Besides looking cool and
oh-so futuristic in your living room, what are the advantages of
owning an LCD TV or monitor?
It's easier to watch.
Flat panel TV displays like LCDs and Plasmas are significantly
brighter and feature higher contrasts than traditional CRT sets.
Which means that an LCD TV will perform exceedingly well under
most ambient light conditions. A brightly lit room won't wash
out its picture, nor will lamplight cause a glare on your
television screen. The beauty of these flat screens is that you
don't have to turn out the lights to see the image clearly and
easily. Nor do you have to worry about eyestrain, since neither
LCDs nor Plasmas flicker the way old-fashioned TVs do.
And, you can watch TV from almost
anywhere in a room since flat-screen LCD television displays can
have up to a 160° viewing angle, which means
your TV will look good when viewed from any point 80° in either
direction from the center of the display.
One issue affecting the overall
quality of the picture reproduced on LCDs has to do with dot
pitch. This term refers to the distance between subpixels of the
same color in adjoining pixel triads. The closer these "dots"
are to one another, the sharper the resolution will be. This is
especially true when displaying computer signal images and
graphs. And the picture in front of you will be more realistic
and detailed. Higher dot pitches also increase the viewing
angles of LCD panels. Since dot pitch is measure in millimeters
(mm), a good rule of thumb is this: Smaller dot pitches make for
sharper images. You generally want a dot pitch of .28mm ["
10,000 pixels/in2 of your display] or finer.
Note: Plasma TV displays have
long been touted as having wider viewing angles than comparably
sized LCD monitors. But recent improvements in quality have made
LCD televisions and monitors comparable to Plasma TVs with
respect to their viewing angles. According to Sharp, a leading
manufacturer of LCDs, the newest generation of LCD displays have
just as good viewing angles as plasma sets, but this is only
true of the better brands. In any event, even the best LCD
monitors have yet to achieve the breadth of viewing angles found
on typical Plasma monitors.
You can watch your new
television right out of the box because the tuner is included.
LCD TVs generally come with tuners and speakers already built
in, so they're more or less plug-and-play devices. Since most
LCD TVs don't require external tuning devices, they are ideal
for smaller applications, where space is at a premium (like
bedrooms and small living rooms) or where clutter is
inconvenient (like crowed kitchen countertops).
Note: Some LCD televisions have
outboard media receivers, though many-like Toshibas-don't.
Always inquire about extra hardware before you buy: You won't
always see your LCD monitor pictured with an external receiver
(even if it has one), so it's up to you to find out whether
there is any "extra" hardware you need to know about.
The picture is smooth,
colorful, and (best of all) wide. LCDs have none of
those annoying scan lines that conventional sets do. This owes
to the fact that each subpixel has its own transistor electrode,
which creates smooth, evenly lit images across the entire
surface of the display. It also enables these displays to
reproduce images that are saturated with color. [256 shades of
red x 256 shades of green x 256 shades of blue " 16.8 million
Note: All this requires an
enormous number of transistors-upwards of 2.4 million for
displays supporting a typical resolution of, say, 1024x768. This
means that, if there is a problem with any one of these
transistors, a subpixel will be affected, which causes the pixel
associated with it to fail. Dead pixels will
emerge over time and with use. In general, though, the number of
dead pixels affecting a given display will be few enough so as
to go virtually unnoticed by the average viewer.
Recent advances in LCD technology
have markedly increased the response time of
these displays, resulting in even smoother on-screen
presentations. One way to think about response time is in terms
of the amount of time it takes a pixel to "refresh" itself-i.e.,
to go from being active to being inactive, which is to say,
ready to be re-activated). Response time is measured in
milliseconds (ms), with the best LCD monitors now clocking in
with response times under 20ms. Slower response times (>20ms)
can cause the image on the panel to lag and appear jerky, an
effect known as "streaking" or "trailing." Another
phenomenon associated with slower response times is
"ghosting." This occurs when the display is made to switch
quickly from light to dark states (or vice-versa). In these
instances, on-screen images may appear to stay on the screen
LCD displays come either with a
16:9 aspect ratio (i.e., 16 units wide to 9 units high), the
proper one for viewing HDTV and for watching DVDs, or with a 4:3
aspect ratio, the norm for most broadcast television shows. If
you opt to go with a widescreen (16:9) display, does this mean
that you'll have to watch some shows where the image is
distorted or stretched unnaturally? No. When displaying a
"normal" or 4:3 picture image from satellite, VCR, or cable TV,
the image can be viewed in a number of ways-in its original
format (with black or gray bars on the sides of the screen), or
in "full" mode (where the image is converted or "stretched"
using specially designed algorithms to reduce the visible
stretch marks as much as possible). Again, the quality of the
picture produced under such circumstances depends largely on the
quality of the television with which you scale-up 4:3 pictures
or scale-down 16:9 ones. Nevertheless, this is only a temporary
dilemma: Since HDTV is shown in widescreen, this is the format
of the future for much of broadcast television.
The display is
multi-functional and long-lived. An LCD is a television
monitor, capable of displaying HDTV, regular TV, and home video.
It's also a computer monitor. In fact, it can accept any video
format. LCD displays typically include inputs for (a) composite
video, (b) S-video and component video, and (c) one or more RGB
inputs from a computer. Because of the high resolution of LCDs,
text and graphics look especially sharp when viewed on them,
which makes them the best solution for displaying data and
Note: Some LCDs (including
many by Sharp) do not come with RGB inputs. If you plan to
utilize your LCD display as a computer monitor, be sure to check
out the specs of the unit you're thinking of purchasing.
You can expect to use your LCD
monitor in many capacities for many years: The average lifespan
of one of these displays is 60,000 hours. If watching TV was
your full-time job, and you did it 24 hours a day, it would take
you almost 7 years to wear out your LCD display. With more
normal viewing habits of, say, 8 hours per day, you can extend
the lifespan of your TV by a decade or more (to about 20 years)!
Note: The lifespan of an LCD
display is generally longer than that of similar-sized plasma
displays. Some manufacturers claim that their LCDs can last
upwards of 80,000 hours when used continuously under controlled
conditions (e.g., in a room with "standard" lighting conditions
and 77° temperatures throughout). Just how realistic such claims
are is debatable. After all, whose living room has no windows
and remains at a perfectly comfortable 77 degrees year-round?
A more immediate concern is the
actual lifespan of the light source in your LCD. This is perhaps
THE critical component of your display unit. It is particularly
important for maintaining a proper white balance
on your TV. As these florescent bulbs age, colors can become
unbalanced, which could result in too much red, for example, in
your picture. So, it pays to buy name-brand displays. You will
definitely pay more for better LCD display brands like Sharp,
Toshiba, JVC, or Sony than you will for cheap Chinese or Korean
variety knock-offs, but you'll get a backlighting bulb of higher
quality and, in the end, a TV whose colors will stay truer
In some cases, the warranty for
this particular feature can be shorter than for the display as a
whole. This means you might have to buy a whole new LCD monitor
because the coverage on its backlight has expired. Moreover,
some bulbs can be replaced, while others are built in to the
unit itself. You should definitely do some research on the
backlighting system, how it's configured, and how it's