Whether you want a new bedroom set or a massive home-theatre centerpiece, our CNET editors' guide gives you the full picture on shopping for a new TV.
2. Wide-screen vs. 4:3
Wide screen vs 4:3
Television screens today come in two shapes. The most familiar one is called 4:3, which represents four inches of width for every three inches of height. You can also buy wide-screen, or 16:9, televisions, which take the same shape as many movies. Wide-screen sets cost more per square cm of screen than standard TVs, and most people still watch more regular TV than DVDs and movies, so 4:3 sets continue to be a popular choice. Almost all large flat-panel and rear-projection TVs are wide screen, however, so it's just a matter of time before 16:9 becomes the most popular choice.
But before you buy your next TV, you should seriously consider going wide. With huge numbers of anamorphic (enhanced for wide-screen) DVDs and the appearance of more wide-screen TV and digital TV shows, there's plenty of wide-screen content out there, and even more will appear in the future.
All wide-screen TVs have ways to stretch, crop, or zoom the regular 4:3 image so that it fills the screen. These methods distort the image somewhat, but many wide-screen TV owners prefer looking at slightly stretched people rather than windowbox bars. Here's a quick rundown of the different names for selectable aspect-ratio modes found on 16:9 sets:
|Normal or 4:3: Places windowbox bars on either side of the 4:3 screen.|
|Zoom or Enlarge: Magnifies the entire image, eliminating the windowbox bars but cropping the top and bottom of the image. Often, more than one level of zoom is provided.|
|Wide or Full: Used for native 16:9 content such as that found on DVDs. With 4:3 content, such as regular TV, it stretches the image horizontally, making people look shorter and fatter.|
|Panorama, TheaterWide, or Natural: TV makers have many names for modes that compromise between stretching and zooming to fill the screen. Some stretch the sides of the image more than the middle, so people in the centre of the screen look correct. Some crop a little so that they don't have to stretch as much.|