Now that I've done a little research I am completely confused about televisions. Maybe Mark can help? I am pretty price constrained, and I need a 32 inch set. Do I want LED over LCD? Is a 720p set from a maker I know (Samsung, Sharp, etc...) maybe a better choice than a 1080p from a maker I do not? For instance, this 1080p Vizio is a little more than I wanted to pay, but much less than other 1080p sets I've seen. Ever heard of them? What would you buy for around $400?

And lastly, just out of curiosity and because I feel like it is something I should really know the answer to: why can't I buy a nice 27 or 30 inch computer monitor and use it as a TV as well? Or maybe I could do this? Obviously it would be more than a $400 set but I'd get double use out of it. Seems like this isn't possible though, or somehow doesn't work out so great.
- jim 8-01-2011 2:56 pm

i was considering this one for $400.
- dave 8-01-2011 3:21 pm

I like Samsung a lot. The question is just whether we'll be disappointed to only have 720p resolution. I don't watch much (any?) 1080p content at the moment, but that might not be true in a year or two (for instance, the iTunes store is supposedly about to start offering 1080p content.) But do I want 1080p on a worse set (inaccurate color, slower refresh, etc...)? Probably not but I'm just not sure.
- jim 8-01-2011 3:42 pm

The nomenclature is fubar, but that's what happens when marketing people in charge. You may know this, but I'll start with the basics. "LED" and "LCD" are both LCD displays. The distinction is CCFL (florescent) vs. LED backlight. LEDs are going to last longer, will have fewer aging effects, and are much lower power. Being lower power, they can be thinner. LED backlights used to be a price big premium, but I guess that's shrinking.

The distinctions between computer monitors and TVs are getting smaller.

- TV's typically have a tuner, but if you're only using HDMI inputs, that probably doesn't matter. If you have legacy S-video or whatever, computer monitors may not be a great choice.

- TV's typically have more accurate aspect ratios (for video sources). But there are 1920 x 1080 computer displays that get it right. (1920 x 1200 displays may or may not get it right.)

- TV's typically have buili in speakers. Computer monitors may, or they may have a 1/4" stereo jack that outputs analog audio (derived from the HDMI input), so there are workarounds.

- TV's typically do a better job with interlace. (Both 480i and 1080i. Then there's "normal shot-on-video interlace" and "24 frame progressive film converted to interlace via 3:2 pull down".) If you have a source that will always generate a computer friendly format (e.g. 720p60, or 1080p60), you don't need to worry. There needs to be a de-interlacer somewhere in the chain. Internet video sources do this already (and hand off 24p or 30p). Some DVD, some cable, and most Bluray boxes can deinterlace to 60 frame progressive (60p).

In summary, can you use a computer display? Maybe.

- Vizio is a major Chinese vendor, and rapidly climbed to be one of the largest TV makers in the world. When they first arrived several years ago, they didn't make great pictures. (Color, contrast, sharpness, etc. were sub-par.) They're much better now. I haven't done an side-by-side recently. But I wouldn't be surprised if the average viewer found them to be in the ball park with some of the established brands. In a "Chinese brand", Vizio is a much better choice than some of the bottom feeders out there. Personally, I think Sony makes nice pictures. Samsung too. But I haven't shopped in over a year, so my data isn't current.

- 720p vs. 1080p? Good question. If you're buying a TV that will have a second life as a computer display, get the best resolution you can. For just watching TV, at a safe and sane viewing distance, probably won't make that much difference. The quality of your video source makes a huge difference as well. If you're watching a lot of Blu-ray, you may want the higher resolution. If you have a crappy cable company that turns all the HD to mud, then 1080p might not be worth the effort. I tend to sit pretty close to the TV, and tend to watch fairly clean sources, so I like 1080

- Built-in internet video: That Vizio has it. Could be interesting. But I would hazard a guess you have other ways of getting from interwebs to an HDMI cable.

- What to get? That Samsung dave linked to is a safe choice. I like their TV and computer monitors. The Vizio is interesting. The extra resolution is nice. So is the full complement of inputs (e.g. several HDMI inputs vs just one on the Samsung.) You might want to look at one to see how you like the picture. They're often in places like Costco, so it might be impossible to do side-by-side against a top of the line Japanese/Korean TV.

- mark 8-02-2011 12:19 am

Thanks Mark!
- jim 8-02-2011 1:56 am

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