How to Buy a Rear-Projection TV

Rear-Projection TV Shopping Tips

Ready to buy? Here are key points to consider before you make the big commitment.

Make some measurements: Some rear-projection TVs have very large cabinets. It's important not only that whatever you buy fits where it needs to go in the room but also that it can be maneuvered through halls, doorways, and stairways to its final destination.

Think HDMI: If at all possible, you should get a set with at least one, preferably two or three, HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) inputs. This will ensure full compatibility and maximum performance with HDTV sources such as HD satellite receivers, HD digital cable boxes, and HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc players.

Compare displays using a variety of material: Just about any current rear-projection set will handle HDTV and DVD signals well, but mediocre cable and satellite signals will give some of them fits. Don't make a buying decision based solely on pictures generated from pristine sources.

Look for good blacks: When you head to the store, bring a DVD of a movie containing some dimly lit night scenes. Use it to check for good black reproduction and ability to render detail in near-darkness.

Take a walk: Around the TV, that is. How does the picture hold up as you move away from the center toward the sides? Also, when comparing the picture on two different sets, make sure you are looking at them from the same vertical angle. If one screen is at a greater distance above or below your eye, it will almost always look darker and duller.

Get to know the remote: A good remote can be your best friend, a bad remote your worst enemy. (Well, okay, we're exaggerating a little, but you get the idea.) Does it have backlighting or glow-in-the-dark buttons to help you see what you're doing when the lights are turned down? How easy is it to find commonly used buttons by feel?

Check the video settings: Now that you've got the remote, pull up the video-adjustment menu and look at the settings. If you thought the picture looked a little (or a lot) off on first viewing, try choosing the median settings for contrast, brightness, color, tint, and sharpness. Those probably won't be optimum, but chances are they're closer than what you found originally. A good display can easily look worse than a lesser one if it's poorly adjusted. Repeat your tests using a variety of sources, including a dimly lit movie, if necessary.

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