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Things are looking fuzzy on the shop floor

Saved your pennies and all excited about buying a big screen TV? Alas, the vision you see when you get to the store will more than likely burst your bubble.

Pam Carroll

Saved your pennies and all set to buy a big screen TV? Alas, the vision you see when you get to the store will more than likely burst your bubble.

While out and about on the week-end I took the opportunity to cruise through a consumer electronics mega store that opened recently in my neighbourhood. The new shop was tastefully decorated, cool on a hot afternoon, and held a sea of TVs as far as the eye could see. Get set to drool, right?

The Wow factor quickly turned into Whoa! when I started to take a closer look at the individual sets. LCD and plasma alike, the pictures looked bad - fuzzy images, poor contrast and generally uninspiring vision abounded. I wondered how anyone could be convinced to spend $500 dollars, let alone $5000.

One of the stumbling blocks is that stores generally put video feeds through a splitter to push them to multiple sets, and it's difficult to tell how far the set you're interested in is from the source. Hopefully the direct signal you'd get at home would be stronger, but that's not a very reassuring concept if you're about to spend serious money. A solution is to bring your own DVD and insist it be played on any TV on your short list (preferably with the same DVD player).

The other big problem I encountered was the floor layout of the plasmas, with the big screens facing off across a narrow aisle. As point number one from our Big Screen Buyers Guide makes clear, no matter what the quality of the product, the closer you are to a large screen, the more you'll notice flaws within the picture. Even standing as far back as possible, I was still less than a metre away, when optimum viewing for a 42-inch screen is a minimum 1.6 metres. Sets that looked good in lab tests failed to impress in this environment.

If you're reading perhaps I'm preaching to the converted, but my little expedition really drove home the point that TV buyers must really do their homework and know what they want before hitting the shops.

Had any good or bad experiences buying a big screen? Tell us below!