The HDTV display manufacturers and retailers are in danger of turning specifications into a waste of the paper that they’re printed on. Specifications can be important to buyers who want to comparison shop, but they are dangerous for if you don’t know what’s being measured and what difference it might make. Too often, people make decisions based on which model has the highest numbers. And the problem is that in many cases, these numbers do not accurately predict what you’ll experience in terms of viewing quality.
For example, manufacturers are now talking about plasma displays with contrast ratios of 8,000:1 or more. This is supposed to mean that a white dot on the display is 8,000 times brighter than a black dot. But manufacturers take the measurements from a full-white screen and a full-black screen. When you’re looking at a real image on the screen, the contrast will be lower. Much lower. And it might even be lower than for a different display that has a lower contrast rating. The display that’s rated better can look worse in terms of contrast.
The bottom line is don’t make a decision based on specifications alone, especially if you don’t know what’s being measured and how.
You can learn more about the specifications used by display manufacturers for their products, and what to look for when buying an HDTV in Professor Poor’s Guideto Buying HDTV.