Is that 16:9 TV truly 16:9 or only 15:9?

28 11 2004
Is that 16:9 TV truly 16:9 or only 15:9? And other flat screen
observations

Time for a “Buyer Beware”.

Don’t you love
the looks of a big flat screen TVs? Ultra thin yet with a big bold image. After
quite some time on a 14″ home TV and with many advertised specials, it just may
be time to upgrade. While comparing models, I just accidentally discovered that
many advertised Widescreen / 16:9 TV sets are only 15:9.

Yesterday I
saw an 30″ Audiovox 15:9 LCD TV, which made me think (first time seeing 15:9)
“Now why would they make a 15:9 TV while everybody else makes 16:9 sets? It
doesn’t make sense” (apart from a cheaper panel for a cheaper price) The answer
is: “Many larger panels are 15:9, but the companies are not truthful about that
ratio.” And, unless you know about some of the details to pay attention to,
retailers of course will not tell you, because they want to sell that screen
sooner rather than later.

Simple math proves the findings:

TV set X with actual number of pixels shown = 1280 wide x 768 high;
which is the most common flat panel TV resolution.
1280 / 768 =
1.66666667
1.66666667 * 9 = 15
15 <> 16

To get a
16:9 ratio the result should be 16 / 9 = 1.77777778
Which means that
with
(a) 1280 horizontal pixels you need 720 vertical pixels ( 720 *
1.77777778 = 1280 )
(b) 768 vertical pixels you need 1365 or thereabout
(1366) pixels ( 768 * 1.77777778 = 1365.33 and 1366 / 768 = 1.778 )
for
true 16:9 wide-screen.

It seems that TV manufacturers use the 1280 x
768 panels produced for computer screens because of their “cheaper” price,
rather than using more expensive (as they are less common) 16:9 ratio panels;
but always advertise them as 16:9 Widescreen.

So, if you are
shopping for a TV now or in the future, you may want to keep the following in
mind: Make sure you’re aware of the Plasma vs LCD advantages & disadvantages
( plasma screens have serious burn in issues and the screen loses half it’s
original capacity in about 4000-6000 hours ), skip EDTV and other low pixel
panels (640×480, 800×600 and what not) etc. If the pixel resolution is not
advertised, ask for it. If the clerk doesn’t know, doesn’t want to say it or
skips the issue with “oh this is plasma, it doesn’t use pixels”, like we heard
today, step away.

Fact is that every pixel matters, most certainly
when you spend anywhere from $1250 to $8000. 20″, 23″, 30″ or whichever size
flat panel TVs with 1280×768 pixels will NOT show a true 16:9 image. The image
will be cropped (= you lose some), stretched (= distorted heads and
other oddities
) or shown with black borders (= isn’t widescreen nice
without the black bord.e..r…s like on a 4:3?! What the? From personal
experience: I don’t like black borders viewing a DVD on a widescreen set
)

Are there any true 16:9 sets. Yes, there are a few very expensive
1366×768 sets and Samsung makes 1280×720 panels, I believe, in more reasonable
sizes.

My advice: Wait for the price to come down and let both HDTV
technology mature & 16:9 panels become mainstream before making the
investment in an expensive panel.

Interesting stuff to read so you
can make an informed decision:
* LCD TV
buying guide
with How to buy an LCD TV in 8 easy steps
* Plasma TV buying guide with How to buy a Plasma TV in 10 steps ; Plasma TV half-life and Plasma TV burn in
* Plasma vs LCD

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