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March 2006

This chapter is from the book


THIS WEEK’S FOCUS: Choosing a Big-Screen TV


When you’re choosing a new big-screen TV, know that bigger isn’t always better. If the screen is too big, picture flaws (including interface lines and the "screen door" effect you see on some LCD projectors) will be more noticeable. The optimal screen size depends on how far away from the screen you’ll be sitting, as well as what video sources you’re using.

One important thing to consider is the aspect ratio of the screen—especially if you’re moving from an old 4:3 ratio screen to a new 16:9 screen. Because screen size is measured diagonally from one corner to another, a 36-inch 16:9 screen will actually be a little shorter, top to bottom, than a 36-inch 4:3 screen. If you’re moving from a traditional 4:3 ratio set to a 16:9 model, you’ll need a screen that measures about 25% wider (diagonally) to maintain the same screen area for 4:3 programming.

You should also consider how far off-axis various chairs are in your viewing room. If you’re sitting too far off-axis, consider going with a slightly bigger screen or with a technology with good off-axis viewing characteristics (direct view CRT or plasma) and avoiding those technologies with poor off-axis viewing (CRT rear projection and all front projection systems).

So what’s the right size? For analog cable or standard definition broadcast signals shown on a 4:3 ratio display, the ideal screen size is four times the number of feet between you and the screen, expressed in inches. For high-definition broadcasts shown on a 16:9 ratio display, the ideal screen size is six times the number of feet between you and the screen, again expressed in inches. So, for example, if you’re watching high-definition programming and sitting 10 feet from the screen, the ideal screen size is approximately 60 inches (6 x 10 feet, in inches).


On this day in 1992, the dreaded Michelangelo computer virus was set to strike. Experts predicted that as many as five million PCs were in danger of contracting the virus, set to erase data on the March 6 anniversary of the artist’s birth. In reality, Michelangelo was a dud, infecting only a few thousand machines worldwide.


Digital television sales are on the rise. Research firm iSuppli (http://www.isuppli.com) says that 5.8 million digital sets were sold in 2004 and estimates sales of 12 million in 2005 and 19.8 million in 2006. For 2005, 26% of these sets will be traditional CRT, 28% will be rear projection, and 45% will be flat panel (either plasma or LCD).

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