With TV sets, the past is easy to remember — boxed tubes with black and white images. But now that we're deep into the age of flat panels, the choices are many. And with the TV buying season in full swing, it's worth looking ahead before you buy now, so you can make an informed purchase ... or perhaps hold off.
In the past, you had to go to the theater to get the 3-D experience by wearing funny glasses. Next year, you should be able to do that at home, at least with high-end units.
"They'll likely work with 3-D Blu-ray disc players so that there will be a definite source of content worldwide," said Michelle Abraham, analyst with In-Stat, a market research firm in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"You'll have to get glasses, and all the 3-D TVs that I have seen demonstrated use the active shutter glasses," she told TopTenREVIEWS.
Better power efficiency
"All the major brands will be focusing on reducing power consumption," said Riddhi Patel, analyst at iSupply, a market research firm in El Segundo, Calif.
With LCD flat screens, they can usually achieve a 35-40 percent power reduction by moving from cold cathode florescent lamp (CCFL) backlight to using LEDs around the edge of the screen or directly in the back of the screen. The latter allows for truer black, she added, but the screen can't be as thin.
Incidentally, paper-thin screens are possible using organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology, as they require no back-lighting. But making OLED screens in TV sizes remains difficult, sources agreed.
The most popular size is currently the 32-inch panel, but 40 and 42-inch panels are starting to catch up, Patel said. There is more to it than the fact that prices continue to come down.
"More than 50 percent of the consumers in the U.S. already own a flat-panel TV, and when they replace a first-generation set they will look for something that adds more value," she said. That often means a larger screen.
The vendors are also opening new LCD TV fabricating plants optimized for larger screens. This should drive down the cost of production and eventually end-user prices, Patel said. Plasma, the alternate flat-panel technology, is already seen mostly in the larger sizes, she added.
TVs as Internet browsers are nothing new, but the idea did not take off in the past. In the old days, the fact that TV screen resolution was lower than computer monitor resolution was an issue, but TV screen resolution has caught up. Beyond that, however, there remains the fact that Web surfing with a remote control (rather than a keyboard and mouse) is tedious and difficult.
Abraham said we can expect to see TVs with basic browser software, intended for use with specific Internet services with content intended for TV viewing. No keyboard activity will be needed.
"They'll be marrying the service with the device," she predicted.TopTenREVIEWS.