Enter a showroom this fall and you’ll find the widest selection of big-screen HDTVs ever, each incorporating different tech. There are hang-on-the-wall plasma and LCD sets, along with DLP (digital light processing), LCD, and LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon) rear-projection TVs. Follow these guidelines: Look for a brightness rating of at least 400 candelas per meter squared (expressed as cd/m2), which is double the brightness of a typical direct-view set. Insist on a contrast ratio (the visual difference between the blackest black and the whitest white) of 400:1. And consider the angle at which you’ll be watching the TV. Rear-projection TVs have poor viewing angles; LCDs and plasmas are more forgiving. Finally, keep in mind that digital displays must “upconvert” analog signals to their native resolution. Since a TV’s ability to handle this conversion without artifacts varies greatly, be sure to check for a good internal converter. Any from Faroudja should be fine.

Advantages: No burn-in; most affordable of the widescreens
Disadvantages: Color isn’t uniform; blacks aren’t very black; contrast ratio is low; limited viewing angle
Size Range: 40 to 60 inches
Price Range: $2,999 to $6,500
Average Resolution: 1,280 by 720

Advantages: The biggest and brightest (500 cd/m2) of the hang-on-the-wall TVs; wide viewing angles (up to 160 degrees vertical and horizontal)
Disadvantages: The phosphors

that create the picture are generally more orange than red–plus they can wear unevenly and with a static picture, cause permanent burn-in.

Size Range: 32 to 63 inches
Price Range: $4,999 to $20,999
Resolution Range: 852 by 480 to 1,366 by 768

Advantages: Highest resolution of any rear-projection; no burn-in
Disadvantages: Limited viewing angle
Size: 57 inches (others coming next year)
Price: $8,999
Resolution: 1,920 by 1,080

4. LCD
Advantages: The thinnest of the hang-on-the-wall TVs, with the widest viewing angle (170 degrees vertical and horizontal); very bright (450 cd/m2); no burn-in
Disadvantages: Fast-moving images tend to blur, so look for 25-millisecond or less refresh rate; blacks aren’t completely black on some models (though it’s improving)
Size Range:

15 to 40 inches
Price Range: $1,299 to $9,999
Average Resolution: 1,280 by 720

Advantages: Very accurate color reproduction; no burn-in; excellent contrast
Disadvantages: Some units create “glitter” artifacts on solid blocks of color; limited viewing angle
Size Range: 43 to 65 inches
Price Range: $3,499 to $10,999
Average Resolution: 1,280 by 720

–Research by Gary Merson