The LCD TV is the most common form of flat screen TV. Whereas plasma technology was originally synonymous with flat screen televisions, LCD TVs are now the dominant breed. An LCD television is made up of a backlight and an LCD panel. An electric current causes the liquid crystals to twist or untwist, either blocking or transmitting light and creating an image on the screen. Because an LCD TV's pixels are simply transmitting light rather than emitting it, screen sizes can range from very small up to very large, with no increase in manufacturing complexity.
Although not always the case, an LCD TV can also be incredibly thin and light, with some only millimetres deep. These super-thin and light LCD TVs are ideal if you're looking to mount your flat screen television on your living room wall.
Although all LCD TVs use the same basic screen components, the technology surrounding the screen can be just as important. Features such as 200Hz processing, intelligent frame creation and local dimming backlights can have a big effect on your viewing experience, so don't just buy based on size and price.
What about LED?
There has been a lot of talk about LED TVs lately, but in reality there's no such thing. A so-called LED TV is actually an LCD TV that employs an LED backlight. Traditionally LCD screens have used Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps (CCFL) as the backlight, but recently TV manufacturers have started using LED (Light Emitting Diode) backlights instead. There are many advantages to using an LED backlight in an LCD TV. An LCD television with an LED backlight can be very thin and light, making it ideal for wall mounting.
Using an LED light source can also save on power. But most importantly, an LED backlight can significantly improve picture quality. If you're looking for the thinnest and lightest TV, you'll want an edge-lit LED backlight model. This means that the light source is placed around the edges of the screen, thus taking a layer of hardware out of the equation and making the TV thinner. However, if you want the best possible picture quality, you should opt for a full-LED LCD TV with local dimming. Local dimming means that specific areas of the screen can be lit or dark, which creates far deeper blacks and more vivid colours.
There are basically two high definition standards - HD Ready and Full HD. An LCD TV that's labelled as HD Ready will be able to display a 720p or 1080i high definition source. However, a Full HD LCD television can display a 1080p high definition source. 1080p means that the picture has 1080 lines of data that are transmitted and displayed progressively, or all at once. A Full HD LCD TV will have a resolution of 1920x1080. The good news is that the vast majority of LCD TVs available today are Full HD. HD Ready LCD TVs do still exist, but they tend to be budget models with small screen sizes.
Of course a high definition TV requires a high definition source device to drive it.
If you don't want to invest in a set top box solution like Sky HD, you should look for an LCD TV that has a built-in Freeview HD tuner. With Freeview HD you'll be able to watch high definition content without needing to connect any other equipment to your television. But for the ultimate high definition experience you'll need a Blu-ray player, which will pump glorious 1080p movies to your LCD TV.
Do I want 3D?
Even though most of us have only just got our living rooms set up for high definition viewing, the next big thing is already looming in the shape of 3DTV. With new 3D movies hitting the cinema every week, it's not surprising that TV manufacturers want to recreate that spectacle in the home. If you want to jump on the 3D bandwagon, you're going to have to invest in a 3D Ready TV, which usually means opting for a model that sits near the top of a manufacturer's range. So, if you wanted a 3D Ready Samsung TV, you'd be looking at a high end LED backlit model.
The most important thing to remember about investing in a 3D TV is that everyone viewing will need to be wearing a pair of compatible 3D glasses. Most 3DTVs will come with one or two pairs of glasses in the box, but if you've got children, you'll have to factor in the cost of glasses for the whole family. Then there's the issue of source material. At present there's no terrestrial 3D broadcasts, so you'd have to invest in a Sky HD subscription, or a 3D Blu-ray player to make use of a 3D LCD TV.
If you buy an LCD TV with a built-in Freeview HD tuner you'll be able to view high definition content straight out of the box. But even then, the number of HD channels on Freeview is limited, so if you want to get the most out of your new LCD television, you'll need a few accessories.
If you love movies you should consider picking up a Blu-ray player to plug into your LCD TV. Blu-ray is the next generation of DVD, and provides razor sharp, high definition image quality that will show what your new TV is really capable of.
If you're looking for the largest selection of HD channels, then you'll want a Sky HD box and subscription. Sky's HD service will provide a plethora of movies, entertainment, sport and documentaries in crystal clear high definition.
If video games are your thing, then the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 will provide cutting edge, high definition gaming on your new TV, plus the PlayStation 3 will double as a Blu-ray player too. The latest high definition kit will also require new cables to connect them to your TV, so you'll have to replace your old SCART leads with new HDMI cables.