Buying Guide: TVs For Sports Fans
Sporting events are increasingly being broadcast in High Definition and surround sound. Whether it's an LCD, LED LCD or plasma TV, we explain how to pick the right television for watching sport, so you can get in the middle of the action.
Should I Choose LCD Or Plasma?
Today, the difference in performance – particularly smooth motion – between plasma and LCD is barely noticeable. Most importantly, consider your viewing environment when deciding on a television.
- Plasma performs better in a darker environment as it uses a glass front.
- LCD performs best in environments with higher levels of ambient light, due to its backlighting.
Big Screen For Impact
For maximum visual impact, aim for the largest screen that fits your space. Consider the area where your television will sit and measure to see which size will fit; remember, televisions are measured diagonally across the flat screen. It's important to match the screen size with the distance between it and the viewer (known as the "viewing distance").
Faster Pictures, Smoother Motion
When watching fast moving action, like AFL or Rugby League, you want a TV that is capable of fast, smooth picture transition. Slow response results in "ghosting", where images stay on screen longer than intended. For example, when watching cricket on a television with a slow response time the ball appears to have a comet-like tail when it moves across the screen. Consider the following factors:
Response time: The time it takes for a pixel to change from active (black) to inactive (white) and back to active, measured in milliseconds. Response time directly impacts the screen's ability to show fast moving images and well-defined edges.
- The lower the response time the smoother the motion, especially when viewing on large screens; 8ms is a good benchmark for performance.
Refresh rate: The number of times per second that an image is scanned, which is measured in hertz (Hz). Smooth picture transition relies on a television's ability to refresh the screen quickly.
- If you're leaning towards buying an LCD TV, aim for 200Hz, or 100Hz at a minimum.
- With a plasma TV look for 600Hz.
Picture Quality Is The Key
Screen resolution is the number of horizontal and vertical pixels. The more pixels per square inch, the higher the resolution:
|Resolution||Horizontal Pixels||Vertical Pixels||Total Pixels|
The Australian standard for High Definition is a resolution of at least 576p. Most networks broadcast HD content in 720p and 1080i. Watching sport on an HDTV compared to standard definition one is like seeing a movie in a modern cinema versus watching it at home on DVD. Not only is the picture clarity superior, but the added element of 5.1 surround sound immerses you in the action.
- Ensure your TV comes with an HD inbuilt tuner (most do), so you can receive full HD broadcasts and all the free-to-air channels.
- AFL and Rugby League are broadcast at a resolution of 1080i on both Foxtel HD and One HD.
Progressive Scanning Vs. Interlaced Scanning
The "p" in 1080p stands for "progressive" scan, while the "i" in 1080i stands for "interlaced" scan.
- Progressive scan displays an image by scanning each and every horizontal row of pixels in sequence to produce smoother movement with less flickering. Progressive scan televisions deliver the best resolution for fast moving action.
- Interlaced scan displays an image by scanning every second line of pixels alternately (all the odd lines first, then the even lines).
Is Surround Sound Important?
With so much attention on High Definition visuals it's easy to forget that the picture is only half the experience. Surround sound puts you in the middle of the action on the field.
- AFL and NRL matches are broadcast with 5.1 High Definition surround sound.
- A 5.1 channel surround sound system comprises of five speakers and one subwoofer: left and right front speakers, a centre speaker, left and right rear speakers, and a subwoofer.
Record All The Action!
Watching the game live isn't always possible. A Personal Video Recorder (PVR) enables you to decide when and how you watch your sport with some clever features:
- Timeshift: "Pause or record" a live game and continue it at a later time, from exactly where you left off.
- Chase Play: Play back a match while it is still recording, and skip past commercials and replays.
- Hard Drive: A 250GB model will store approximately 50 hours of high definition recordings, just about enough to record your team's entire season.
- Electronic Program Guide (EPG): Gives information about the time, date and classification rating of programs.
- Picture-In-Picture (PIP): If there are two sporting events on at the same time, have one channel playing in a small corner of the screen while watching another.