I have a budget of around £1,000 to spend on an LCD TV. My requirements are: two HDMI inputs, two Scart terminals, a PC connection and Picture-in-Picture facility (including from a PC).
My viewing distance is approximately 3m, so I'm not sure what screen size to choose -- 32-inch or 37-inch?
Whenever I look at TVs in high-street shops the assistants are never helpful, while when I have visited specialist shops they try to convince me to spend £2,000 on the TV alone!
Do you think you can help me?
Don't let sales-hungry assistants fool you: £1,000 is a reasonable budget for all but high-end LCD TVs from manufacturers such as Sony and Philips -- especially if you buy online. In fact, this is the most competitively fought price point, so there are plenty of screens to choose from.
Although flat-panel TVs allow you to put larger screens in smaller spaces than old-fashioned CRTs, 32 inches is the recommended size for a viewing distance of 3m. You'll be able to afford more features and better performance for your money than if you go for a 37-incher.
Connectivity looks to be your number one priority -- it seems you want to run several different standard and high-definition devices, as well as your PC or media centre.
So try to buy a recent model: it will be more likely to feature twin HDMI inputs, which support hi-def TV receivers, next-generation DVD players and the PlayStation 3. With two of these inputs, you can connect a pair of hi-def devices at the same time without having to switch cables.
Some high-definition sources, such as the Xbox 360, send hi-def signals using analogue component connections, but image quality isn't as impressive and, unlike HDMI, the cables don't carry audio, so you'll need to wire that up separately.
If you have more conventional sources, such as an older DVD player or satellite boxes, Scart connections are equally essential. Always check to see how many of the terminals are RGB-enabled -- the more the better, as they will give you a better picture. This is especially important if you want to link a DVD or hard-disk recorder to your TV without reducing the quality of the output signal.
USB and memory card slots for viewing digital photos have become more common, and some will let you watch video. A dedicated PC audio input is a plus, but there will almost certainly be alternative sound connections (typically stereo-phono inputs) that you can use.
Picture-in-Picture (PIP) features are not as widespread, but they are useful if you want to keep an eye on one programme while you watch another or use your PC while you watch TV.
As for recommended models, each of these four screens meets your budget and feature criteria:
offers a bright, colourful performance with a stunning design and impressive range of features that includes USB hosting and memory card support. (Our review is of the 40-inch version, but otherwise it's much the same.)
uses the latest technology to deliver unusually wide viewing angles, but picture performance is slighted by occasional instability.
is an affordable all-rounder, but connectivity is restricted by only a single RGB Scart and the PIP feature doesn't support HDMI inputs. (Again, our review is of the 42-inch version.)
includes all the features you need, but its build quality and overall performance isn't as impressive as its rivals.