The idiot box got smarter

Buying a tv for your restaurant isn’t as simple as picking out the right size screen anymore. There's plasma vs. LCD. There's HDTV. There's enough numbers to make your head spin—and that isn't even talking about the price. Here’s some help working through the process.

Buying a tv for your restaurant isn’t as simple as picking out the right size screen anymore.  Here’s some help.

Plasma v. LCD
Plasma used to be the king of the hill, but LCDs have done a good job of catching up in size, price, picture quality and popularity. We’ll stick with LCD TVs for this article. They’re available in a greater variety of sizes than plasma and offer a good cost/feature/quality balance.

What about HDTV?
HDTV is a must. Eventually, all cable, satellite and over-the-air television will broadcast in HD. Skip sets that are “EDTV” (enhanced-definition) and go for ones with full HD support. Most models have integrated HDTV tuners. A few options are available as “HD-ready,” which means you’ll have to supply your own external HD tuner or use a cable or satellite box. If you have a box, HD-ready is fine. But you’ll have more flexibility if your set comes with an HDTV tuner built-in.

What the numbers mean
1080p, 1080i and 720p refer to lines of resolution. It’s picture detail. Regular TVs hit up to 480. 1080p is top of the line, though there isn’t much content available in 1080p today. Most viewers will be happy with 1080i and 720p resolutions.

Contrast ratio and response time
Generally, the higher the contrast ratio, the richer the picture quality. So a TV with 1200:1 contrast ratio is typically more desirable than a TV at 500:1. Faster response times help cut down on ghosting and jagged-looking images. So an 8 ms response time is an improvement over a 12 ms response time. Look for 8 ms or faster for best performance.

A few tips
You’ll want to adjust the picture to fit the restaurant’s lighting. An HDTV will only look as good as its content. Generally, HD programming and DVDs will look great. Look for a set with at least one or two High Definition Multimedia Interface, inputs, high quality connectors for digital devices like DVD players.             

Sony Bravia XBR
Jumbo-sized LCD HDTVs come with jumbo price tags. If you want to wow your customers, the Sony’s 52” size, 1080p, three HMDI inputs and a hefty 7000:1 dynamic contrast ratio should do the trick. The 18-month warranty is a welcome extension over
the usual one-year.

Sharp Aquos LC-46D92U
The 46” Sharp Aquos sports some nice features, like a fast 4 ms response time, detachable speakers, three HDMI inputs, 3000:1 contrast ratio and full HD 1080p capability. Those top-of-the-line specs add up to a hefty price tag.

Westinghouse W4207
For a big picture at a budget price, check out Westinghouse’s 42” W4207 HD-ready TV. It has no built-in tuner, so you’ll need to hook it up with a cable or satellite box. It maxes out at 720p, but still manages to work in a picture-in-picture function and an HDMI input.

Samsung LN-S2651D
For spaces that require a smaller set, this 26” HDTV includes a 4000:1 contrast ratio, 8 ms response time, picture-in-picture and a versatile array of inputs, including two HDMI. It’s also a wall-mount-friendly 23 pounds.

Vizio VX32L
This affordable 32” HDTV LCD packs in a lot of features. It comes with picture-in-picture, a PC input, 1200:1 contrast ratio, two HDMI inputs, up to 1080i resolution, 8 ms response time and a one-year warranty.


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