What to Consider When Buying a Used Flat Screen Television

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What to Consider When Buying a Used Flat Screen Television

Flat screen televisions have certainly made an impact in their relatively short history. Compared to traditional analogue cathode-ray tube (CRT) televisions, which dominated television manufacturing throughout most of the twentieth century, modern flat screen televisions offer improvements in several key areas. Their most obvious and defining advantage is that flat screen digital technology makes for a thinner and far more convenient shape of television. Large-screen versions can be wall-mounted while smaller models can be placed in far more locations than their bulkier analogue counterparts. Flat screen televisions also offer advantages in image quality, power consumption and, increasingly, in price too. Flat screen display technologies are evolving rapidly, which has led to a healthy market in used flat screen televisions for sale as previous owners upgrade to take advantage of the latest innovations in flat screen technology.

Types of Flat Screen Television

While virtually everyone knows what a flat screen television is, many are unaware of the different technologies used in their manufacture. Each of these competing technologies has its unique characteristics, which, depending on what is most required, can translate as advantages or disadvantages.

LCD Flat Screen Televisions

Liquid Crystal Display flat screen televisions (LCD) are economical to run, relatively light in weight and produce high-quality, high-definition images. LCD screens produce no light of their own, so they need to be backlit. Standard backlighting illuminates the entire screen, which tends to limit the contrast range the television can produce.

LED Backlit LCD Flat Screen Televisions

The limitation of contrast range of LCD televisions has been solved by LED backlighting, in which an array of tiny light-emitting diodes (LEDs) provides backlight wherever on the screen it is required at any moment in time. The result is an enhanced contrast range from deep blacks to brilliant whites. LED backlit LCD flat screen televisions tend to be more expensive than those with standard backlighting, but for used models, the price differences are greatly minimised.

Plasma Flat Screen Televisions

Plasma flat screen televisions produce high-definition images of similar, and in some respects, superior, quality but by a completely different means. Tiny cells of ionised gas (plasma) are made to glow and emit light in sequences fast enough to form a large full-colour display. Their main advantages over LCD models with standard backlighting is a greater contrast range and faster image response, with no visible blurring of rapid on-screen movement. They also allow greater viewing angles. Their main disadvantages are that they are less energy efficient than LCD models as well as being heavier. Unlike LCD models, plasma flat screen televisions are susceptible to so-called 'image burn-in'. If parts of the screen have been displaying the same static image for excessively long periods, the image may eventually burn a faint trace of itself onto the screen and become permanently visible. This is something that should be checked if possible before buying a used plasma screen television.

CRT Flat Screen Televisions

Some used televisions may be seen advertised as CRT flat screen televisions. It is important to note in these cases that the 'flat screen' label simply refers to the shape of the screen of certain models. They are analogue televisions with flatter-than-usual screens but with none of the innovations provided by digital television technology. CRT technology is now obsolete as far as manufacturers are concerned, but it does have a long history during which major manufacturers attained high degrees of quality and reliability. CRT flat screen televisions are no longer produced but are still available as used models, especially online.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Flat Screen Television Types

The following table shows how the various flat screen televisions compare.




LCD television

Cheaper, large range of screen sizes, energy efficient

Limited contrast range, greater image distortion at extreme viewing angles

LED-backlit LCD television

Similar to standard LCD models but with greater contrast range


Plasma television

High contrast range, fast image response

Higher power consumption, heavier than LCD models and screen sizes limited to larger size ranges only

CRT flat screen television

Obsolete but reliable analogue technology

Non-digital technology limits image quality to less than that of true flat screen televisions

Features to Look Out for When Buying a Used Flat Screen Television

Before searching for a used flat screen television, make a note of which features are most required. Depending on personal preferences, these may include the following.

Screen Size

While for many, it is tempting to buy the largest size of flat screen television they can afford to mount on their wall, the room size in which the television will be located also has to be taken into account. That is because the room size limits the maximum viewing distance. The larger the screen, the further away it needs to be in order for the image to be seen at its best. The optimum viewing distance is one in which the television is close enough for viewers to see the smallest image detail that the screen can produce, but not so close that the individual pixels or plasma cells become noticeable. The maximum viewing angle should also be considered.

Plasma flat screen displays tend to offer a wider viewing angle, whereas LCD screen images may appear distorted when viewed from an extreme angle. Some models suffer from this more than others. Keep in mind also that, as with traditional analogue televisions, screen size is measured diagonally in inches. Plasma flat screen televisions tend to be large and have screen sizes between 30 and 60 inches; LCD flat screen televisions can match that size range but also offer a large range of smaller models.

Image Format

Wide screen formats are now the norm in television manufacturing. The older 4x3 aspect ratio has been replaced by the wider screen 16 x 9 format associated with high definition (HDTV) displays. Not all broadcasts have adopted this widescreen ratio yet. A wide screen (16x9) television will display such broadcasts either with black cut-off areas at the sides or unnaturally stretched to fill the screen.

Age of Model

As with most digital technologies, flat screen television technology is rapidly evolving. This is especially important for those looking for used models. The age of the model will determine, to a large extent, the technological features that it includes. In other words, an older model will have fewer features, improvements and innovations than one which is newer. For example, the problem of blurred rapid image movement that is an unwanted feature of earlier LCD models has been largely overcome in newer models.


Compared to new models, there is a far greater variety of prices attached to used flat screen televisions of comparable quality. Even the same model can be found at widely differing prices. This, of course, is due to various factors such as age and condition. The advice is to shop around. Used flat screen televisions are sold either 'as is' by private owners or, alternatively, as refurbished models. Refurbished flat screen televisions, especially manufacturer-refurbished models, tend to be more expensive as they are being sold for profit by retailers or manufacturers who have brought it up to full working specification.

How to Find a Used Flat Screen Television on eBay

Many used flat screen televisions are available on eBay at any time, so, when searching for one, it is a good idea to make a focused search. This avoids being presented with a list of models that are unsuitable. In order to find and choose from those flat screen televisions that are suitable in terms of price and features, eBay provide a comprehensive categories system as well as filtering options.

To start a search on eBay UK, enter the search term "used flat screen television" into their homepage search box. A large number of items are displayed not all of which will be suitable, and not all of which are flat screen televisions but just related items, such as TV wall mounts, for example. That is where the categories system comes in. On the left side of the listings page, there are categories listed. The most relevant, and also the most populated, category for flat screen televisions is Sound & Vision. On clicking the Sound & Vision category, further relevant subcategories become available, including Television and TV & Home Audio Accessories. Make use, too, of the filtering options also listed on the same side, such as Price Range, Screen Size and Display Technology to refine the search even further.


Overall, modern digital flat screen televisions, regardless of the technology employed in their manufacture, offer excellent image quality compared to older analogue CRT televisions. Used models in good working order can be expected to offer the same image quality. Many used flat screen televisions are available for sale at any time, and there are some great bargains to be had.

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