Consumer Reports – Projection-TV

Major brands include Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Philips, RCA, Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba.

The smallest sets, measuring about 42 inches diagonally, offer only a few more inches of screen than a conventional 36-inch set. Rear-projection sets with 50- to 60-inch screens are the best sellers. The largest of these TVs have screens measuring 70 inches or more. Keep in mind that a set with a 57-inch screen could be overwhelming in a modest-sized room. CRT-based sets are floor-standing units about 24 to 30 inches deep that take up about 8 square feet of floor space. They weigh about 200 pounds and are mounted on wheels. Microdisplay models may require a stand. Most are about 15 to 20 inches deep and weigh about 100 pounds.

Most rear-projection sets now on the market are digital (HD-capable) sets, but there may still be a few analog models. Both types can accept regular TV signals, but HD-capable sets can best display the superior images you get from DVD players and from HD sources (antenna, satellite, digital cable, or digital-video players/recorders). HD-capable sets generally cost a few hundred dollars more than comparably sized analog models. Most have a wide-screen 16:9 aspect ratio that resembles a movie-theater screen.

Within the HD category, there are three types of TV sets.

HD-ready sets. Also called HDTV monitors, these sets can display standard-definition analog programs (which still account for most non-prime-time TV broadcasts) on their own. To display digital programs, they require a digital tuner to decode those broadcasts. If you’re getting your HD programming from cable or satellite, your digital cable box or satellite receiver has the appropriate digital decoder built in. All you have to do is connect your HD-ready TV to the box and you’re all set. Cable companies charge a small rental fee for digital or HD-capable boxes. To receive HD via satellite, you need an HD receiver and special dish antenna(e). Together, these cost about $300, but you may be able to get them from the satellite company at little or no charge as part of a promotion.

You can also get digital broadcasts, including HD, over the air, via an antenna. To do so, you’ll have to buy a digital tuner called an ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) tuner–the external box costs a few hundred dollars. However, there’s no charge for service as there is with cable or satellite. Some satellite receivers also offer a built-in ATSC digital tuner. To receive digital programming via antenna, you must be fairly close to a transmitter, with an unobstructed view. With digital signals, you’ll either have a clear, strong signal or none at all.

Integrated HDTV sets. Also called HDTVs, these have the ATSC digital tuner built in, which enables them to decode any digital signals, including HD, with no additional equipment when used with a roof antenna. You may be able to receive the major networks’ HD offerings transmitted over the air in your area, but not the premium channels available on satellite and cable. To get HD via cable or satellite, integrated sets require an HD-capable cable box, CableCard, or satellite receiver–the built-in digital tuner only works for off-air digital broadcasts.