For home theater bigger is usually better. For tube sets a 32" screen is usually the best available. A screen size of 27" will be watchable in most cases. Unfortunately, if you are watching a letterbox movie like Ben-Hur with an aspect ratio of 1:2.75, smaller sets will look like a ribbon of color in the middle of the screen. The advantage of a tube set is a wider viewing angle. People seated in most areas of the room will see a crisp, sharp picture. Several companies have recently released a flat screen TV. It hangs on the wall like a picture and provides amazing resolution. There are two forms of tube sets. The first is interlaced. Here the picture is projected in two rounds. The first places the odd numbered lines on the screen, the second the even. There is some flicker associated with this method as well as some fuzzing around the edges. It was necessary for old broadcast systems where the bandwidth was limited. The more recent high end sets use progressive scan. Here the whole picture is placed on the screen at once. It provides a much sharper picture.
Projection TVs have also come a long way. In the beginning of projection technology for the home, you needed a flat screen on a wall and a coffee table size projection unit set back in the room. The room also had to be practically dark. Now, the projection TV can be confined to a single unit. This is called Rear Screen Projection. The image is formed by projection on to the screen from the rear, within the unit. For rear projection sets the size usually ranges from about 40" to 60". Front projection sets have a unit that goes in front of a screen. Of course, you have to be sure nothing blocks the projector. Screen sizes range from 40" to over 100"! While all home theaters place restrictions on room furniture arrangements, projection TVs are much fussier. Best viewing is restricted to seats within about a 45 degree angle of the screen. Viewers off to the side will see a much dimmer picture. Recently, I investigated tech specs on a Toshiba projection TV with 800 lines of resolution. Combined with DVD this would make an excellent home theater.
Plasma Screen Television
This is one of the hottest new ways to watch television. Rather than using a beam of electrons to activate the phosphor pixels on the screen this method uses a gas which is turned into the plasma state. The big advantage to this is actually very small. While the electron gun in regular televisions requires a large, deep and heavy cathode ray tube the thickness of a plasma screen can be six inches or less. This means a very thin television set. The plasma set also typically has far greater resolution, 1080 lines compared to the 480 of a regular set. These sets can also run in progressive mode where the picture is sent all at once to the screen rather than painting the odd lines followed by the even ones. You will most likely add an another zero to the price for the plasma TV but most people that have one will agree that it is worth the price. For more plasma technology please follow the button to the left of this page.
No matter which type of screen you choose, there are certain guidelines that should be followed. First, make sure the TV has AV (audio-visual) plugs in the back. There should be a set of three plugs for the VCR. The colors of the plugs are color coded. Red for the right speaker, White for the left and yellow for the video signal. On most larger sets there is usually also connectors for external speakers. These are not used to connect to the amplifier. For that task there should be a separate set of two connectors, usually red and yellow. There are two types of connectors to the amplifier. One provides a steady output to the amplifier. In this setup the volume must be controlled by the amplifier. The second, which I find better, is an output connector whose signal is controlled by the TV. In this case the remote that controls the channel can also adjust the volume. If you go for a universal remote this may not be that important for you.
The second thing to look for is whether the TV provides a surround sound mode and sub woofer or ultra bass. If this is the case you may wish to deactivate these controls and let the amplifier handle all the sound for your system.
Next, how many AV jack sets are there? It is not uncommon for a TV to have two or three sets of AV connectors. The first two are usually behind the set and are for two VCRs. This is helpful when you want to tape one show while watching another tape (yes, it does happen, especially for real home theater enthusiasts). The third jack is often in the front and is useful for connecting a video camcorder. The reason for being in the front is to expedite connecting and disconnecting a piece of equipment not always on your system.
You should also look to see if your set has a S-Video jack. This is a round socket that will take a jack with several pins in it. This type of jack provides better video than the usual RCA type plugs. It also reduces the mass of wires and cables behind your equipment.
Another type of connector becoming increasingly popular is the Component Video connector. The signal of this connector is a lot better than the S-Video and far superior to the old style RCA connectors. The component video connect is perfect for digital cable, satellite and, of course, DVD. Many new television sets and television monitors now include a component video connector. Also becoming very popular is progressive scan. Normally, a TV displays the odd lines of video first followed by the even. This is called interlaced. It was necessary with the old broadcast standard when the bandwidth (amount of video information per second) was very low. While this was the case for the old rabbit ear antenna we now have much faster systems available. Progressive scan TVs paint the whole picture almost at the same time. This is a variation of the component video with the same breakdown of separate wiring for each of the primary colors.
Please review the DVD cable section for some more details on the various types of video connectors.
Control of the picture is very important. You should be able to modify and customize the video settings to suit your person tastes and the room environment. Several common adjustments are brightness, contrast, color/tint and warmth of the picture. Some sets offer several pre-defined settings and permit saving a custom setting of your liking. My projection TV has a very bright normal mode and a darker theater setting. I keep the custom settings about between the two. In order to adjust the settings properly I invested in a calibration DVD which is reviewed elsewhere on this site.