Digital Crave

Alternatives to buying a new HDTV

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If you are looking to replace your old television it has become a given that you upgrade to a flat screen HDTV. Standard definition TVs are scarce – if not extinct – and most people believe HDTVs are their only option. This is not true.

While HDTVs are an increasingly practical choice, with prices and sizes for most every budget and living room, a smart consumer always looks for options. To help you, we offer these HDTV alternatives for your consideration.

High Definition Projectors
First, a story. Years ago I was tending bar in a Philadelphia restaurant called Zesty’s. The owner, a proud native of Greece and a tech enthusiast, discreetly set up a projector and screen at the bar. As dinner service began he’d screen aerial videos of the Greek Islands. The stunning white architecture popped in contrast to colorful fishing boats bobbing on the deep blue water. People would come in off the street to admire the breathtaking images. Then, of course, I’d offer them a drink and a menu and they’d stay for dinner. This was ten years ago. If a forward-thinking restaurant owner was able to draw people off the street with the technology available at the time, imagine how beautiful those images will be in your home on a new, high definition projector.

There are many reasons to consider a high definition projector, not the least of which is conservation of space. You can mount a projector on the ceiling or conceal it in a cabinet or shelf. If you have a white, matte wall for projection you’re all set. If not, you’ll need a screen that retracts when not in use. Before you dismiss projectors as an inferior technology – akin to the projectors you may remember from elementary school – think again. Just like an HDTV, a projector connects to your home theater system (cable/satellite, game console, and disc player). Projectors are known for their high performance in dark rooms, but the best models also perform well in bright rooms. You can even buy one that supports 3D, if that’s your thing.

Now that huge HDTVs have cracked the $1000 price point, you can expect the same of a high end projector. The BenQ W1070 has great picture quality and 3D playback that bests HDTVs at the same price point. In a long enough room the projector can display a 235-inch screen. Not too shabby for under a grand. If money is no object, check out the highly-rated Epson 5020, a first-rate projector with all the bells and whistles.

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Computer monitors
If you have a decent computer monitor you already have a high definition screen. As many college dorm inhabitants can tell you, a good monitor easily doubles as a TV.

You can watch cable/satellite programming, and also play your video game console and disc player with the proper connections. This may appeal to folks in small apartments or people who like to watch TV occasionally but don’t want to commit to an HDTV. A flat panel LCD monitor can go head to head with high end HDTVs, but a CRT or lesser monitor may also suffice as a television. Even inexpensive monitors come with VGA, DVI and HDMI connections that are easily accessible if you need to change inputs on the fly. If you’re running your signal through an HDMI cable, the picture will impress.

“When comparing an HDTV with a computer monitor in the same technology year the computer monitor has thus far always been capable of better picture quality,” said Billy Liu, an IT consultant in Rhode Island. The drawback here could be the audio, as the speakers in many monitors won’t shake the walls. However, if you’re considering this option you’re likely going to use it in a small space where this may not be an issue.

Check out the HP 2311xi 23" Widescreen LCD Monitor, a sharp monitor at a great price. (Starting at $200)

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Laptop/Tablet
As a recent episode of Parks and Recreation pointed out, many of us are comfortable watching movies and TV on the smallest screens possible. If you’re reading this article, chances are you've used your smartphone or tablet as a television substitute. In my opinion, smartphones are fine for watching goofy videos or for a quick episode of your favorite show while you wait for the bus. But I’m not going to settle in to watch The Godfather on my phone.

On the other hand, I’ll happily watch TV shows and movies on my laptop or tablet. As with computer monitors, these are decent options for people in tiny spaces or those who don’t care enough about TV to have one in their home. The screen resolution often rivals the best HDTVs and everyone likes a good multi-tasker. When you’re not using them for entertainment they revert back to their use as computers.

For a laptop, try the Sony Vaio E17 – a decent, reasonably priced laptop with a vivid 1080p screen. As for tablets, try the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 (starting at $668)– a nice tablet that’s also a laptop alternative.

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