Now that you've spent roughly $600 to get a nicely equipped Xbox 360 system, prepare to spend twice that amount to get a HDTV to go along with it. If you're on a budget and don't need a screen the size of Utah, don't fret, because surprisingly, you can still find options that won't have you on an all ramen diet.
Direct-view is how industry insiders refer to any television that doesn't use projection technology. Most of them are the familiar tube TVs you see everywhere--they're called tubes because the glass forms the business end of a cathode-ray tube (CRT). Direct-view tube TVs can be found in sizes up to 36 inches diagonal, and as their screen sizes increase, so does their heft and depth. Sony's 34-inch KD-34XBR960, for example, tips the scales at nearly 200 pounds, measures 24 inches deep, and requires a minimum of two--and probably three--burly guys to lift it onto a stand. Because of size and weight issues, it doesn't pay for companies to make larger tube TVs; they simply aren't practical.
High-end tube TVs can give a great-looking picture. CRTs are still the kings of black level, a term used to describe the quality and the depth of black and other very dark colors. Direct-view tube sets look good from any angle, so the picture quality doesn't change depending on where you sit. These TVs can also easily last 10 years before experiencing a noticeable drop in picture quality.
On the cheaper end of the spectrum, you can easily pick up a solid CRT monitor for well under $200. The screen won't be as large as a conventional TV, but the clarity and image quality will be very hard to top. Samsung's 19-inch SyncMaster 997MB provides all the resolutions you'll ever need with a super-low .20mm dot pitch. If you really want to save some cash, check out the classifieds. People are dumping more than passable CRT monitors at insanely low prices, sometimes even as low as $15.
|Relatively inexpensive; excellent picture quality; wide viewing angle; long life; can be viewed in brightly lit environments.||Bulky and heavy; limited screen size.||These sets are still going strong, and their low prices will keep them around in smaller screen sizes for years to come.|
Flat LCDs are extremely popular in screen sizes below 37 inches, thanks to their stylish looks, and the fact they can fit just about anywhere. Larger LCDs (sizes up to 57 inches have been announced) remain quite expensive compared to plasma and rear-projection models. Not coincidentally, the smallest plasmas are 37 inches.
The picture quality of LCD has historically suffered from poor black levels, but the latest versions are much improved, if not quite up to the best plasmas. LCDs cannot achieve a true black, since there's always some light leaking through the pixels. Color saturation is also generally inferior to plasma, again as a result of the inability to completely blacken (turn off) the pixels. Light leakage affects the purity of the color.
Viewing angle is another weakness of LCD compared to plasma. When watching from an angle far from the sweet spot right in front of the TV, LCDs display brightness and color shifts. In comparison, plasmas look equally good from very wide angles. On the other hand, LCDs will generally have higher native resolution than plasmas of the same size, leading to better detail with HD and computer sources.
On the smaller end of the spectrum, LCD computer monitors offer an extra avenue upon which to travel. If you can live with sub-20-inch screen sizes, you can find numerous options that can use the Xbox 360's VGA output. Cramped spaces like bedrooms or dorm rooms benefit from a dual-input LCD like Dell's 20.1 widescreen UltraSharp 2005FPW.
|Higher resolution than comparably sized plasmas; no danger of burn-in.||Expensive in larger sizes; home-theater image quality not as good as plasma; relatively narrow viewing angle||Prices on this technology should fall precipitously over the next couple of years, following the computer LCD trend. Meanwhile, image quality will go up.|