV audio: Do you need this?
TVs are getting slimmer and the downside of that is the speakers have become smaller and weaker. Typically, a flat panel TV has only two speakers (stereo) with a rated output of 5 to 10 Watts RMS each.

This may be fine for really small rooms but if you want to improve the overall experience with all sorts of content, you need to improve the sound. For a simple solution, you can get a soundbar (from Philips, LG or Bose).

For proper multi-channel sound, you can get a powered 5.1 speaker system (integrated amplifier) from Logitech, Creative or JBL or you could go all the way with an amplifier and speakers. The soundbar will connect directly to the TV (using headphone or RCA stereo out) while the multi speaker system should ideally connect directly to the source.

5. Which is better: USB or add-on media player?

March 20,2015
Which is better: USB or add-on media player?
Multimedia playback from a USB port is the norm these days, but there may be a catch. As compared to a media player, the TV interface for USB playback might be slow -- check the performance before you buy.

These are some of the questions you should ask: How long does it take to display the files? How long does it take to start playing the file when you select it? Does it support all the common formats you use (MP4, AVI, MKV etc)? Will it display embedded subtitles? Will it scale up standard definition content to HD?

Lastly, if you plan on connecting a hard drive to the TV, check that this feature is supported.

6. Curved & OLED screens: Worth the extra money?

March 20,2015
Curved & OLED screens: Worth the extra money?
While 4K TVs are becoming more affordable, curved and OLED TVs still command a premium. OLED displays offer richer picture quality, deeper blacks and lower energy consumption. Curved TVs have a more immersive experience and look terrific, but they require you to sit at a specific angle.

The experience depends on the type of content you are viewing on the TV. For most users who watch TV for daily soaps, news and occasional movies, it is not worth spending the extra money. For those who want to watch HD/4K movies and sporting events, investing in these technologies is not a bad idea.

Keep in mind that for the premium you pay for a curved or Oled TV, you can get a much larger screen in a 4K LED TV.

7. Android & Windows TVs: What's the big deal?

March 20,2015
Android & Windows TVs: What's the big deal?
A number of manufacturers (VU, Micromax, Toshiba) have launched TVs with Android. They let you install apps from the Play Store and come with a motion sensor remote for games. They have built-in WiFi or Ethernet for internet access to stream video and audio content. Some also have USB ports with support for connecting keyboards, mice and webcams (for Skype).

VU offers a TV with Windows and bundles a wireless keyboard and mouse in the package. You can use the TV just like a desktop computer: install programmes, store multimedia, surf the web or use it for document editing. Opting for a TV with smart operating system is great if you'll use for the added functionality. However, not all brands have this feature.

8. Streaming & MHL: Just jargon?

March 20,2015
Streaming & MHL: Just jargon?
If you have a mobile device with MHL (Mobile High-definition Link) or HDMI out, you can output 1080p video to the TV using an adapter and HDMI cable. If you get a TV with MHL, this means you can connect directly and the smartphone will get charged while connected.

However, you do not always have to connect a video source with a wire. Newer smartTVs can connect to your home network (either Ethernet or Wi-Fi) and stream video from your computer or mobile device using DLNA.

If you don't have a smartTV, you can enable Android smartphone mirroring and streaming with devices like Google's Chromecast or TeeWe.

9. Which set-top box?

March 20,2015
Which set-top box?
Broadly, there are two kinds of set-top boxes: HD and standard. For any HD ready or HD screen, an HD set top box is a must (even though not all channels are HD and even though some service providers have upscaled or faux HD). Within the HD set-top box, you can choose between the regular HD or the HD recorder (DVR). The third kind of HD box is the new 4K ready box; there are no 4K DVR boxes yet.

4K TV sets are getting cheaper and you might think it makes sense to go with a 4K set-top box to go along with it (available from providers like TataSky and Videocon). However, only a few special events (some of the World Cup matches, for instance) are broadcast in 4K. The rest of the time, it works just like the HD set top box.

We think the HD DVR makes the most sense right now, even if you have a 4K TV. Once a couple of channels start full-time 4K broadcast (Discovery and National Geographic might get the ball rolling on this), the story changes.

10. Viewing distance matters

March 20,2015
Viewing distance matters
Most people sit too far away from their TV and this has a negative impact on the way we perceive high definition video. There is an ideal viewing distance range for each size of TV, defined as the optimal distance at which the human eye can best process the detail that HDTV has to offer.

This has been researched by the late Bernard Lechner, an engineer who worked with RCA Laboratories for over 30 years. In fact, this is called the Lechner Distance Chart and you can consult it when you want to find out the ideal viewing distance for a given screen size (or the size of screen you need to buy when you know the distance).

For a 42-inch 1080p screen, the ideal viewing distance is about 5.5-feet and for a 46-inch screen, it's 6-feet.

11. Not enough HDMI ports?

March 20,2015
Not enough HDMI ports?
HDMI is the preferred connection since it transmits a digital signal with discrete audio in a single cable.

Typically, TVs can have anywhere between one to four HDMI inputs (a majority have two or three). Many video sources we use have HDMI outputs (game consoles, HD set top boxes, DVD/Blu-Ray players, computers) so it is quite likely that you have more HDMI sources than you have inputs.

One way to get around this is to use an AV receiver that has HDMI pass through. Usually, this kind of AV receiver that has HDMI pass through. Usually, this kind of AV receiver will have four HDMI inputs and an output which you then connect to the TV. 

If you don't have an AV receiver, there is a simple, low-cost solution: an HDMI switcher. A three-port HDMI switcher costs just Rs 300. It needs no power and a single button can switch between the three video sources.

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