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Choosing a TV for Bright/Dark Rooms

By Greg Robinson
Trying to decide between plasma, LCD and DLP? Here's why lighting is such an important factor.

Contrary to what you may have heard, choosing the right television for your room involves a lot more than just getting something that can handle 1080p. Blu-ray Disc and its high definition resolution will definitely bring out the best in your display, but the quest for the right television begins with a few fundamental questions. How big is your room and how far back will you be sitting? Is it a bright room or a dark room? Are there a lot of windows? When do you most often watch TV? Answering these questions won't tell you the specific model television to buy, but they will help determine the optimal display technology for your space. Let's step through each of these concerns and see how the various technologies stack up.

Ambient Light

The number of windows and overall brightness of a room can play a large role in your overall satisfaction with a particular display. Did you ever sit down to watch a traditional CRT set in a brightly-lit room? You end up watching the room's reflections and little else. When evaluating LCD, plasma and DLP displays, there are definite differences with respect to how each performs in varying degrees of ambient light.

If you have a bright room with a bunch of windows or you like to watch TV with all of the lights on, LCD is probably where you want to focus your search. Whereas plasma panels tend to be highly reflective and prone to glare in a bright room, LCD-based flat panels and microdisplays can often be viewed in the same environment with little difficulty. That said, many plasma manufacturers have started using an anti-reflective coating on their screens to help them behave more like LCD displays under bright conditions. Like plasmas, DLP microdisplays are very bright but many feature protective screens that make them subject to the same glare problems.

Although it may seem as though LCD is the obvious choice, it's important to remember that the most critical aspect of any display is picture quality. Although LCD is more tolerant of ambient light than plasma or DLP, plasma and DLP can arguably create a richer and more satisfying image - especially in the areas of black level and response time/motion blur.

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