Retrevo's Gadget Guru Picks Final Four HDTVs for NCAA Basketball Fans

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The NCAA Final Four is only days away and the next best thing to being at the games is watching them on a high definition television. But, basketball and many other sports make unusual demands on TVs. Fast changing foreground and background patterns demand responsive displays while artifacts from slow responding screens can seriously affect your ability to follow and enjoy the game.

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While every HDTV looks great with the latest action flick or National Geographic special playing in a dark room, Retrevo tested the 64 top TVs using real-life requirements of critical and devoted basketball fans

Retrevo, the ultimate in consumer electronics search, has just filed a report naming its final picks of the four best HDTVs for watching the upcoming NCAA Final Four Basketball games. The report reviewed 64 top High Definition televisions in four categories - plasma, lcd, rear projection and front projection (or projectors). Considering seven key product specifications that make for the best HDTVs for basketball fans, the report lists the best four HDTVs for basketball regardless of category as well as the best overall HDTV available from each category.

Because Retrevo scours every resource on the Internet for consumer electronics information, consumers can find all the information they need to research, shop, install and fix their electronic products, whether that information is reviews from publishers, special deals from retailers or support information from forums and manufacturers.

The NCAA Final Four is only days away and the next best thing to being at the games is watching them on a high definition television. But, basketball and many other sports make unusual demands on TVs. Fast changing foreground and background patterns demand responsive displays while artifacts from slow responding screens can seriously affect your ability to follow and enjoy the game.

"While every HDTV looks great with the latest action flick or National Geographic special playing in a dark room, Retrevo tested the 64 top TVs using real-life requirements of critical and devoted basketball fans," said Andrew Eisner, resident gadget guru at consumer electronics research site, Retrevo.com." "If you mostly watch sports, especially basketball, the most common and most popular HDTVs are not going to give you the best picture for televised sports."

THE FINAL FOUR HDTVs for BASKETBALL FANS

Fast Break: Fast response times mean "shudder" free and more realistic picture.
This new LCD from Sharp boosts a 4ms response time - one of the fastest.
Sharp Aquos LC 46D62U

The Three Pointer: a great performer from any angle
Anyone in the room can get in on the game with the Sony BRAVIA ' s 178 degree viewing angle -- any wider you'd be watching TV from behind the baseline.
Sony BRAVIA KDL 40XBR2

The AllyOop: It takes two to make this play for the best Hi-Def picture in picture.
The Pioneer 60inch Plasma is pricey, but oh so pretty with two high definition tuners that define teamwork in tandem.
Pioneer PDP6070HD

The Lay-Up: This is a good value with easy "day-of-the-game" set-up.
Have to go with Sony again and a RPTV (rear projection) lots of features, no mounting, and a lot of TV for your money.
Sony KDS R60XBR2

Getting a Deal on HD:
Consumers can also find the Best Deals Today on HDTVs using Retrevo's patent-pending deal research engine.
The Web's Best HDTV Deals

BEST HDTVs BY CATEGORY
High Definition is not just great for college basketball; with all the games being broadcast in HD and all the major sports networks announcing expanded coverage in HD the serious sports fan should consider upgrading to a High Definition TV. Here is a list of the best overall HDTVs in each of four categories: plasma, lcd, rear projection and front projection.

Rear Projection TV (DLP, LCD, LCoS)
DLP is the most common technology used in projection TVs. DLP (Digital Light Processing) chips use more than a million tiny moving mirrors to project an image on a screen. Some viewers complain about a 'rainbow' affect associated with the spinning color wheel and the somewhat restricted viewing angle. If you're willing to take a slight step down in image quality from LCD and Plasma and live with a bigger box, DLP offers a lot of screen for the money. LCD shutter, LCoS, and even CRT technologies are also used in front and rear projection systems and are worthy competitors to DLP especially Sony's LCoS-based KDS-R60XBR2.
Sony KDS R60XBR2

Front Projection TV (aka Projectors)
Don't forget to consider front projection displays. For under $2000, you can fill a wall. Drawbacks include fan noise, ceiling mounts, cabling, somewhat lower contrast levels, and bulb replacement. Serious Home Theatre buyers may spend over $10,000 for a high quality projector like the Marantz VP11S1.

Marantz VP11S1

Plasma Flat Panel HDTVs
Plasma TVs are heavier (harder to mount), more fragile (lots of glass), use more power, generate more heat, and can be subject to vulnerabilities like burn-in (debatable issue now with newer models) and glare. On the other hand, they can often deliver larger sizes for less money, offer better black levels, better viewing angles, and to many viewers, better color and picture quality than LCD TVs. Like CRTs may viewers perceive glowing phosphors as warmer and richer than backlit LCDs. Among the Top of the line is Pioneer Plasma PRO FHD1.

Pioneer PRO FHD1

LCD Flat Panel HDTVs
LCDs have been getting bigger, better, and cheaper at a very fast rate. They offer higher native resolutions in many sizes often for much less money, use less power, have less glare, are lighter and easier to mount, and are even just a little thinner than Plasma. In the past, LCDs have suffered from poor contrast ratios that make black color look more like dark gray. But in newer generation quality sets, the colors are true and the images sharp. Unlike Plasma displays, they occasionally have stuck pixels. The next generation of LCD TVs incorporating LED backlighting should raise the standard for image quality that Plasma will have difficulty matching.

Sony KDS-46XBR2

The Features That Matters Most for Sports on TV

Resolution

More pixels mean higher definition, more details, sharper images, and a more realistic looking game. Resolution is represented by two numbers. First the number of pixels across across the screen followed by the number down the screen, so that 1080 "i" or "p" represent the number of pixels on the vertical axis. The latest Full HD standard means 1920 x 1080 pixels. LCDs come from the computer side of the industry where reasonably priced high resolution displays are the norm. As a result you will find more and cheaper Full HD LCD TVs than Plasma.

Phosphors and Burn-In

Plasma TVs use technology similar to that used in a florescent light bulb. An inert gas is used to make tiny patches of phosphors emit different levels of red, green and blue light. Unfortunately, if phosphors are left on too long, they may become permanently charged creating a sort of ghost image that never goes away. This was more of a problem with older sets and CRTs (remember screen savers). Newer Plasma TV sets employ technology like pixel orbiters that subtly switch adjacent pixels on an off to prevent any one pixel from being on for too long. Many experts feel that burn-in is no longer a concern.

However, if you're still worried about burn-in, it's been said that reducing the brightness and contrast by a little bit especially during the first 200 hours of use can virtually eliminate burn-in. Sports viewers may be more concerned about burn-in since many sports broadcasts include persistent elements like scoreboards and news crawlers that remain on the screen. Also sports video games often leave elements on TV screens for long periods.

Response time

The ability of a pixel to turn on and off or go from active to inactive in the shortest period can help reduce many artifacts that can be very distracting when watching the fast moving pictures of sporting events. When pixels don't respond fast enough you may notice unwanted effects like trailing, streaming, smearing, ghosting, or jittering. These can appear like streaks or 'comet tails' following moving objects or even as a momentary loss of focus.

Often you'll see response time measured in milliseconds (ms.). A smaller number is better. Many sets are now achieving 5ms. response times which greatly help reduce these artifacts.

The next generation of LCD TVs incorporating LED backlights will virtual eliminate this effect since LEDs can turn on and off faster than the LCDs themselves.

Refresh rates

Most conventional TVs refresh the screen 30 times a second (30Hz). Film displays refresh at 24 frames per second which was considered fast enough to fool the eye. However many of the newer sets are boosting much higher refresh rates. In fact, several LCD TVs were announced at 2007 CES that claim refresh rates of 120Hz. A higher refresh rate should also help reduce many of the artifacts associated with response time.

Viewing Angle

Rear projection TVs have the greatest viewing angle limitations often requiring the viewer to sit 'just so' in front of the screen to get the best picture. Viewing angle is almost a non-issue with LCD and Plasma TVs. The new LCDs have been edging out Plasmas with angles as high as 175 degrees. We don't know anyone who is going to be watching their TVs at these angles. However, for sports viewing, when you have the gang over for the big game, viewing angle is much more critical than when it's just you seated on the lounger in front of the tube.

Lifespan

A concern about older Plasma TVs was the time before brightness started to diminish. In older sets, this was commonly spec'ed at around 20,000 hours or about 10 years of normal use. Today's Plasma TVs claim 60,000 hours before brightness is affected. It's probably a safe bet that you won't be concerned about this when it starts to happen 30 years from now.

High Altitude

If you live in Denver or other higher altitude locations, you may want to pay attention to this one. We've read that due to the use of gas filled chambers, Plasma TVs can make a noticeable buzzing sound at high altitudes. However, most Plasma sets are rated at 6500 feet and higher so if you're living in the mile high city, make sure you read the altitude specs.

Bottom Line

Due to the faster rate of improvements and the fact that there are more Full HD TVs available at affordable prices, Retrevo gives an edge to LCD TVs over Plasma. We recognize that many viewers will find the image quality of Plasma displays more pleasing to watch. Plasma can also offer some better values in large screen displays. The new standard in high definition is 1920 x 1080 pixels (now called 'Full HD'). Make sure your set has as many HDMI ports as you can get for things like DVD players, cable boxes, game consoles and more. How much screen is right for you and your space is very much a personal preference. Plasmas tend to come in larger sizes especially the new 1080P models while LCD offer a greater range of sizes in all resolutions and prices.

Further Reading on Retrevo

Retrevo can find manuals. pages within manuals, reviews, blog posts, forum discussions, deals, shopping info, and lots more on most popular High Def TVs and other consumer electronic products. Here is a sample of some searches on Retrevo

HDTV Results page on Retrevo

HDMI Connections on a Sharp Aquos

Mounting the Marantz VP11S1 Projector

Adjusting the picture on the Pioneer PRO-FHD1

Sony Bravia KDL-40XBR2 Reviews

About Retrevo

Retrevo is a one-stop destination for consumers to research, shop, or fix their electronic products. Retrevo helps consumers compare community opinions, find pre-purchase information, monitor daily deals and obtain product documentation for technical support and troubleshooting. The company provides succinct information in 12 consumer electronics categories, including cell phones, smartphones, cameras, camcorders, home audio and home video, portable audio and portable video, printers and wireless networking (WiFi). Retrevo is backed by Alloy Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners, and is based in Sunnyvale, California. More at http://www.retrevo.com

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