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The Informed Shopper

Cox Buying Guides: Buying an HD TV


The high definition revolution is being televised. Every day, more of your family’s favorite network programs and movies, live events and pro and college sports are being broadcast, delivered, streamed and recorded in high definition. It doesn’t stop there: video games and, yes, even the Internet can be enjoyed on an HDTV setup.

Cox is a leader in HD cable services, providing hundreds of hours of free HD programming to our Cox Advanced TV subscribers – from network favs Glee and Modern Family to HBO award-winners like Boardwalk Empire and Entourage to the latest in NFL and NBA action. Add to that the renowned eye-popping clarity provided by HDTV, and you’re probably more than ready for high definition in your home. Totally understandable.

To get started, you’re going to need an HDTV—one that’s capable of handling all the HD programming your family wants, but doesn’t break the family budget for the year. To help you make the right HDTV purchase for your home, we put together the following guide.

TV Type and Screen Size

Most people shopping for an HD TV prefer the slim, flat screen model, which gives buyers several good options for where to set it up or hang it at home, including the family den, the basement rec room or the parents’ bedroom. Most buyers also prefer a bigger screen size when replacing an old tube TV to fully enjoy the highly-detailed picture quality provided by an HDTV and HD service.

When choosing a screen size, keep in mind the viewing distance. For HD sets with a 40 - to 47- inch displays, you should sit about 5 feet from the set so you can enjoy the fine, rich detail of the picture. Sit too far away, however, and you won’t see all the details and other enjoyable features of HD that you bought the set for. In turn, if you sit too close, you will more than likely see the pixels, or dots, that make up and support the images for HD.

To help you determine optimum viewing distance, you can ask a salesperson for the manufacturer’s guidelines or look up an HDTV distance chart online.

LCD vs Plasma

The two most popular models of flat screen HDTVs are LCD and Plasma. Differences in design and picture quality between the two have narrowed over the years, but each still retains a number of unique qualities you’ll want to factor in before making your choice.

The case for Plasma TV
Plasma TVs provide a better wide viewing angle experience, in particular for screens 42 inches and larger. This means images on screen will look the same from almost any angle, an important consideration if the TV is being watched by family or guests sitting around a room. In comparison, most LCD sets provide their best picture only from directly in front of the screen. Plasma TVs also provide a better movie theater experience with deeper, richer blacks and strong contrasts and colors, especially in dim lighting. In general, LCD sets can’t offer the deeper blacks and same sharp color contrast as plasma sets.

The case for LCD TV
Most LCD TVs are brighter than plasma TVs and less reflective, making them better for daytime viewing in rooms with lots of windows or bright lighting. The picture quality on some plasma TVs can look a bit dim in bright lighting. There’s also no risk of burn-in of static images on LCD TVs. Although they have improved, plasma TVs are still vulnerable to burn-in of static images from video games, station logos and other fixed images that appear onscreen for a long time. LCD TVs are also lighter than most plasmas of a similar size, making them easier to move to another room or location.


High Definition TVs offer a higher resolution or pixel count than standard definition TVs. This is a major reason, but certainly not the only one, for the sharper and superior picture quality of an HDTV. Brightness, contrast and color also play an important role in the total viewing experience, as does the quality of the high-definition content you’re watching.

The majority of new LCD and plasma TVs with screens 40 inches and larger now have 1080p resolution, which is considered the resolution standard for a “full HD” Experience. For HD TVs smaller than 40 inches, though, you may want to consider a 720p resolution. On a smaller TV, the decline in resolution from 1080p is barely noticeable, and you may enjoy a savings benefit.

Picture Quality

When browsing in person, keep in mind most stores set the picture quality on their HD sets for fluorescent lighting. Ask if you can watch a demonstration in a darker room and request a program or movie – or bring a DVD or Blu-Ray – that features scenes in dark settings to help you judge the quality of the dark-to-black imagery. With LCD sets, watch from the center then move to the sides to the judge the width and quality of the set’s viewing angles.

Sound Quality

The sound provided by HDTVs and HD programming is a major part of the HD experience. The crisp visuals are complemented by a digital sound experience comparable to that heard in a movie theater. With LCDs and plasmas getting thinner and thinner, however, many of them cannot accommodate a quality built-in speaker system. This isn’t an issue, though, if you intend to connect your HD set to an external sound system.

Video and Audio Inputs

To help ensure access to a premium HD experience, make sure the HD set you choose has several high definition multimedia interface (HDMI) input connections. These inputs support the majority of HD digital and audio from key devices, such as cable and satellite boxes and HD DVRs. Look for models that feature some of its inputs on the front or side of the set. These placements are convenient for quickly connecting a camcorder, camera or game console. If you’re still using old analog equipment such as a VCR, look for a set equipped with analog inputs, which may be tough to find since fewer new models feature analog inputs.

Internet Connectivity

The majority of new HDTVs feature Ethernet ports, allowing the set to access the Internet directly through your home’s broadband connection. Features vary between models and brands, so confirm what you’re getting before making your purchase. Most models don’t provide full Web browsing capabilities, limiting Internet access to specific content such as weather, news and stock ticker widgets. There are, however, HDTVs that can support video streaming from Netflix, Blockbuster, Vudu or Hulu, audio streaming from Pandora, Slacker or Rhapsody, and access to social network sites such as such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr photos.
A smaller, but growing, number of HD sets can connect wirelessly to a home network, eliminating the need for an Ethernet connection. Some of these models feature built-in WiFi, while others offer a WiFi dongle you can plug into the TV’s USB port.

Shop around

Take the time to check out different HDTV brands and models online and in the stores. As mentioned earlier, don’t hesitate to ask the salesperson to view the screen under different light settings, and ask to look at the picture quality across a range of channels (in particular, the movie channels where you’ll get most of your HD content). Of course, you also want to compare prices. You can compare prices easily online and look for the latest consumer reports for new and popular HDTV sets.

Cox HD Support

Once you’ve purchased an HDTV, you’ll want to get the best HD programming available that stays within your home budget. Also, if you decide to subscribe with a cable or satellite service, you want to be able to get properly and safely connected with as few technical hurdles as possible.

With a Cox Advanced TV subscription, you’ll get everything you need to connect to our HD services in one set-top box. There is no need on your part to buy any additional equipment for our service. We also have technical support in your community, available by phone and online, ready to assist you with any of your questions so you can enjoy your new HDTV and HD service to their fullest.

For more information on Cox HD service, please click here.

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