3 Picture quality. Several factors have a significant impact on picture quality, though they are impossible to detect solely on the basis of the technical specifications cited for each TV. Contrast and colour sharpness should top your list of concerns. High contrast lends greater definition to the picture while enhancing detail. Faded colours will make for a picture that’s less vivid, while colours that are too saturated will give the picture a surreal quality.
Unfortunately, we can’t rely on the features touted by manufacturers, who sometimes go as far as misleading the consumer on the issue of performance. As well, the majority of salespeople in big-box stores don’t know much more than you do and will be content to reiterate the manufacturers’ claims. Our advice: Assume that these evaluations are, in large part, subjective and that people’s sensitivity to colour, sharpness and detail varies widely. First and foremost, trust your own eyes and bear in mind that in-store flat-screen TV settings are seldom optimal and lighting conditions are far from ideal.
Other details that make a difference
Above all, don't neglect to establish your needs on the matter of connectivity. The number, accessibility and types of inputs, ports and outputs (HDMI, DVI, VGA, S-Video, composite video, speakers, USB, network) as well as the desired functionalities (Internet access, picture-in-picture, 24p mode, internal hard disk, memory-card reader, universal remote) should be contrasted and compared. Also, pay special attention to sound reproduction: Given the small size of the speakers on either side of the screen, there is often a wide disparity in sound quality from one model to the next. Finally, if you invest in a high-end model worth a few thousand dollars, it might be a good idea to take the extended warranty.