How to Buy an HDTV

How to Buy an HDTV

Perhaps you blinked at some point during 2004, and when you opened your eyes again, high-definition television sets (HDTVs) suddenly dominated living rooms. Just one problem: Many still don’t know how to buy an HDTV – a point of growing concern, as they’re no longer just an extravagant indulgence. Even basic cable stations are constantly optimizing viewing experiences for subscribers who own high-definition sets. And if you or anyone in your family plays a video game console, an HDTV is practically mandatory (vital features, like in-game text, no longer show up clearly on standard-definition sets).

The trouble, as you may have surmised, is that if you don’t know much about HDTVs, the act of buying one can be extremely intimidating: When you walk into an electronics store, you inevitably run smack into the ever-raging price war between television manufacturers. From LG Electronics to Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and Vizio, everybody boasts the best features and highest resolution for the lowest price. Don’t get freaked out, though. You can successfully buy a more-than-decent HDTV set if you adhere to some simple bits of advice that call on your common sense.

Don’t automatically jump for the set with the highest resolution – Most sets that are 40 inches or larger have a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, which is defined as 1080p. A lower-cost option is 1366 x 768 pixels, also known as 720p. 720p is generally restricted to sets under 40 inches, and its picture isn’t quite as sharp and well-defined as 1080p.

However, the cost of a 720p set is typically lower, so if you’re on a budget, you should ask yourself how your new HD set will be getting most of its use. Will it be the centerpiece of your living room theater? Or will it be a secondary set in the bedroom? Weigh your plans against your options before spending big money.

Consider contrast – Contrast (AKA “Contrast Ratio”) is important to consider when you’re buying an HDTV. Contrast determines the difference between the picture’s darkest blacks and brightest whites. A set with a poor Contrast Ratio will wash out colors, which goes against the point of an HDTV.

Manufacturers understand the importance of Contrast Ratio, which is why they’ll often try to demonstrate their sets’ abilities by displaying black-and-white images in a darkened room. Big deal: who watches HDTV in black and white? The best way to determine a set’s Contrast Ratio is to simply eyeball a typical show or movie in natural lighting. Compare sets side-by-side, if you can, and in real-world conditions, versus under the harsh, bright lights many big-box showrooms employ – how they look at the store won’t necessarily reflect how they look, say, in your living room, with its many windows and natural open lighting conditions.

What about plasma? – Plasma HDTV sets give you a remarkably rich and sharp image. Their Contrast Ratio is unmatched, and there’s less motion blur versus what you get from LCD HDTVs. Plasma TVs are definitely an option if you’re in the market for the best possible picture, but there are a lot of downsides to the format, too. Plasma HDTVs are expensive, use more energy than LCDs, and may still suffer problems with image burn-in.

Don’t go crazy with cables – After you buy your HDTV, the salesperson might try and upsell you on HDMI to DVI cables. While you definitely want to purchase HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) cables so that you can view games, movies, and shows with optimal picture quality, some stores sell fancy, expensive cables that are supposed to work better than standard offerings. This typically isn’t the case, as there is virtually no degradation between cable brands. Whereas audio and video “leakage” was a problem in the analogue era, it doesn’t apply in the digital world. Your $15 HDMI cable should work just fine.

Do you care about 3D TV? – Your salesperson might also try and get you to invest in a 3D TV set, but you need to ask yourself how much you care before you spend that kind of money. It’s sure to delight the kids—at least for a time—and you can still watch movies in 2D, but you might be better off trekking to a theater to get your occasional 3D fix.

For more advice on purchasing an HDTV, visit:

HDTV Buying Guide at PCWorld

Don’t Buy an HDTV Without Reading This First at ZDNet

How to Buy an HDTV at PCMag

How to Play Games Free Online

How to Play Games Free Online

Playing video games used to mean shelling out for an expensive set-top console, or spending a lot of time and money upgrading your PC with the RAM and graphics cards necessary to handle intense graphics and sound. Now, enjoying a good game is simply a matter of knowing how to find your way around the Internet and tucking into a load of free offerings. The video game market has never been so competitive, and developers are lining up around the block for the chance to entertain you using social games, casual games, free to play flash games and more. Cheerfully, the following expert guide can show you how to play games free online in minutes.

Worth keeping in mind before diving in, however: There’s still a huge market for video game consoles and the high-budget games that set-top solutions provide. That said, there’s no denying the appeal of firing up a game on a web browser and frittering away a few minutes before or during your lunch break. Moreover, free online games aren’t limited to simple, single-screen affairs: They come in a veritable rainbow of genres, they boast varying levels of complexity, and many are surprisingly detailed and good-looking.

Here are some tips you should keep in mind if you’re looking to play free games online.

You’ll need a stable Internet connection – Preferably broadband. You can’t play games if you can’t access the websites that host them, right?

Get a Facebook and/or Google+ account – Not mandatory by any means, but there are a lot of fun and easy-to-access social games such as FarmVille, Bubble Witch Saga and Draw Something on social networks like Facebook and Google+. Just make sure that you read, understand, and agree with each site’s privacy terms, and set your account’s security accordingly.

Make sure Flash is up-to-date – Most online games utilize Adobe Flash (a software backbone that powers games found on sites like MiniClip.com, Newgrounds, Pogo.com and Addicting Games) to some degree, which is a multimedia platform that allows for users to interact with websites. If you’re going to play, make sure your version of Flash is up-to-date. If it’s not, Flash is free and easy to download and install.

Have an idea of what kind of game(s) you’re looking for – If you have a general idea of the kind of games you want to play, it’ll make your search a lot easier. For instance, do you like puzzle games? PopCap makes excellent puzzle games, and if you visit the studio’s website, you’ll find lots of free demos.

Visit Kongregate – Kongregate.com is a massive site that contains over 56,000 free games. You can find titles in almost every conceivable genre, all neatly sorted. You can also take a look at the most popular offerings and grab some recommendations.

For more info about the best free games and sites you can get them from, visit:

Inside Social Games

MMOHut

Zynga.com

5 Best Free Anti-Virus Programs

5 Best Free Anti-Virus Programs

A PC can be your best friend in the digital era, so treat it nicely. The first and best thing you can possibly do for your digital pal: Ensure that it’s shored up against viruses, Trojans, malware and other online threats. Naturally, dozens of companies such as McAfee, Symantec, Lookout, Kaspersky, Trend Micro, and Webroot offer retail anti-virus software that can guard your desktop or laptop – but just as many offer complementary solutions you can download at no charge. Looking for the best free anti-virus programs? The following list makes a great starting point.

Note that while traditional anti-virus options may cost more, or require ongoing subscriptions, costs often cover added functionality and expanded features or companion apps that can even extend coverage to your smartphone or tablet PC. But many of today’s best free anti-virus programs make a perfectly good alternative, offering solid protection against Internet threats and regular software updates with minimal fuss, and only the most periodic pop-ups or nag screens. So don’t let the price tag on either end fool you, or bias you against taking precautions: From free to paid options, there’s a metric ton of anti-virus software that is easy to download and provides first-rate protection for computers and mobile devices.

Here are five of the best free options, ready to grab over the Internet at no charge: 

Avast! Free Anti-Virus – Avast! is one of the best-known free anti-virus programs for Windows, and for good reason. It guards you as you surf the Web, check your email, and visit your favorite sites. Like paid solutions, it updates virus definitions automatically, and is free for private and personal use.

AVG – AVG is another well-known anti-virus provider, and, depending on whom you ask, its protection is just as compelling as Avast!’s. Like Avast!, AVG updates its virus database on a daily basis, scans your email for spam or malware, and is free to download for Windows as well.

Panda Cloud Anti-Virus – Popular software program Panda Cloud Anti-Virus works in the cloud, meaning that it handles the heavy number crunching on other computers and frees up resources on your own machine. You simply download a lightweight client from the Panda website, and it does all the heavy lifting once it’s installed. Also, its name invokes images of cuddly bears working hard to defend your computer – always a plus.

Avira AntiVir PersonalAvira protects your computer against the usual suspects (viruses, Trojans, worms, spyware, adware and more), and it’s free to download for machines running on Windows. There’s even a version of AntiVir Personal for UNIX operating systems as well.

Comodo Anti-VirusComodo Anti-Virus has a unique feature: Its “Defense+” technology automatically blocks unknown files that might be threats. While this option sounds like it would be a hassle to deal with, Defense+ is actually non-invasive and it does its job quietly in the background. 

For more information on free anti-virus programs, visit:

Freebies at About.com

2012’s Best Free Anti-Virus Programs at PCMag.com

The 10 Best Free Anti-Virus Programs at MakeUseOf.com