When choosing a new television, start by doing a quick survey of the gadgets in your lounge room and their various AV outputs. Chances are you've got a games console or two, a Blu-ray/DVD player, a PVR or digital set top box, a Pay TV box, a camcorder and maybe even an old VCR. A few of these might have HDMI outputs - the best way to connect devices to your television - while others might feature component, composite, s-video, VGA or even SCART connectors.
If you want to connect all this gear to your new television, it'll need plenty of inputs. Inputs on the side are very handy, especially if the rear inputs are recessed into the chassis and difficult to get to.
Hooking up Blu-Ray, PVRs, and media centres
Remember to plan ahead, thinking of the devices you're likely to buy in the next few years and not just the gear you own today. As such you should look for a minimum of two HDMI inputs - one for a video recorder (probably a HD PVR) and the other for an optical disc player (probably Blu-ray).
If you're likely to use a HDMI to DVI cable to hook up a DVI device such as a media centre, make sure the television's HDMI inputs are accompanied by left and right stereo RCA inputs (as DVI to HDMI won't carry an audio signal, just video).
You'll also want at least one component and one composite video input for compatibility with older devices - perhaps more depending on what's already in your lounge room.
Varying settings for different inputs
It's also worth flicking through the manual (you'll probably find it online) to see if you can vary the television's settings for the different inputs. For example, you might want to alter the brightness and contrast for your Blu-ray player and your PVR and have the television remember these settings.
Another setting that you also might want to vary between inputs is the aspect ratio, especially if you're still using a VCR or an old games console. Most new devices, such as Blu-ray players and digital PVRs, let you specify whether you're using a widescreen 16:9 or traditional 4:3 television. Pay TV's 4:3 standard-def picture generally looks terrible on a big television, so it's worth experimenting with the 14:9 aspect ratio to see if it improves the picture.
If your Pay TV box doesn't have HDMI
If your Pay TV box doesn't have HDMI, you'll get a better picture by using the SCART output (perhaps with a component or s-video adaptor) rather than the composite video output.
Next you might need to adjust the settings on your television so it knows what kind of signal it's getting, otherwise the picture will be squashed out of shape. If your television can't remember these settings for each input, you'll need to manually change the aspect ratio every time you switch between devices such as a VCR and DVD player.
This quickly becomes annoying and you'll soon catch yourself, or others in the house, watching programs in the wrong aspect ratio because they don't know how to fix it or they're too lazy to change it.
If you're not sure whether a television can remember different settings for each input, see if you can test it out in the store.
Don't take the word of the sales assistant, they'll tell you whatever you want to hear in order to get a sale. If they won't let you, threaten to take your business elsewhere.
Buying a flat screen TV? Have a question you'd like us to answer? Add your comments or questions about flat screen TV issues to the discussion below.
Also in this series, How to Pick a Great Flat Screen TV, And Not Get Sucked In By Marketing Hype:
Part 8: Logitech Harmony vs AV Link remote controls
Part 7: Should you upgrade your TV for DLNA?
Part 6: TV tuners and "Digital Capable"
Part 5: HDMI and component ports
Part 4: LED and backlighting
Part 3: Screen size
Part 2: Refresh rates
Part 1: Brightness and contrast ratios
Also see our 5 tips for buying a digital TV set top box
And also see the lowdown on Freeview, and whether you should care
If you're new to Digital TV, or have yet to make the leap, start by reading Prepare yourself for Digital TV