By Jim Bray
Part One: First Steps
Part Two: The Components We Used
Part Three: Buying a TV
Part Four: Buying a Projection TV
Part Five: Accessorizing
Part Six: Buying a Receiver
Part Seven: Speakers
Part Eight: More on Buying Speakers
We got a projection TV!
My lovely wife, in a moment of weakness, said it could be our family
Christmas present. Then, after having regained consciousness and kissed
the ground upon which she walks, reality struck: how could we avoid throwing
a few grand into the street?
You may face the same task, so Ill outline some of the deliberations
through which we went.
We wanted to do it right, but our budget and our home theater room wouldnt
allow an ultra-high-end unit like a front projector or a plasma screen.
So it would have to be a rear projector but which one?
High Definition TV is the future, but there isnt a lot of HD programming
available yet, outside of network TV. Within the next several years, however,
everything will go HD (including DVDs and the like), so it makes
sense not to shell out a couple of kilobucks on a set thatll be
obsolete before you know it.
Fortunately, it isnt difficult to find forward-compatible
TVs thatll handle HD down the road with the addition of a
Screen size, and screen shape, are also important. Rear projectors run
generally from about 43 to 65 inches (measured diagonally), and the larger
the screen the happier youll undoubtedly be but the farther
back youll have to sit to get the best possible picture.
Your bottom line should be that, unless youre getting line doubling
(which fudges extra resolution) or HDTV, you should sit back
from the set about twice the diagonal measurement of the screen. So if
you have a 52 set, your comfy chair should be about 104 inches away.
This isnt always practical, of course, and its only a rule
of thumb and you may not mind sacrificing a little detail for more
As for screen shape, conventional NTSC TV (the type we know and love)
has a relatively square 4:3 screen shape. The new standards are for 16x9
wide screen, however, which means the new programs wont fit the
old screens. If you opt for a non-widescreen set, youll
have to get used to letterboxing those black bars above
and below the picture that result from the 4:3 square screen not being
completely filled top to bottom by the wide screen image.
This isnt necessarily a bad thing. A projection set I almost chose
had an HDTV-ready 4:3 aspect ratio screen and, since Ive been enjoying
letterboxed movies for years, it wouldnt have bothered me.
On the other hand, if you opt for a wide screen TV, youll have
unused areas to the sides of the picture when you watch old movies
or todays TV or a picture thats digitally stretched
or zoomed to fill the rectangular screen.
My advice? Wide screens a better long term investment.
Get as many inputs and outputs as you can, too, especially S-Connectors
and component video inputs. You should also try the sets remote
control, because if you have trouble using it youre in for an unpleasant
long term experience.
Ignore features like Dolby Pro Logic audio and opt instead for a reasonable
Dolby Digital sound system into which you can hook your new TV. Youll
get much more satisfaction that way.
I wish the makers of big screens would just offer straightforward TVs,
with no fancy audio stuff (and thereby shave a couple of bucks from the
price), but I wasnt invited into their design meetings or focus
TVs are often set up improperly in the stores, unfortunately, so
you may not know how good the picture can truly be until you get it home
and tweak it yourself. You can generally get a fair apples to apples
comparison in the store, however, if you ensure they show you the same
DVD or other high resolution demo on each screen you audition.
The bottom line? Buy the biggest screen you can afford (and that fits
into your room!), buy for tomorrow, and dont be talked into a model
with which you arent comfortable!
What did we buy? A 57 widescreen, HD-ready unit that shall remain
nameless, lest I color your decision because its your money
youre spending, not mine.
Our set isnt perfect, but its close and as more wide
screen programming becomes available well love it even more.
Wed darn well better, after dropping all that cash!
Next we'll look at some inexpensive upgrades.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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