Basic Types of Televisions

Tubes, flat panel, and projection

From tubes to plasma, there are more television models on store shelves than covers of magazines. Before exploring analog versus digital, SDTV, HDTV, and EDTV, look at the types of televisions in today's consumer market.

Direct View

Also known as tube television, this is the closest thing to the one baby boomers watched as kids. A cathode-ray tube, which is a specialized vacuum tube, powers it. CRTs come in all shapes and sizes up to about 40 inches. They feature an excellent picture from all angles, the best black level, and a significantly lower price than other TVs. Despite their bulky, heavy build, tube televisions are long-lasting and acclaimed for keeping a good picture throughout its lifespan, which can be decades.

Family shopping for a new TV
 Matthias Tunger / Getty Images

Digital Light Processing

Texas Instruments invented Digital Light Processing in 1987. Named for its ability to process light digitally with the aid of an optical semiconductor called a Digital Micromirror Device, more than 1 million mirrors form the DMD chip. The size of each mirror is less than one-fifth the width of a human hair. Currently, more than fifty manufacturers produce at least one model of a DLP television. DLP's come in rear and front projection. They are not susceptible to burn-in, but some people do notice a glitch called Rainbow Effect.

Liquid Crystal Display

Whether it's a flat panel or rear projection, there are a ton of choices on the market for Liquid Crystal Display televisions. Flat-panel displays are by far the most popular LCD television because of their thin, lightweight construction, which is convenient for people who want to use their LCD as a TV and computer monitor. LCDs are not susceptible to burn-in. LCDs with slow response times can show a ghosting effect, while other LCDs display a screen door effect. It is essential to see the LCD monitor before buying to see if the screen meets your needs.

Plasma Display Panels

Plasma is associated with high-end home electronics. All plasma televisions come in a flat panel variety. Most are in the 40-inch to 49-inch range or larger. They are competitively priced against LCD flat-panel televisions and feature a stunning picture that puts you in the middle of the action. Plasmas weigh more than LCDs, but nothing added supports couldn't manage. They are susceptible to burn-in, but despite rumors to the contrary, the gasses that power the picture are not refillable. While they are too young to measure accurately, plasma televisions should last anywhere from 10 to 20 years.