Thanks to advances in technology, you’ve got more television options than ever before. Unfortunately, that also means you have more to learn and more decisions to make. Don’t worry — you can figure it out, and we can help.

Performance Criteria

LCD

Plasma

DLP Rear Projection

DLP Front Projection

Brightness

Best

Better

Good

Good

Contrast Ratio (Black Levels)

Better

Best

Better

Good

Burn-in / Image Sticking Protection

Best

Good

Best

Best

Mounting Ability

Best

Better

Poor

Good

Viewing Angle

Better

Best

Good

Best

Response Time (Motion Blur)

Better

Best

Best

Best

Lifespan

Better

Better

Best

Best

Thickness

Best

Best

Fair

Best

Weight

Better

Fair

Good

Best

Screen Size

Fair

Good

Better

Best

(Note: The lifespan of projection TVs are dependent on lamp life, which is relatively short when compared with LCD lamp life, or with phosphor degradation in Plasma displays. Note, however, that projection lamps can be readily replaced without sending the TV out for repair. 

LCD: Hard-Working Flat Panel
Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) create pictures by passing light through a thin layer of charged, polymer crystals, allowing each to reveal or block red, green or blue frequencies to make a color.
LCD is one of the brightest displays available — even brighter than plasma — and is relatively energy efficient. They resist glare, performing well in kitchens or multi-purpose rooms with bright lighting.
Some viewers critique LCD color as cooler or less natural, which may stem from slightly lower black-level performance. Lighter-weight than plasma displays, LCDs are a great option if you are considering wall mounting.

Plasma: Rich Color Flat Panel
Plasma TVs create pictures by charging up a thin layer of neon-xenon gas cells that excite phosphors and cause them to release the right combination of red, blue and green light. Plasma displays can be as little as 6” deep. Compared with LCDs, plasmas offer better contrast and black-level performance, which gives a warmer, richer feel to the picture. They offer wider viewing angles and come in larger screen sizes than LCDs — making them a popular choice for home theaters. Plasmas are, however, susceptible to screen burn-in. Assess your viewing habits to determine if this is likely to be an issue in your home theater.

Rear Projection
Rear projection models may spring to mind when you think “big-screen TV.” Because they generate a very detailed small picture, then utilize a lens to project it to a larger screen, rear projection systems were one of the first large screen technologies to hit the market. Rear projection’s incredibly bulky, heavy cabinets may also spring to mind. But digital microdisplay technologies such as DLP, LCD and LCoS have revolutionized the category, making more compact floor-standing and even tabletop models possible. If you’re willing to forgo the modern look and wall-mountable appeal of flat panels, rear projection can give you a lot of screen size for your money. To get the best from a rear projection TV, you need to sit in the right spot. With a relatively narrow viewing area, both seating height and angle are critical to picture quality. Make sure you have the room!

Front Projection: It’s a Two-Parter
Want a really big screen? Front projection could be for you. Despite your memories of flickery old home movies, today’s front projection HDTVs provide incredible cinematic detail. Projectors eliminate the heavy glass, built-in tuners, bulky cabinets and redundant speakers of other display solutions. Instead, you get some of the highest quality digital imaging components, superb scaling and de-interlacing circuitry, top-grade optics and the ability to display signals from your own HDTV tuner, satellite receiver, cable box, DVD and Blu-ray Disc players on your projector screen or any suitable available wall space. If you can physically mount a screen and projector in your home theater room, and if you can darken the room a bit, front projection systems can deliver the largest display; the closest thing to the “big screen” theater experience. Talk about cost-per-inch value — your screen size is limited mainly by your available wall space. You will need significant open wall space or a separate surface to project onto. And, they do require a darkened room. To get good results, you must control ambient light.

Projection Screens
If you go with a front projection HDTV, you’ll need to project the picture on a large, blank surface that is flat and uniformly gray or white, to help avoid distorting or discoloring the image projected on it.
Screens can be painted on the wall, but in most homes, large blank walls are hard to come by. Even a blank wall may have imperfections that can be distracting. You can have a projection screen permanently installed as they are in movie theaters, or get one that you can pull down and retract. The semi-permanent version is ideal for a non-dedicated viewing space. Make sure the screen you choose is targeted for use with your projector-type and desired projection distance. Projection screens work by diffusely reflecting the light projected onto them. If you choose a front-projector HDTV, no matter how high quality the screen, you won’t get a good image unless you control the light in the room. Use curtains over blinds and down-lights rather than lamps to help keep eyestrain at bay and still produce a bright, clear picture.

CRT: Bare-Bones Budget Solution
Low-cost Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) digital television can be found on the aisles of many retailers — often at prices well below the more modern flat-panel displays. And while not all are capable of full 1080p resolution, most can accept HDTV inputs and will scale the result to create the best possible picture they can provide. Despite their limitations, these “older style” TVs often have great pictures and produce rich colors. It’s a good choice for those who are on a strict budget and can deal with the size and weight inherent with this technology.