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TVs

What's the best TV for watching sport?

My boyfriend is driving me insane with his constant nagging about a new TV. He wants a 40-inch TV for watching sport. Can you help?

My boyfriend is driving me insane with his constant nagging about researching TVs. He wants to purchase a new TV, he thinks LCD is more likely, but would buy plasma if that was the best for what he watches, and he wants a 40-inch screen.

He wants the best television for watching sport, more precisely football! So you can't blame me for not being too enthusiastic about the purchase. Can you offer any advice apart from the obvious "get a new boyfriend"?

Debra

Don't dump him just yet, Debra! This is a common question asked by armchair enthusiasts who want to watch sports using a flat TV display. Movement, especially unpredictable sports action, is one of the most difficult picture elements to render successfully. And although flat TVs have improved immensely, they still struggle to compete with the motion fluidity offered by old CRT displays.

Traditionally, plasma displays are considered to offer the most cohesive movement. This is because early LCDs suffered from motion-response lag where individual pixels are slightly out of sync with the image on screen. If you're watching fast-paced movement such as football this can cause a trailer effect (streaming) or ghosting, where images stay on the screen longer than intended. LCD technology has developed at such an accelerated rate, however, that the difference between the competing technologies is now almost negligible.

If you don't have the opportunity to compare screens in action there are some technical specifications related to motion processing that you should look out for. On-paper specifications should be taken with a pinch of salt, however, as some manufacturers use more flattering means of measurement than others.

Response time, the time it takes for a pixel to change from active (black) to inactive (white) and back to active, is measured in milliseconds. The lower the response time, the more effective the movement -- especially with large screens. Response times have been greatly reduced recently and 8ms is a good benchmark for the best performance.

Refresh rates, the number of times per second that an image is scanned, can also play a part. The standard UK TV system (PAL) uses 50Hz, but there are screens that feature 100Hz scanning (and above), which doubles the rate to deliver a smoother picture.

Integrated image processing is equally important. These include progressive-scan systems, which deinterlace incoming signals and scan all picture lines at the same time to produce smoother movement with less flicker. Most manufacturers also use dedicated, proprietary technologies to enhance natural movement and the most impressive we've seen recently are from Pioneer plasmas and Sony LCDs.

Of the large screen models we've seen with an aptitude for sports programmes, take a look at:

Pioneer PDP-427XD plasma
Panasonic Viera TH42PX600 plasma
Sony Bravia KDL-40W2000 LCD

Plus we've not yet reviewed the Samsung LE40M73 LCD, but it claims class-leading movement. Look out for a full review soon.