First there were televisions, then VCRs, then DVD players. Now it seems like there’s an endless array of things to connect to your TV, including cable boxes, DVRs, and even your PC. If you’re looking for a way to enjoy the media you already own without having to upgrade your entire entertainment library, a combination TV/DVD player may be the best solution for you. Space-saving models for kitchens, bedrooms, and dorms still dominate the combination TV marketplace, but larger combination TVs with impressive screens are available to become the heart of your home entertainment center. Use Pronto’s Combination TV Buying Guide to help you decide which one is best for you.
A combination TV includes a built-in DVD player and, on some models, a VCR. Combination TVs are great solutions for small spaces or consumers who aren’t technically inclined.
All combination TVs sold in the United States since March 1, 2007, are required to have a digital ATSC tuner. Older models that lack these tuners may be available at deep discounts, but they won’t work with off-air television after 2009.
An HD-ready combination TV supports true high-definition television, typically 720p. SDTV and EDTV models convert high-definition programs to a lower resolution.
For smaller screens and areas where the viewer moves around a lot, a CRT combination TV may be a better choice, because these screens have a wider viewing angle and do a better job with fast-moving images.
Don’t pay extra for more speakers or simulated surround sound. Picture quality should be your first consideration with a combination TV.
A TV tuner capable of receiving standard digital and high-definition broadcasts. ATSC tuners are required in all combination TVs manufactured for sale in the United States after March 1, 2007.
One of two competing high-definition DVD formats. Backed by Sony, Blu-ray discs can hold 25GB of information on a disc surface.
The difference between the brightest white and the darkest black in an LCD display. The higher the contrast ratio, the sharper the image a combination TV can produce.
Cathode ray tube, a vacuum tube coated with red, blue, and green phosphors that create the image.
High definition multimedia input transmits data digitally between home-theater components. This new standard for connecting devices can carry more data through a single, bundled cable.
One of two competing high-definition DVD formats. HD DVDs can store up to 15 GB of information on a disc surface.
A display technology that uses red, green, and blue liquid crystal chips to create the image. LCD screens are measured in pixels, and the number of pixels in the screen determines its native resolution.
The speed at which a pixel in an LCD display can shift from one color to another, measured in microseconds (MS). Lower numbers mean a faster refresh rate and improved performance with fast-moving images.
A measurement of the scan lines or pixels used to create an image. Standard television has a resolution of 480 horizontal lines, while HDTV has either 720 or 1,080 horizontal lines.
The horizontal and vertical extremes at which you can watch a combination TV before the picture quality begins to degrade. CRT combination TVs have wider viewing angles than LCD models.
Combination TVs are best for small spaces and those who want to enjoy TV and movies without fussing over connections and settings. A combination TV and DVD player is also an excellent choice for buyers on a budget. Combination TVs have built-in DVD players that work seamlessly from a single remote. To watch a movie, just pop it in the DVD player and the combination TV will show it.
Almost every combination TV offers a progressive-scan DVD player, so you’ll get great picture quality.
Because smaller combination TVs are considered budget models by manufacturers, they may not be able to display HDTV (high definition TV). All combination TVs sold in the United States since March 1, 2007 are required to have a digital ATSC tuner, but even though all HDTV is digital, not all digital TV is HDTV. Need more info on HDTV? See our HDTV Buying Guide.
For combination TVs, an HDTV-ready set will display true HDTV, although you probably won’t find the 1080p resolution that big-screen owners covet. No need to be worried though, as the majority of HD combination TVs support 720p resolution. If you are not used to HDTV, most viewers will be very satisfied with 720p resolution. In fact, TV shows are not broadcast in 1080p yet. For a smaller combination TV, higher resolutions are overkill anyway, as the screen isn’t big enough to show the difference. Bottom line? You are safe with 720p.
Combination TVs labeled as standard definition (SDTV) or enhanced definition (EDTV) convert high-definition sources to the combination TV’s native resolution, either 480i or 480p. At screen sizes less than 17 inches, this shouldn’t be a concern, but you are better off spending a little more for an HDTV-ready combination TV, as these tend to have better screens.
Beware of older combination TVs offered at deep discounts. These models will lack an ATSC tuner, and you won’t be able to use them for anything other than cable or satellite programming after 2009, when all television will be broadcast digitally.
It’s hard to find a cathode ray tube (CRT) TV that isn’t a combination TV these days, but many consumers are lured by the modern flat-screen LCD models. For a combination TV, however, CRT technology may be a better choice.
Although a CRT combination TV will take up more space and weigh more than an LCD model, it will have a brighter screen and a much larger viewing angle. These features are essential in sunny kitchens and bright offices where people typically move around while watching TV. An LCD combination TV is a good choice for a dorm or bedroom, where you’ll be watching from bed or a chair.
For smaller combination TVs, CRT still outperforms LCD in terms of sharpness and the ability to handle fast-moving images. Most manufacturers simply haven’t put the effort into increasing contrast ratios or refresh rates on small LCD screens. Some smaller combination TVs suffer from ghosting and image blur, making them a poor choice for video games or action movies.
With 40-inch models on the market, you can use a combination TV to build your home theater system. In fact, with the current format war between Blu-ray and HD DVD, your best choice might be a flat-panel combination TV. You’ll be able to wait out the high prices of high-definition DVD and enjoy standard DVDs with the combination TV.
If you’re using a combination TV to build a home theater, look for a model with multiple HDMI inputs and multiple component video inputs. Always try to have more connections than you think you’ll need. Don’t buy any combination TV that lacks an ATSC tuner, and spend for picture rather than sound. You can always add surround sound later, but you’ll have to live with the picture on your combination TV. Look for high contrast ratios and low refresh rates in LCD combination TVs to get crisper, sharper images.
Combination TVs have built-in speakers. Stereo is common, and some larger combination TVs may have additional speakers built in. No built-in speakers can give you true surround sound or replicate the performance of a moderate home theater receiver and a set of good speakers. If you’re using a combination TV as part of a home theater, you can always turn down the volume and let the surround sound system do the work. In smaller spaces, you’re probably not interested in surround sound, so most sets will fit the bill as is. The best bet is to shop for picture quality first, sound second.