|

LCD TV buying advice: Check the viewing angle

Consumer Reports News: November 27, 2009 12:08 AM

Find Ratings blob logo

The single most important tip for anyone shopping for an LCD TV over Black Friday is this: Check the viewing angle.

Viewing angle is likely to be one of the biggest differentiators among the LCD TVs you'll see in the stores. Even TVs that have excellent picture quality—with great brightness, detail, black levels, and color—can look mediocre or worse when viewed from an angle. The picture can become washed out, hazy, or dim as you step off to the side, or move up and down (to simulate standin, sitting, and lying on the floor, for instance).

About one-third of the LCD TVs we tested recently showed at least some deterioration in the picture quality from off-angle, and on another one-third of the sets the picture deteriorated markedly. We're not talking extreme angles here, just a few steps off to the side, or up and down. Our Ratings of LCD TVs (available to subscribers) include a viewing angle score to show how each TV did. Unless everyone watching the TV will be close to front and center, we'd strongly recommend that you avoid models judged only fair for viewing angle. Sets scoring good might be suitable if there aren't big variations in viewing position, but a very good viewing angle is your best bet.

You can test viewing angle to some extent in the store. Try what I call "the couch test."

Stand 4 or 5 feet away from a 40- to 50-inch TV and move several feet to the left or right of center. That's comparable to sitting at the end of a couch in front of the TV. See if the images start to look more faded, if the screen darkens a bit, or if the colors lose vibrancy. Move a little farther away from center to see what the picture would look like from a chair off to the side of the couch.

This very informal test could give you some idea of the impact of viewing angle on the picture quality, though the very bright picture settings and vividly colored programs retailers usually display tend to minimize the problem. It's most noticeable in normal programming with indoor scenes featuring people. See if you can get the salesperson to change channels.

Incidentally, try the same thing with a plasma TV. You'll notice that the picture doesn't change at all. (For more help on choosing an LCD or plasma TV, see my recent post: Plasma or LCD TV? I vote for plasma.)

Hope this helps. Happy shopping! —Eileen McCooey

   

Find Ratings blob logo

TVs Ratings

View and compare all TVs ratings.

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Latest From Consumer Reports

SMART PHONE REVIEWS
First look at the Samsung Galaxy S 6 and S 6 EdgeVideo With sexy construction and wireless charging, they give up key S 5 features.
JUICER REVIEWS
Juicers that do best in Consumer Reports' tests We tested new models from Breville, Juiceman, and West Bend
TIRE REVIEWS
When is the right time to change winter tires? Consider removing them when temperatures are consistently above 40° F.
ELECTRONICS NEWS
Some smart TVs record—and share—everything you watch Information brokers want to turn your viewing habits into cash.
2015 AUTOS SPOTLIGHT
Exclusive report: 10 Top Picks of 2015Video These are the cars and SUVs that our experts love—and you will too!
2015 AUTOS SPOTLIGHT
10 cars that are definitely worth waiting forVideo New and improved models are coming soon to a driveway near you.

Connect

and safety with
subscribers and fans

Follow us on:

Cars

Cars New Car Price Report
Find out what the dealers don't want you to know! Get dealer pricing information on a new car with the New Car Price Report.

Order Your Report

Mobile

Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more