When you come to buy a new 32 inch widescreen TV, new terms are thrown around like they are going out of fashion! Discovering what they all mean could save you from making an expensive purchasing mistake.
So here, for your viewing delight (maybe!) is a list of features commonly called out by manufacturers of modern TV's.
- HD - High Definition. Bigger, faster, better than old-style telly, right?
- HD Ready - An indicator that the tv is capable of the lowest high resolution standard. This is also commonly referred to as 720p, see below for what this means in itself.
- Full HD - A higher resolution standard than 720p, supported by many of the newer 32 inch widescreen tvs. This can be either 1080i or 1080p, again see below for these definitions.
- HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) - A connection standard. This is one of the ways to get a signal into your tv from other sources, like DVD's, set-top boxes and Blu-ray players. This connection standard defines what cables you will need and provides a better quality, digital connection than earlier cable types like SCART. Some TV manufacturers are using this connectivity to all home devices to be controlled by one handset - so the more you have, the less likely you are to be caught out!
- Dynamic Contrast - An LCD TV can show a range of brightnesses from light to dark, but the maximum available in most devices is a range of 1:1000 (the brightest is 1000 times brighter than the darkest). Unfortunately, the human eye can cope with a much bigger range (something like 1:20,000) and so TV images don't look as rich as the real thing. Manufacturers try to get round this by working out if the picture is mainly light (or mainly dark) and moving their 1:1000 "window" of brightnesses up or down that bigger scale. This helps to give better results for the human eye.
- High Refresh Rate - An LCD screen needs to have the picture sent to it many times a second to get the appearance of a moving image. The problem comes when the "pixels" that make up the picture fade away very slowly compared to how the image is changing. This produces a kind of blurring. Screens with high refresh rates have pixels that turn on and off very quickly, helping to eliminate that problem.
- High Frame Rate - Related to the previous point. An image is usually only updated 50 times a second (or 50Hz) on your screen. For fast-moving action, this might mean that a Ball (for example) has moved many pixels in the time in between - giving a jerky feel to the flow. TV's offering a high frame rate try to cheat this limitation of the signal. They slide extra frames in between the normal 50 a second and cleverly calculate where the ball will have gone half-way between the normal frames.
- Freeview - Free to air broadcast of channels. This will replace the normal aerial-based channels - but still provides all the channels most people are used to, while expanding the choice.
- FreeSat - Similar to Freeview. FreeSat delivers its signal through a satellite dish and this is an extra cost in setting up this kind of TV. True High Definition channels are already being sent through this method.
- Optical Audio Output - A way to get the audio signal from your TV to a larger home-entertainment system. Audio purists will use this method to get a very clean signal.
- 720p - The lowest HD standard. Provides a screen picture which is 1280x720 pixels (that is, the height of the image is 720 pixels). The "P" stands for "Progressive". This means that the image is built in one continuous flow of pixels from top to bottom one line at a time with no gaps between
- 1080p - Regarded as Full HD. In this case, the image is 1920x1080 pixels. The "P" version is the same as that for 720p. If you see 1080i, this means "interlaced". This works the same way as an old style TV, where every other line is sent to the screen then the others are sent, interleaving with the first ones. Your eyes see this as a solid picture, but many regard it as an inferior picture standard to 1080p
- LED TV - These newer models are actually still LCD televisions but they use white LED light to shine through the LCD to provide the brightness. They bring significant power savings and better localised contrast to the screens. They are also thinner than normal 32 inch widescreen TVs.
- OLED TV - Very rare so far. These are true LED based televisions, where every pixel is actually an LED that can turn on or off for itself. They provide extremely high contrast levels and even more power savings.