In case you hadn't already learned your lesson and started checking behind the displays while HDTV shopping, the HD Guru points out another element of the in-store experience that throws off buyers (and likely contributes to the LCD vs. plasma choices we find so infuriating): lighting. In case you don't recall from your last trek to a big box superstore, the lighting is quite often stuck on blinding making it nearly impossible to discern any difference in picture quality between televisions, specifically in terms of contrast and black levels (the pictures above are of the same value priced display, at left, under normal home lighting, at right, how it looks under some store lighting setups.) Tested with an illuminance meter, all the stores (except Best Buy's Magnolia showrooms) averaged well above home ambient lighting levels, with Wal-Mart and Costco measuring the highest at 411.66 and 742.77 lux. Still, there's tips on how to get a good idea of a TV's black levels even under those circumstances, plus some choice words left over for the incredible (and useless) dynamic contrast ratio numbers every manufacturer trots out these days, so go ahead and get educated.

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Don't let retailer's lights distract you from buying the right HDTV