Display Buying Tips

1. Be careful about buying a 1080p TV made before 2007.

When the first 1080p TVs came to market in 2005, they came in the form of RPTVs. Unfortunately, though having a 1920x1080 native resolution, most of these TVs did not accept a 1080p video signal. It was not until 2007 that 1080p TVs began to consistently accept a 1080p signal through their HDMI connections [1].

2. Avoid certain 1080p plasmas from Hitachi.

In order to market a TV as 1080p, it has to have a native resolution of at least 1920x1080 Ė most of the time, anyway. Unfortunately, starting in 2007, Hitachi released some 1080p plasmas that had resolutions of only 1280x1080 [2]. Even worse, some 1080p plasmas from Hitachi have resolutions of only 1024x1080 [3 page 59]. In order to make sure a 1080p plasma from Hitachi actually has a native resolution of 1920x1080, click here and be sure that the display specifically says it has a native resolution of 1920x1080 and not just 1080 lines.

3. For laptops, a 1366x768 15.6" screen is probably your best bet.

Laptop screens today come in several sizes, the most common of which are 14", 15.6", and 17.3". These screens typically start with resolutions of 1366x768, 1366x768, and 1600x900 respectively. However, when purchasing a laptop, you are sometimes given the option to increase the resolution of these screens. For example, when purchasing a 15.6" or 17.3" laptop, you are sometimes given the option to increase the resolution of the laptop screen to 1920x1080. Although more resolution is usually a good thing, for laptops you might want to stick with a 15.6" 1366x768 screen. This is for three key reasons: pixel density, price, and computer games.

First, letís look at the pixel density issue. As discussed in the Display Calculations article, pixel density is a measurement of how closely packed together the pixels are in a display and is usually measured in pixels per inch (PPI). For instance, a 15.6" 1366x768 display has a PPI of about 100.45 and a 15.6" 1920x1080 display has a PPI of about 141.21. Unfortunately, the higher the pixel density of a display, the harder it can be to read fonts and icons. By default, Windows has assumed a PPI of 96. You can change this to a higher number, however, and when you do this Windows makes fonts and icons a bigger portion of the screen to increase readability [4].

Unfortunately, changing the PPI setting, which Windows refers to as the DPI (dots per inch) setting, has a few problems. First, some older programs can have problems if the DPI is set too far above 96. Secondly, changing the DPI setting requires rebooting the computer for Windows XP and Windows Vista and logging off the computer for Windows 7 and above [5] [6]. Finally, unless you are using Windows 8.1, Windows doesn't let you have per-monitor DPI settings [6].

Next, letís look at price. Put simply, the extra money you spend on upgrading the laptop screenís resolution, getting a 17.3" screen, or both could instead be put towards getting an even bigger external display that does not have the DPI/PPI issues of smaller laptop screens.

Finally, letís look at computer games. If you play computer games, you are already probably aware that the higher the resolution you play a game at, the lower your frame rate will be. For a desktop computer, you can have both high resolution and a good frame rate by putting in a powerful graphics card. However, for a laptop, you are stuck with whatever graphics the laptop comes with. Therefore, in order to both get a higher frame rate and avoid scaling blurriness, it can be preferable to get a laptop with a lower native resolution instead of a higher one. Granted, you could always get a 17.3" screen with a 1600x900 display and use a center zoom mode to avoid scaling, but constantly adjusting the zoom mode can be a hassle. It should also be pointed out that a 17.3" 1600x900 display has a PPI of about 106.11, meaning that viewing a centered 1366x768 image on such a display would get you an image size of only about 14.77".

4. If you think you might be hooking up a Blu-ray Disc (BD) player to your HDTV, it is a good idea to get an HDTV that correctly shows 24p content.

As pointed out in the Refresh Rate article, a display with a refresh rate that is a multiple of 24 has the potential to show 24p content correctly. However, to be sure that a TV handles 24p content correctly, it is best to check here or look up its review at http://reviews.cnet.com. The only mistake that CNET reviews seem to make is when they claim that a display is able to show 24p content correctly with a 60Hz refresh rate. An example of this is CNET's review of Panasonic's VT50 series [7 page 2] - although this display is indeed capable of showing 24p correctly with its 96Hz refresh rate, it cannot possibly show 24p content correctly with a 60Hz refresh rate since 60 is not a multiple of 24.

5. If you think you might be connecting a computer to your HDTV from time to time, make sure the HDTV you are looking at actually does a good job of displaying video from a computer.

Although one might assume that properly displaying video from a computer is a basic task that any HDTV can do, this is not necessarily the case.

A PC-to-HDTV video connection is typically made with either a VGA or HDMI connection. At the very least, the HDTV should do a good job with one of those two connections. However, the HDMI connection is the more important one to focus on for several reasons. First off all, on an HDTV properly-working HDMI is superior to properly-working VGA. Additionally, you can always buy a VGA-to-HDMI adapter, although you should be sure that the adapter supports both 1080p input and output (the VGA-to-HDMI adapter with a product ID of 6191 from Monoprice supports 1080p input and output). Finally, several key companies are planning on ending native support for VGA in their future products [8], although VGA input and output will presumably remain available via adapters.

You can find out how well an HDTV handles a PC input by looking up its review at http://reviews.cnet.com or elsewhere.

6. If you've bought an HDTV, it's a good idea to have it properly set-up.

The out-of-the-box settings for an HDTV may not be the best settings. Therefore, if possible, it is helpful to find a review of your HDTV that has recommended settings. As it turns out, this is also provided by the reviews from http://reviews.cnet.com.

7. The best HDTV to buy depends on when you buy it.

If you're currently in the market for an HDTV, CNET recommends buying a 2013 Panasonic plasma [9] [10]. That being said, it is worth pointing out that only the more expensive VT60 and ZT60 plasmas offer flicker-free, cadence-correct 24p viewing [11 page 2], meaning film purists on a budget may want to go with something else.

Looking farther out to 2014 and beyond, it's hard to say what the best HDTV to buy will be. Most likely, however, it will be a plasma from LG or Samsung, a 4K LCD, or an OLED [9] [12].

©2013 AVHelpZone.com


1. David Katzmaier. Can 1080p HDTVs handle 1080p sources?. Nov. 18, 2005. Updated Oct. 22, 2007. CNET. ©CBS Interactive Inc.

2. HITACHI INTRODUCES THE WORLD’S FIRST 50-INCH 1080 HDTV FLAT PANEL FOR UNDER $2500. Jan. 8, 2007. ©Hitachi, Ltd. 1994, 2013.

3. Operating Guide for P42H401, P42H401A, P50H401, P50H401A, P55H401, P42H4011, P42H4011A, P50H4011, P50H4011A AND P55H5011. 2007. Hitachi.

4. Long Zheng. Windows Vista DPI scaling: my Vista is bigger than your Vista. Dec. 11, 2006 2:26 AM AEST. istartedsomething.

5. Writing High-DPI Win32 Applications. Oct. 13, 2013. ©2013 Microsoft.

6. Gavin Gear. Windows 8.1 DPI Scaling Enhancements. July 15, 2013. ©2013 Microsoft.

7. David Katzmaier. Panasonic TC-P55VT50 Review. June 4, 2012. Updated Sept. 25, 2013. CNET. ©CBS Interactive Inc.

8. Nick Knupffer. Leading PC Companies Move to All Digital Display Technology, Phasing out Analog. Dec. 8, 2010 7:58:59 AM. ©Intel Corporation.

9. David Katzmaier. Panasonic's exit from plasma will sour TV value sweet spot. Oct. 9, 2013 9:19 AM PDT. Updated Oct. 31, 2013 12:01 PM PDT. CNET. ©CBS Interactive Inc.

10. David Katzmaier. TV shoppers: Now is the time to buy a Panasonic plasma. Oct. 31, 2013 10:47 AM PDT. CNET. ©CBS Interactive Inc.

11. David Katzmaier. Panasonic TC-P60ZT60 Review. May 20, 2013. CNET. ©CBS Interactive Inc.

12. David Katzmaier. Four 4K TV facts you must know. Nov. 7, 2013 11:09 AM PST. CNET. ©CBS Interactive Inc.