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How to (and how not to) buy a flat-screen TV

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Part 3: What to do in store After reading Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, you should by now have a good idea of what features and size you want in a flat-screen TV, and this should have simplified your choices a little. Now you should try to view TV in conditions that are as close to your home as possible. JOEL KOPPING guides you through the most perilous part of the process: visiting the store.

When looking at a wall of TVs in a shop, it is usually the brightest one (and not the one with the most neutral colours or best contrast ratio) that looks best. Manufacturers know this and it’s the reason why most TV sets’ default setting is way too bright. For this reason, you should try to avoid looking at a wall of TVs, many of which wouldn’t suit your requirements anyway.

If you have to buy a new TV immediately and you have to choose one from a wall of different models, you could at least try to limit your choices to models that fit in with your requirements. Only, for example, look at 40‚ 100Hz models.

If you watch lot of sport, for example on DSTV, insist that the shop shows you sports from DSTV, as you will want to see how well a TV handles moving images.

To check on colour quality, you could take along your own DVD (a disk, and not the player) or memory stick with pictures of people you know on it. By doing this, you will easily be able to check which TV offers natural skin tone, good saturated colours and real world contrast, based on images with which you are already familiar.

A big No-No: Don’t buy a TV based on brilliant animation displays. Animation almost always looks good and never tells you what real people will look like on the TV set.

A big Must Do: Don’t be afraid to walk out. Don’t be afraid to ask for a better demo.

It’s your money so, if a shop refuses to help or at least try, go to one that will. Rather pay just a little more for a TV that is right for you than pay less for a TV that doesn’t deliver.

I would even recommend that you buy a smaller but better screen (one that for example is good at showing sport) than a bigger TV that isn’t for example a 100 or 200 Hz model. The same holds true for buying a better HD Ready TV rather than a Full HD model that isn’t as colour accurate.

To sum up the approach until now:

1. Ensure that your TV receives the best signal possible from satellite or aerial.

2. Define your needs (not wants) before you go out to buy.

3. Demo TVs under conditions close to those at home.

4. As far as possible, demo TVs with the kind of viewing that you are going to want at home.

5. Don’t be afraid to leave the store if they can’t or won’t do a reasonable demo.

Next, in part 4, we will look at the cables, plugs and peripherals.

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