Nerdmas Guide

Nerd Advice about Holiday Tech Gifts

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One of the most confusing and misleading things about buying a new TV is the language they use to promote them: 480p, 720p, 1080p, 4K, High Definition, Ultra High Definition, Plasma, LCD, LED, CRT, blah blah blah blah blah. 480p, 720p, and 1080p are the most common numbers you will hear. All those numbers mean are how many lines from the top of the tv to the bottom of the tv. So the more lines, the better the picture. 4K is the newest technology and is called 4K because it has a resolution of almost 4,000 pixels or almost 4 times the amount of a 1080p TV. Here is the truth. Pick your TV based on how you will be using it.
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Broadcast TV

All broadcast television is either in 480p or 720p. If you are watching a channel and it is labeled HD, it is in 720p. None of the networks broadcast in 1080p yet and they definitely don't broadcast in 4K. So if you just watch broadcast TV you are fine with a 720p TV.

Movies (BluRay, Streaming, etc.)

If you watch a lot of movies on BluRay then you will probably want a 1080p television. A BluRay player is basically a beefed up DVD player so the video quality is a lot higher. BluRay will actually output at 1080p and 4K unlike your satellite or cable provider.

A lot of people watch movies through streaming devices like AppleTV, Roku, Playstation, Xbox, etc. These devices allow you to watch movies over the internet without having to download the file and take up a bunch of space on your computer. Be careful though, check the resolution that the device plays at before buying. If you have a 1080p television and your streaming player only plays at 720p then you aren't getting what you thought you paid for. This information will be labeled on the box.

Video Games

If the TV is going to be used for video games then 1080p is the best option but there is something to keep in mind that the electronics companies don't really share openly; How far you sit away from your TV should make a big impact on what kind of TV you buy.
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Viewing Distance

This is a really important detail that the retailers seem to leave out when they're trying to get you to buy the latest and greatest. The chart above shows you the optimal viewing distance for watching a certain type of TV and how big the TV is. So, for example, if you have a 50" TV mounted up on your fireplace and your couch is say 13' away, you can see from the chart a 720p TV is just fine. Purchasing a 1080p or 4K TV would be pointless in this situation because there is a limit to what your eyes can actually perceive at that distance. You would have to be sitting 4' away from a 50" 4K TV to actually be able to tell the difference. Keep this chart in mind when someone tries to upsell you.

LCD, LED, Plasma

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), LED (Light-Emitting Diode), Plasma (Plasma gas trapped between sheets of glass). I could spend a really long time going over how each of these works, but who cares?! The important thing is; What's the difference?

LCD - Cheapest, good to low image quality but works the best in the most settings like rooms with a lot of sunlight, etc.

LED - Most expensive because it is the newest. Good image quality. Thinnest and most power efficient.

Plasma - Best image quality, especially with dark colors, but it is the heaviest and the oldest technology. Most companies don't even make them anymore. Doesn't work well in rooms with a lot of sunlight.