The Complete LCD TV Guide

LCD Televisions have been coming out bigger, better and cheaper! Within just a few years, the LCD television has become the HDTV of choice as 46-inch and 55-inch LCD TVs are selling at a price that is in line with that of plasma TVs.

Still, LCD HDTVs make for a big investment especially at the premium-end category; going for the wrong choice is not an option. Unfortunately, the vast choice available often makes selecting an LCD television a rather difficult task.

Help is on the way! We are presenting a series of Television guides that should make it easier to get a better understanding of all you need to know about LCD TVs―from the technology behind LCD HDTVs, to an analysis of plasma versus LCD; the latter should help you decide which technology best fits your need.

We are also publishing a number of flat-panel TV installation guides that should enable anyone with basic DIY skills, achieve a professional installation job.

LCD HDTVs: Sleek & Versatile

Up to not long ago, you had no choice for a  direct-view TV; all sets were of the same kind, using old but reliable cathode-ray tube technology.

That is no longer the case. What used to be just a popular laptop screen technology ― LCD ― has for the last ten years been used to a great effect by HDTV makers, to the extent that at the sub-46-inch class, LCD is now the only mass-market flat-panel TV technology. What’s more, with the latest affordable one-inch thin LED TVs, LCD has become the TV technology of choice at anything up to 55-inch.

Larger LED TVs at 65-inch and above are also readily available. It was in 2011 when we saw the first 70-inch LED HDTVs for the consumer market. Larger LED TVs followed in 2012 – a trend that has now continued during 2013 with sets such as the 75-inch Samsung UN75F6400 120Hz 3D Smart LED TV, the relatively inexpensive (at $2,000) 70-inch Sharp LC-70LE757  Aquos Quattron 1080p 240Hz Smart LED 3D TV, and the highly popular 70-inch Vizio M70d-A3R 240Hz 3D Smart LED TV featured here – which at under $2,200 is among the cheapest 70-inch LED TVs available on the market at this screen size and feature set.

The irony is that out of the two, it is the Vizio M-series that is doing better in TV sales despite the Sharp $200 cheaper price tag over the corresponding Vizio M-series 1080p LED TV; the latter Vizio series is available in an incredible wide range of screen sizes – nine in total, ranging from 32-inch up to a massive 80-inch.

It is true that these are relatively massive TVs on the cheap, but do not expect a superior picture at this price bracket from such massive LED TVs; both brands have their share of issues with picture quality. However… if you are looking for an inexpensive TV with a massive screen, both Vizio and Sharp deliver!

An interesting development in the HDTV market is that at anything larger than 65-inch, the only available flat-panel TV option is a LED TV; plasma TV sizes stop at around 65-inch while the new OLED TVs are presently available only at 55-inch. This 65-inch upper limit for plasma TVs is rather strange as plasma TV technology still carries a price and picture quality advantage over LED TVs at these larger sizes, though with present 2013 pricing, the plasma price advantage is vanishing fast even at the larger screen size.

Another important development in the LCD TV market is that at anything larger than 46-inch, LED is your only LCD option. This is unfortunate as the so called ‘old school’ LCD technology has still a lot to offer with respect to more expensive LED TVs; CCFL LCDs often support wider viewing angles and improved brightness uniformity across the screen than LED TVs.

At the same time, we have to remark that LED TVs have their advantages – most important is their significantly lower power consumption, a much higher contrast ratio, and yes… an excellent overall picture quality. The latter is mainly the result of new developments in LED backlights that allow for a more precise localized control of the image brightness than previous LED backlight systems. The result is a great TV picture especially with backlight systems using some form of intelligent zone or local dimming.

Mentioning LED backlights, it should be noted that the term ‘zone dimming’ and its many derivatives are often used in a somewhat misleading manner by TV makers to deliver the incorrect message that these LED backlight technologies are capable of the same precise control as the more expensive full-array LED backlights with local dimming technology; as we further explain in our LCD Technology Guide, this is not the case.

New HDTVs: Pricing and Trends

Pricing: As has been the case since 2011, we are not seeing any significant reduction in 2013 HDTV prices over 2012. What we are seeing instead is that for the same price, TV makers are delivering more enhanced features and often, an improved picture; but a lower TV price is not on offer. The only exception are the latest massive 70-inch and 80-inch LED TVs, which have now become much more affordable even for the average family income.

Trends: We are seeing an unanimous shift by all major TV makers towards LED backlights especially as one shifts to anything larger than 32-inch; in addition, at anything larger than 46-inch, LED is the only LCD backlight technology available today.

The result is that the LED TV has now become the dominant TV technology in the home since the most popular screen sizes in home entertainment are 46-inch and 55-inch TVs. These larger TVs offer a more immersive experience due to the added screen estate over smaller screens for a minimal increase in price with respect to smaller 40-inch sets.

Cheaper LED HDTVs use an edge-lit LED backlight that replaces the CCFL backlight in standard LCD panels. Premium 46-inch and larger LED HDTVs often include some form of zone dimming edge-lit backlight technology for improved picture.

The trend here is to move away from the use of the more expensive full-array LED backlight technology with local dimming found on sets such as the excellent Sony XBR-HX929 55-inch 3D LED TV from 2011, to more intelligent zone dimming such as that adopted on this year Samsung F8000 flagship LED TVs.

Developments in LCD TV Technology

There is more to the latest developments in LCD display technology than more affordable and bigger LCD TVs. We have seen a leap in overall picture performance of LCD HDTVs thanks to improved screen uniformity, better off-angle viewing, deeper blacks, more accurate colors, higher refresh rates, improved pixel response times, and high contrast ratios.

And this is apart from the ‘one-inch thin’ LED TVs that offer significant power savings over CCFL counterparts.

Most of the investment by LCD TV makers is being channeled towards improved LED backlight technology; this partly explains why we are no longer seeing any picture quality improvements with CCFL LCD TVs. Mind you, an LED TV does not necessarily imply an improved picture with respect to a CCFL LCD.

Edge-lit LED LCDs tend to suffer more than CCFL LCD TVs in areas of picture brightness uniformity and viewing angle, even though some of the latest LED TVs can do a remarkable job in overall picture quality thanks to improved backlight technologies. Most of today’s midrange and premium LED TVs rely on the use of edge-lit LED backlights with some form of local dimming functionality, at times also referred to as zone dimming.

Even standard edge-lit LED TVs have their own advantageouslike improved contrast ratios, ultra-slim one-inch thin profile even at massive screen sizes, and improved power consumption that is some 40% less than that of CCFL LCD TVs! In fact, typical yearly power consumption of a 55-inch edge-lit LED TV is around $15 to $20!

The major picture quality issue with standard edge-lit LED HDTVs is their lack of brightness uniformity across the full display area though things have improved considerably in this respect.

More information on the different LED backlights in use today is available in our LCD Display Technology guide.

Plasma vs. LCD: Which display technology is right for you?

It is only natural to compare LCD TVs (LED TVs are still LCD TVs) with their Plasma counterparts, in particular when it comes to picture performance. The latest OLED TVs do not feature into the equation here as these are too expensive with respect to both plasma and LCD TVs; in addition, OLED TVs are at present only available in just a few 55-inch curved TV models.

While one cannot say that both display technologies are equal in terms of picture performance, there is no doubt the best LCD TVs are just a hairline away from the best plasma TVs. This means that high refresh rates, high contrast levels, and accurate colors are no longer the dominion of plasma televisions.

Moreover, black level performance of LED LCD TVs with local dimming is the same as that of the best plasma TVs when you view the LED TV picture dead center. The problem is that with off-angle viewing, black levels and color saturation of LED LCD TVs tend to deteriorate faster than conventional CCFL LCD TVs, and even more so than plasma TVs.

It remains a fact that both plasma and LCD display technologies have their share of advantageous and disadvantageous; there is no winner – even more so now that HDTV pricing is becoming more feature dependent than display technology dependent.

What’s more, there are many similarities between plasma TVs and LCD televisions. Like plasma, LCD HDTVs are just a few inches thick while the latest plasma and LED LCD HDTVs both come with a one-inch thin panel.

Their unobtrusive nature integrates well with the rest any room decor. Hence, choosing one technology over the other is more a matter of personal preference, though there is still the need to match the respective display technology characteristics with your specific needs to enjoy the best results.

For a detailed discussion on the pros and cons of plasma and LCD/LED TVs, please refer to our Plasma versus LCD Guide.

LCD Television Guide – Detailed Section Index:

Links to articles, technology guides, and basic installation manuals appearing under this section are given below; complementing this section is a series of LCD HDTV Reviews designed to help make your choice a bit easier.

LCD Display Panel: How-it-works
What is LCD Display technology and how does LCD panels work?

Developments in LCD flat-panel Technology
Discussing some of the latest advancements in flat-panel display technology – including improved CCFL backlights, LED LCDs, and Color Field Sequential technology.

LCD Response Time and Motion Blur
Is faster always better? Is it possible to compare LCD TV response times between different manufactures when the different ways of reporting seems simply designed by some to disguise the hard facts? How does pixel response time relate to motion blur in an LCD TV? Are higher refresh rate HDTVs really capable of better motion performance?

Image Sticking in LCD Televisions
Image sticking is surely one of the least known phenomena associated with the use of TFT LCD panels, yet image retention is not just an issue with plasma televisions. Discover what causes image retention in LCD TVs. What can you do to avoid it?

Plasma vs. LCD vs. LED Television
A detailed 3600 comparative guide to choosing between a plasma HDTV, an LED TV and an LCD television. Issues discussed include Price and SizePicture Matters, and Functional Considerations.

The Contrast Ratio Game – Playing with Numbers!
Discover to what extent high contrast ratio ratings affect the performance of a video display device.

Buying a refurbished LCD Television – Is it worth the risk?
A way to a cheap LCD TV is to opt for a refurbished product but… Discover all you need to know in our guide to buying refurbished electronics and see how you can transform the risk into a smart buy!

Buying a new HDTV – Buy now or wait till later?
Following the CES, many end up engulfed in the dilemma of whether they should opt for a premium LCD TV from the previous year at a heavily discounted price, or wait for the new models to start filling stores shelves and get the latest at a significantly higher price. We discuss this hotly debated issue to help you make a better choice.

A Guide to LCD Television Installation:
Thanks to the use of LCD mounts, installing an LCD TV should be a fairly straightforward task, but… Help is on the way. This installation guide looks at various installation issues from placement to running cables and safety considerations.

LCD Television Mounts:
The different types of LCD TV mounts give rise to mounting options undreamed of with CRT and RPTVs. In this second part of our LCD television installation guide, we discuss the various LCD mountsidentifying their pros, cons and use.

Use of Wiring Channels for flat-panel TV Installations:
Designed for the home installer with basic DIY skills, wiring channels make for ease of TV installation and a professional looking job.

Home Media Cabinets for that Unique Finishing Touch in TV Installation
Maria Yee Line of EcoLuxury™ Home Theater Furniture represents an exclusive three-piece collection of AV cabinets that offers more than just style and functionality. Read here to discover more.

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