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Home Cinema Systems: Television Technology Explained

As the most prominent part of any home cinema system, the television plays an important role in delivering a cinematic entertainment experience in your home. Modern televisions contain a bewildering amount of technology that requires some explanation if you are thinking of upgrading. The aim here is to decipher the technical jargon and uncover the best choice for you as you compile you’re home cinema system to meet your requirements.

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The Difference Between HD and HD Capable

The HD (1080p) format is the latest high resolution pixel format to give you a high-quality viewing experience. You may have noticed that some televisions are advertised as HD and some as HD capable. There is quite a big difference so don’t be caught out by this. An HD television is capable of processing and delivering the HD video format without requiring an extra device such as a Blu-ray player attached to it. This is an advantage when displaying live programming in the HD format. Many of the main TV stations are now developing HD channels that only show HD content. An HD capable television is only capable of displaying HD that has been processed by another device and will not therefore show HD programming in full quality. It will however, be able to show an HD stream that has been processed by a device such as a Blu-ray player, in full HD quality.

Types of Display

Television displays and their quality depend on the number of pixels. One pixel is made up from three separate colours – green, blue and red. By regulating the levels of each colour every other colour can be created. The main types of display all find ways of regulating and displaying pixel colours to give the impression of motion that produces the picture you view.

LCD Televisions

LCD or Liquid Crystal Display televisions are the most common version of the flat panel TV to be found in the shops. Liquid crystal technology is used in many devices including mobile phone displays and computer monitors. The screen is constructed from two sheets of a material similar to glass that are polarised and stuck together. A coat of a special polymer that holds the liquid crystals is applied to one of the layers. When an electric current passes through the crystals they then either allow or block light from passing through; this is what is known as the refresh rate. The quicker the refresh rate the better the end result. As they do not produce their own light, an external fluorescent light source is needed to backlight the images so they can be seen by the viewer. The advantages of LCD televisions are that they are light, thin, consume less electricity and do not emit radiation. This makes them a popular choice for home cinema systems.

LED Televisions

LED televisions are LCD televisions that are backlit by using an LED light source. Samsung are believed to use 1000s of LED lamps to backlight their LED range. This is actually not a true LED television, but it is a description that is accepted by the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK. This technology improves upon the display standard that was achieved by the fluorescent system and once again allows televisions to be constructed even thinner. LED uses much less power and therefore LED televisions are cheaper to run. They come in at a premium price and are considerably more expensive than LCD televisions.

Plasma Screen Televisions

Plasma televisions are a complete departure from the others. In a plasma TV, there are hundreds of thousands of tiny tubes filled with an inert gas and sandwiched between two screens. The gas glows when an electrical current flows through it. Microchips process the incoming signal and send impulses to these micro gas tubes causing them to glow in combinations that create the appropriate colours and the impression of motion. Plasma technology makes for a high quality display but there are some drawbacks. Plasma screens still emit a lot of heat, can suffer screen-burn from static images, and are quite fragile in that a knock can easily break some of the gas tubes and cause dead spots on the screen.

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