Television

I went with the Sony KDL-46XBR9. At the time of my purchase (summer, 2009) this was the best non-LED TV that Sony made. It features 240Hz refresh rate, wide color support, and Internet media connectivity. My TV is the 46" model. I would have preferred to go with the 52" model but ended up downgrading the size in defference to the spouse's wishes. For my viewing distance, about nine feet, I find that this size TV is fine for television content but for movies it feels a little small.

One thing which really drew me to this TV is the minimalist bezel around the screen. There are no visible speakers. Being that my system is running on external speakers, the speakers on the TV go unused. Having no speakers visible makes the TV look like more of a part of the system.

The 40", 46", and 52" XBR9 models support Internet media connectivity. This wasn't a major factor in my buying decision. To my surprise, this ended up being one of my favorite features when Netflix was added to the streaming video content. Being a Netflix subscriber I have the ability to watch any item in my "Instant Watch" queue on the television.

Viewing Distance

A major factor in choosing the size of your TV is viewing distance. If you are only two four feet from the screen, a small screen will be fine. If your sofa is on the other side of the room from the TV, you may need the biggest screen you can afford.  One problem you will find is that many sources provide different numbers for the optimal viewing distance. Below is a sample of what you can find. A word of caution, don't take the recommendations of anyone trying to sell you a TV.  Ofcourse, they are going to say "bigger is better" to sell you the biggest possible set.

CNET Recommendations

Here is what CNET has to say:

TV Size (in)  Min Dist (ft)  Max Dist (ft)
263.36.5
303.87.6
344.38.5
425.310.5
475.911.8
506.312.5
556.912.8
607.515
658.116.2

Mounting your TV

If you are building a home theater system you likely want your televsion mounted to the wall rather than sitting on a stand. There are all sorts of mounts out there from flat to the wall, to tilting, to tilting and pivoting. For a home theater, if you need anything other than a flat mount then your television is in the wrong place. Your television should be mounted at eye level. To be more precise, your eyes should be level with a point 1/3 up from the bottom of the screen. Sit down on your sofa and measure how hight it is from the floor to your eyes. That is the point to aim for. With the television at eye level, there is no need to tilt the screen.

I'm uisng a Sanus VMPL250B flat mount which the lowest profile mount I was able to find for under $100. This mount has a heavy plate which is bolted to the wall. The plate is wide enough that you can span two studs and have four bolts from the plate to the wall. There are two brackets which screw on the back of your television. The brackets come with many sizes and lengths of bolts so you will most likely have all the hardware you need to attached these brackets to your set. Once the brackets are on, the television simply hangs on the wall plate. Finally, there is a bar which slips in the bottom of the brackets which prevents the television from being lifted off the wall. You can even go so far as to padlock the bar if your housemates have sticky fingers.

There is one thing you will need to watch out for with a low-profile bracket. The cables coming out of the back of the television may end up turning too sharply due to the close clearance between the televsion and the wall. Fortunately, there are a wide assortment of right-angle adapters available which will allow for working in such tight spaces.

To LED or not to LED your TV

Should you make your new TV a LED TV? Unless you have to have the latest, greatest, thinest TV out there I would say it is not that important. LED lighting has a great advantage for making a TV ultra-thin, but most people don't have a need for a TV to be that thin. My TV is hanging on the wall using a bracket about one inch in depth. Since the TV is only about four inches thick, the screen face is still only about five inches from the wall.

Current LED TVs are also known for having issues with brightness uniformity. Since the LED lights aer all located along the edge of the television, the light for the center of the screen has to be carried further than the light for the edges. This takes a lot of clever mechanics and optics to maintain a consistent look and not all televisions are there yet.


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