OK, so you’re not headed to London to watch the Summer Olympics in person. Neither are we. But the next best thing to actually being there is watching it on a big-screen TV from the comfort of your couch. If you’re looking for a new TV that can do justice to all the Olympic action, here are a few buying tips that can help you bring home TV gold.
Size matters. Go bigger if you can, especially if you’ll be cheering on Team USA with a group of friends. There are now plenty of LCD and plasma TVs in screen sizes 55 inches and larger. And some manufacturers, including Sharp, are going even bigger with LCD TVs in the 70- and 80-inch range.
Don’t get blurry. Sports can really test a TV’s ability to display fast-moving scenes without blurring. Plasma TVs typically handle motion without much blurring, if any, so almost any model will do. But many 60Hz LCD TVs fall prey to this shortcoming. We’ve found that many models with faster 120Hz and 240Hz frame rates can help minimize blur to the point where it’s hardly noticeable. We recommend models that let you adjust the anti-blur circuitry separately from judder reduction, which can give film a video-like look.
Play the angles. Plasma TVs have virtually unlimited viewing angles that allow everyone in the room to get a great picture. But many LCD TVs still have narrow viewing angles, so only those directly in front of the set get to see the Olympic sports action in all its high-def glory. That’s why we measure viewing angles for all the TVs in our TV Ratings. But some LCD TVs--including many sets from LG, Panasonic, and Vizio--have wider-than-average viewing angles for an LCD. If you or others will regularly be watching the set from an angle, you’ll want an LCD TV with a fairly wide viewing angle. Oh, and don’t pay attention to any of the manufacturers’ specs--almost all claim they have 178- to 180-degree viewing angles.
Consider a 3D TV. 3D hasn’t caught fire the way many of us thought it might, but NBC is turning on the 3D taps for the Olympics, which could help drive interest. The good news is that you don’t have to pay a big premium to get a 3D-capable set; it’s really just another TV feature--like Internet capability--on many step-up models. And one problem with many early 3D sets--bulky, expensive 3D glasses--has largely been addressed. Most of the newer active 3D sets we’ve tested now come with comfortable, lightweight active shutter glasses, and extra pairs can cost as little as $20 each--drastically cheaper than the early models, which cost $150 each. Even better: Many passive 3D sets come with four to six sets of free polarized glasses.
Get connected. A model that lets you connect to the Web can bring you a variety of Olympics-related content that can supplement the actual sporting events. Built-in Wi-Fi makes connecting to your home network easier, especially in rooms where you might not have a wired Ethernet connection. Many TVs can now access downloadable apps, and as we've noted, NBC will be live-streaming every single Olympics event at NBCOlympics.com.
Sound off. If you want to hear all the bone-crunching, muscle-straining action of the Olympics, you’ll need a TV with decent sound. But one consequence of ever-thinner TV sets is that sound quality has become a 98-pound weakling on many models. To get the full visceral impact of a boxer’s knockout punch or a full body slam when a Greco-Roman wrestler goes medieval, consider adding a soundbar speaker system or home-theater-in-a-box sound system to supplement your TV’s sound.