Television Buyers Guide

Getting a new television has never been so exciting, thanks to a host of new technologies that deliver crisp, detailed pictures, realistic sound, more channels than ever and stunning designs that you will want to show off.

If you haven't already gone digital or gone HD, now is the perfect time to make the switch. LCD and Plasma televisions have never been so affordable.

Ghana has not switched over to digital broadcasting yet but it wont take long for the country to also switchover and take our television viewing into a new dimension where we can enjoy clear pictures in HD format. You need the right TV set to be able to receive transmitted digital signals.

We've put together a guide to talk you through these exciting changes, what all the jargon means and how you can confidently choose the right television for you.

1. Digital Switchover

The introduction of digital broadcasting and the prospect of high-definition content are transforming television viewing in Europe and the Americas. Some Western European countries started to switch over to digital broadcasting since October 2007 and analogue TV signals are being gradually turned off region by region. We know that Ghana will also switch over soon. With this switch in mind, it will be a good idea to buy a television that can receive digital signals when you purchase a new telvision now.

How to get digital TV

There are three ways of receiving digital channels.

  • Buy and connect a digital tuner (also know as a Freeview Box or Digital Reciever) to your existing television.
  • Get a television with a built-in digital tuner (DVB-T/DVB-C) – these are called integrated digital televisions (IDTVs).
  • Cable(cable tv is not availble in Ghana yet) and satellite TV providers offer free-to-view and subscription channels . You may need additional equipment for this, usually available directly from the supplier, and a one-off payment.

2. The benefits of digital TV

Better picture quality

Digital broadcasts don’t suffer the interference issues of analogue TVs so you get clearer, better pictures.

Widescreen TV

Many digital programmes are broadcast in true widescreen so the picture isn't stretched. That means great looking television that film fans will love.

Get interactive

Digital TV offers a host of interactive services, such as a choice of views or voting for a winner on a reality show. You’ll also have all the listings at your fingertips thanks to the electronic programme guide.

3. High definition explained

Since high definition exploded onto the scene, there’s been a lot of jargon flying around. Here’s the deal.

HD stands for High Definition in general and relates to all the latest technologies required to bring clearer and sharper television pictures into your home. HDTV refers to high-definition programming and the equipment, such as digital receivers, able to receive HDTV.

HD-Ready Symbol HD-ready is a logo often displayed next to actual TVs and means that they are capable of receiving HD transmissions and displaying them

HD-ready TVs:

  • can accept and display HDTV programming - up to the resolution of the TV
  • have a component video input
  • need to be connected to an HD source to actually receive HD programming
  • have an HDMI or DVI terminal so that they can accept a HDTV signal
  • have a screen with a minimum of 720 horizontal lines; so-called full HD TVs have a minimum of 1080 horizontal lines

That means that to watch HD programmes, you’ll need:

  • an HD-ready TV
  • a set-top box to receive HD signals
  • a subscription with a broadcaster that delivers HD programmes

Even if you don’t subscribe to HD programming, buying a HD-ready TV means you’ll be able to enjoy other benefits, including better picture quality from your DVD and Gaming.

What makes HD better?

So what gives HD television and programmes such incredible detail, clarity and intensity?

More pixels equal more resolution. And resolution is the main reason why high-definition pictures look better. Instead of having 576 visible lines of detail, HD programming and HD-ready TVs can display up to 1080 delivering incredible clarity and detail. That’s much more detail than a standard-definition television, which means clearer and sharper pictures. HD also uses millions more colours than normal TV.

The 3 HD formats

There are 3 different high-definition formats:

  • 720p - which has 720 lines and is a progressive scan format - progressive scan means that the whole picture is loaded at once, rather than line by line, delivering a smoother image that stays sharp during motion.
  • 1080i - more lines and pixels.
  • 1080p - the third format, combines the superior resolution of 1080i with the progressive-scan smoothness of 720p. All 1080p formats are known as full HD

So which should you choose – a TV with 720p, 1080i or 1080p?

  • 720p resolution is the most widely available and affordable
  • most current HD programming is in 720p format
  • you will still be able to receive higher standard HD programming such as 1080, the quality will simply be 'downgraded' to 720p

720p - For most of us then 720p will still deliver incredible detailed and realistic pictures and means you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of emerging HD technologies.

1080p and 1080i- Gaming enthusiasts and movie fans with Blu-ray or HD DVD players will find that a 1080p/1080i television is the only way to fully experience the true potential of high-definition PS3, blu-ray, Nintendo Wii and other HD DVD players.

What else affects the picture?

The number of pixels and resolution isn’t the only factor affecting the picture quality. Contrast ratio (the difference between the blackest blacks and the whitest whites) and brightness are factors. A higher level of brightness, for example, will produce a more vibrant picture. Average brightness is 300cd/m2. Most manufacturers also incorporate their own picture-enhancing technologies to deliver more brilliant, realistic colours and to bring further clarity to fast-action scenes. Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, LG and Philips, Toshiba, all have their own collection of such technologies.

4. Choosing the right television for you

When choosing the right television for you, consider the following factors:

  • Your budget
  • Your viewing distance
  • The look you want
  • LCD or plasma

Mamabashop tip

If you are looking to purchase a new TV, we recommend you get a HD-ready digital model, particularly if it is going to be your main TV. The digital part means you’ll receive Freeview and be prepared for the digital switchover. The HD part means you’ll enjoy crisper, richer images when connected to an HD source.

Your budget

In general, the price of televisions depends on the size of the screen and the resolution level although both add to your viewing experience. Integrated tuners and multiple HDMI inputs affect the price, but save you space and a tangle of cables. Some TV models have added extras, such as picture-in-picture, virtual surround sound, comb filter, USB port, PC connections and more. These extras also affect the price. Our range of flat-panel televisions range from less than €150 to €3000.

Your viewing distance

The distance between the TV and where you’ll be sitting to watch it will affect what size will give you the best viewing experience. Sitting too close to a large screen means you’ll miss out on the big picture. Sit too far away from a small screen, however, and you’ll lose the feeling of being immersed in the action.
Below is a guide on the ideal LCD or plasma size for different viewing distances:

Viewing Distance(m)Screen Size(inches)
1.5 - 2.414 - 21
2.4 - 3.023 - 32
3.0 - 3.626 - 42
3.6+43 - 60

The look

The good news is that all this technology comes wrapped up in super-slim designs that can make a design statement in any home.

Want that wow factor? Recreate a cinema-like experience in your home with large plasma. Or hang a stylish LCD as you would a piece of art.

Increasingly, you can also experiment with colour. Black and silver are the most popular, but you can also find white, red, brown and blue television sets.

Flat - panel TVs

Flat-panel TVs have become the most popular television thanks to:

  • lifelike picture quality
  • ultra-thin design
  • fantastic colour representation
  • less glare
  • space saving
  • can be wall-mounted
  • flicker-free picture
  • wider viewing angle

There are two types of flat-panel televisions: LCDs and plasmas. Although based on entirely different technologies, both LCD and plasmas are proven to work and deliver great images. What’s the difference between the two and which one is best for you?

Plasma for size, contrast and action

When LCD and plasma technologies first emerged, plasma technology was more suitable for larger screen sizes of 40 inches or more. LCD technology has since caught up and screens now range from 15 inches to 47 inches. Plasma is still the preferred format for extra large screens, ranging from 50 inches to 63 inches.

Plasma TVs have the ability to reproduce the deepest blacks and as a result have high contrast ratios, the measure of the blackest black compared to the whitest white. Plasmas also can keep up with a fast moving object like a football better than LCD, so that the ball’s motion will look crisper and more detailed, hence more natural.

LCDs for brightness, resolution and wall-mounting

LCD screens can now compete with plasmas and range from 15 inches to 47 inches.

LCDs deliver even and brighter images, making them ideal for very brightly-lit rooms. Also, if you’re looking to wall mount your television, it’s worth knowing that LCDs tend to be lighter and slimmer than plasmas.

When choosing between LCD and Plasma consider:

  • where you will be locating your TV. For a brightly lit room, we suggest LCD technology. If you're wall mounting then a key consideration is weight - LCDs are a lot lighter than plasmas.
  • what you plan to use your TV for, If you plan to also use your TV as a computer monitor then an LCD is better suited to display static images. If you watch a lot of sports, a plasma screen may suit you better as they handle movement well

Both plasma and LCD technologies have developed to address any of their earlier weaknesses, and today it is often a matter of preference.

Mamabashop tip: We suggest you take a look at both plasma and LCDs before making your decision.

5. Sound

We’ve talked about picture quality, but what about sound? Here we explain the different sound systems often incorporated in televisions.

Nicam Stereo

This is a simple, clear stereo sound that comes from built-in speakers. You can upgrade to a separate sound system provided you have the right connections.

Virtual Dolby

Virtual surround sound goes a step further by distributing the sound around the room from the twin, built-in speakers creating the illusion of surround sound.

Dolby ProLogic

This is a five-speaker system which most programmes broadcast in.

Dolby Digital 5.1

Dolby Digital is the official audio standard for HDTV. It delivers five separate channels of sound (left, right, centre, rear left, rear right), plus a sixth channel devoted to bass. Dolby Digital 5.1 is now available from DVDs, Digital Receivers(set-top boxes), PlayStation, Wii and the Xbox.

Surround sound

Audio is an integral part of the HD experience. HD programming is broadcast digitally for crystal clear audio, so its worth investing in a good surround sound system if you can receive HD signals. These typically include a powerful subwoofer and further satellite speakers for a richer sound. Some HD TVs do have an in-built surround sound system.

6. Inputs & Outputs

To get the most out of a plasma or LCD you need the right connections. The type and number of connections you will need depends on what you plan to connect up to your TV. This may include a DVD player, set-top box, games console, USB stick, or camcorder for example.

Scart

Most plasma and LCD TVs have scart sockets to connect digital boxes or adapters, DVD players and VCRs. Scart is simply a type of connection and cabling used to carry video and audio signals, normally located on the back of TVs and videos.

Component video

Component video inputs provide a far higher quality connection ensuring you get the best possible picture from your new plasma or LCD TV.

HDMI and DVI

If you choose a HD-ready TV it will have either HDMI or DVI connections to allow it to accept a digital signal from HD receiving equipment. You’ll need a HDMI or DVI cable to allow you to watch High definition broadcasts. Better cables can make a massive difference to sound and picture quality and aren't worth compromising on. We advice that you buy quality HDMI cables for your HD-ready TV. We can get you quality HDMI cables.

PC input

Many televisions offer a PC input so you can hook up your PC. Gaming enthusiasts will love bringing all the high-definition enhancements to their favourite games.

Mamabashop Tip

Better cables can make a massive difference to sound and picture quality and aren't worth compromising on.

7. Jargons

100Hz

Most TV pictures update at a rate of 50Hz, ie 50 times a second. 100Hz uses digital processing to double the frequency. This reduces the flickering on the screen so you get smoother motion, minimised blurring and vastly improved background clarity.

720p

A TV picture that has 720 lines and is a progressive scan format

1080i

A TV format that has 1080 lines

1080p

A TV format that combines the superior resolution of 1080i with progressive scan.

Analogue

Analogue is the way television has been traditionally transmitted and recorded

Aspect ratio

There are 2 aspect ratios: 4:3, the squarish, standard shape that's dominated TVs since the 1950s and 16:9, the wide-screen format that dominates new HDTVs.

Auto tuning

Televisions with this format will automatically tune in the channels.

Bandwidth

Television material is transmitted at certain frequencies, but in fact spreads a little either side of the frequency. The amount it can spread is called the bandwidth. With digital, the greater the bandwidth, the faster the material can travel. This means that data such as the EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) or Teletext can appear on your screen faster, or picture and sound can be of a higher quality because the bandwidth can contain more information. This actually has to do with transmission and not with your tv set.

Blu-ray

A new media format offering improved picture quality of 1080p/1080i and the playback of high definition video. If your HD TV is not 1080p/1080i compatible the player will revert to 720 resolution.

Contrast ratios

This is a measure of the blackest black compared to the whitest white.

CRT

A cathode ray tube is the standard large-bodied television set, as opposed to a flat-panel design

DVI

A digital picture connection method. Handy for connecting a computer but not as convenient as HDMI

DV input

Insert a digital device such as a digital camcorder into this TV input and then record straight from the device onto DVD.

EPG

An electronic programme guide comes standard with digital TV systems. It provides a digital listings that you can easily navigate using your remote control. You can browse channels, plan your viewing schedule and set reminders.

Fastext

Updated version of Teletext that uses coloured keys on a remote as shortcuts to particular pages.

Freeview

A FREE digital service offering up to 41 channels through an integrated digital television or a separate set-top box.

HD DVD

A new media format designed for the recording and playback of high-definition video with improved picture quality of 1080p/1080i. If your HD TV is not 1080p/1080i compatible the player will revert to 720 resolution.

HDMI

An HDMI output allows you to connect HD sources, such as your DVD player or set-top box without compromising on the quality of the picture.

HD-ready

A TV that can display HDTV when connected to an HD source.

HD TV

High-definition television broadcasting provides exceptional picture quality and true surround sound.

Hz

The picture refresh rate.

IDTV

Integrated digital television automatically receives Freeview channels.

NICAM

Standard stereo sound system.

PAL (Phase Alternative Line)

The television broadcasting system used in most European Countries and Ghana.

NTSC

The television broadcasting system used in most American Countries

Parental lock/Child lock

Parents may lock out unsuitable content for children.

Picture-in-Picture

PIP lets you watch a second programme in a little window.

Progressive scan

Progressive scan means that the whole picture is loaded in sequence, delivering a smoother image that stays sharp during motion.

SCART

A type of connection and cabling used to carry video and audio signals, normally located on the back of TVs and videos.

Subwoofer

A speaker that reproduces very low frequencies. Usually used for reproducing the dialogue from surround sound movies

S-video

A high quality analogue video connection cable.

Timeslip

Pause live TV on a hard drive, rewind to replay the action and then fast forward through the ads to catch up to real time.

Viewing angle

The viewing angle is the maximum side angle from which the viewer can see the screen clearly.

Visible screen size

The diagonal measurement in inches or centimeters from one corner of the screen to the other.

Wall Mountable

Can be used with a selection of wall brackets to display on your wall.

Sept. 2010

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