Finding the right TV is a challenging task. With lessons learned from dozens of reviews, guides, and technical explanations, this guide will be your sherpa through the wilderness for TV shopping, whether you’re looking for simple shopping tips or want to know which features are most important.
Today’s retailers have a dizzying selection of high-definition (HD), 4K Ultra HD, and even 8K TVs, ranging from low-cost large screens to the high-end displays that differentiate the greatest TVs on the market. We’ve got answers to all of your smart TV questions, including the distinctions between 8K and 4K resolution, the foundations of smart TV features, why you want HDR, and the differences between LED and OLED.
TV Buying Guide Quick Tips and All TV Features Explained
If you’re in a hurry, these are the most crucial considerations to make before purchasing a television. In our TV buying guide, we go through each of these aspects in further depth:
Screen Size: Finding The Sweet Spot
Whether you’re searching for a simple or high-performance TV, the screen size will almost certainly be the most important consideration in your selection. Think about how many people in your household watch TV at the same time and where you’ll put your new set. Then, based on your budget and the greatest screen size that will fit comfortably in that area, choose the largest screen size that will fit comfortably in that location. In terms of pricing, performance, and the average living room, the sweet spot nowadays is between 55 and 65 inches.
The size of the screen is also determined by how close you sit to the television. Basically, you’re too near if you can see the individual pixels on the screen. A decent rule of thumb is to sit three times the screen height for HD and 1.5 times the screen height for 4K Ultra HD, which means you may sit twice as close to a 4K UHD TV.
No amount of research, no matter how thorough, can replace your own expertise and judgment when it comes to purchasing a television. If you have the chance, go to a store and look at the televisions (maybe with your family). Even though 4K content is less prevalent than 1080p, if you plan to sit near to a huge screen, you may desire the higher-resolution technology.
However, you should think about where the television will be placed in your home. While the advice above is meant for living rooms and home theaters, you should also think about what size is acceptable for other areas of the house, such as the bedroom or the kitchen, where a smaller TV may be required.
MicroLED, like the other type of emissive display, needs special attention for two reasons. For starters, it has a modular design that allows you to create a TV with huge dimensions — up to 17 feet tall — and resolutions of up to 16 megapixels. Second, it features the brightest display technology available. Many customers are still unable to afford microLEDs, but this is beginning to change. The newest models, due in late 2021 from manufacturers like as Samsung, can go as small as 76 inches and are expected to cost just tens of thousands of dollars or less – a significant improvement over earlier iterations.
The most essential thing to know about 1080p TVs is that they’re almost outdated. 1080p (and 1080i), often known as high-definition or HD, was the latest and best technology ten years ago. Even if your cable company still only transmits in high definition (not 4K), you shouldn’t buy a 1080p TV unless you have a very limited budget. 4K is arrived, and unless you’re on a tight budget, it’s worth investing in a TV that can show it.
Don’t Forget Gaming
A decent gaming TV will feature more than simply good picture and sound. You should also think about the TV’s connection choices, gaming capabilities, and general responsiveness.
While we previously advise waiting for additional HDMI ports, having an extra HDMI port might be the difference between leaving your console connected and switching to your Blu-ray player every time you want to play Call of Duty.
While HDMI 2.1 is still a relatively new standard, it is a requirement for every next-generation console. And several of the 2.1 spec’s features, such as Auto-Low Latency Mode (ALLM), which changes to game mode as soon as the console is turned on, and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), which synchronizes the screen with the frame-by-frame output from the TV for judder-free gameplay, have become much more prevalent.
Extended Warranties: Save Your Money
The extended warranty is one of the most lucrative income streams for big-box electronics shops. Why? Because they are rarely required, especially in the case of a flat-panel LCD television. The majority of components in an HDTV are extremely durable; even the LEDs that illuminate the screen are nearly shockproof.
If you do acquire a lemon, it’ll probably be obvious right away or within the first 30 days of ownership, which is generally covered by a standard shop return policy. Aside from that, the majority of manufacturers provide a one-year warranty. Check with your credit card company to see if they provide additional automatic coverage on purchases.
4K, also known as ultra high-definition, is the next big thing in broadcast and streaming entertainment, therefore now is the best time to invest in a 4K television. 4K video has double the pixel density of HD video, resulting in a brighter picture with more information than HD.
But what precisely is 4K? Consider your television screen to be made up of stacked rows of lights. High-definition televisions have 1,080 rows of those lights, while 4K televisions have 2,160 rows, all packed into the same size screen. More rows in the same space implies more fine detail may be displayed.
Backlighting is a device that lies behind the screen and makes the image brighter and more vivid. Television manufacturers use a variety of backlighting techniques to improve quality or cut costs.
The bezel, which is the technical word for the frame that surrounds your television’s screens, is gaining a lot of attention these days as manufacturers strive to make their goods (not just the displays) more appealing to customers. The days of big, hefty plastic bezels are over. Consumers now want slimmer, piano black or metal bezels. High-end TVs have virtually no bezels, with sleek, glass slabs ushering living rooms into the future.
Forget about resolution and refresh rates; this is the most important specification. The contrast ratio is a number that represents the difference between a television’s brightest bright and blackest black. It defines how diverse a television’s image may be. As a result, the higher the ratio, the nicer the TV (usually) seems. And the lower that first number is, the more likely your display will be washed out.
Frame Rate (FR)
The number of frames per second displayed by a video; frame rate is sometimes confused with refresh rate, which is the number of times per second a display changes to match that video. Many people may mention frame rate when looking for a television, but they really mean refresh rate, because we’ve been capturing movies with film and video for decades.
Consider this: frame rates are used to describe media (such as DVDs, Blu-Rays, and even digital downloads), whereas refresh rates are used to describe technology. In both cases, the greater the number, the better, however anything higher than 120 frames per second (or 120Hz for a refresh rate) is nearly imperceptible to the naked eye.
This is an acronym for “high definition,” which refers to any screen with a resolution more than 720 pixels in height. The greater the resolution of a screen, the more pixels there are. HD screens with a resolution of 1080 pixels are newer and more popular than those with a resolution of 720 pixels. 4K screens, on the other hand, have a height of 2160 pixels.
Poor sound is the Achilles’ heel of even the most costly HDTVs. It’s a result of flat panels’ slimline design: there’s not enough space for huge speakers to generate full, rich sound. So you have three options: wear headphones (which might make you appear antisocial), get a surround-sound system (which can be difficult to set up and clutter), or purchase a soundbar.
Soundbars are popular because they may greatly improve the cinematic experience for $300 or less, and they can be installed in minutes. The finest soundbars are narrow enough to fit beneath a TV stand without obstructing the picture’s bottom half. Most of them may also be mounted beneath a TV that hangs on the wall. Sound boxes or stands that slide under a set are also available from a number of companies.
Dolby Atmos, a newer audio format from Dolby that incorporates overhead sound for a more immersive listening experience, is also supported by some TVs and soundbars. While in-ceiling speakers may generate the Atmos effect, many soundbars include built-in Atmos audio processing and upward firing speakers to create more realistic sounding music that doesn’t require the multiple speaker arrangement that 5.1 or 7.1 Surround Sound requires.
Also, don’t be concerned about extra cable clutter. Nearly all modern televisions include at least one HDMI connector that supports Audio Return Channel (ARC). This standard HDMI function allows you to utilize HDMI as both an input and an audio output, allowing you to stream audio from your external media devices not only to the TV, but also to your soundbar. Because of the ARC connection, you can enjoy fantastic sound from all of your devices without the need for a separate receiver.
HDCP stands for “high-bandwidth digital content protection,” and it’s essentially 21st-century copy protection. You might see this mentioned as a tech requirement when shopping for a TV, but it’s not so much a feature as it is a truth of our increasingly digitized lives. Because a lot of today’s streaming devices and services require HDCP, you’ll probably want a television with it if you have the option.
The term “high-definition multimedia interface” (HDMI) is an abbreviation for “high-definition multimedia interface.” HDMI is a digital cable and port combo that replaced the tangle of analog audio/video cables that used to tangle behind our televisions. HDMI cables, which can carry both video and audio, have been around since the early 2000s, and they now connect anything from Blu-Ray players to streaming video devices to your television.
When buying for a TV, be sure it has enough HDMI connections to accommodate all of your devices. Four HDMI ports is plenty, but more are usually preferable.
High dynamic range, or HDR, is a feature found in mid- and high-end televisions that allows them to display a wider variety of colors, lights, and darkness than previously possible. HDR on televisions makes pictures appear much more realistic (as opposed to HDR photographs, which employ a different technique and generally produce a more surreal effect – don’t get the two mixed up).
LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are little semiconductors that glow when an electrical current passes through them. They’ve been around for decades and are always finding new uses. LEDs are utilized in the backlighting of TVs. So, if a television advertises itself as an LED TV, keep in mind that you’re usually looking at an LCD screen backlit by LEDs, not the LEDs themselves.
Edge-Lit LED Backlighting
Edge-lit backlighting inserts a strip of LEDs around the bezel of the television that lights up to increase the image’s brightness or color saturation, and is often less costly than full-array backlighting. Edge-lit backlighting is commonly utilized by manufacturers to make their televisions thinner because it isn’t a whole layer of lighting lying behind the screen.
LCDs, or liquid crystal displays, have been around for a long — probably since the 1960s — but they didn’t become a widespread TV screen technology until 2007. But anything so ancient can’t possibly be the most recent and finest. (At the moment, the honor goes to OLED televisions.)
LCD televisions have survived because they’ve been combined with other technologies, like as LED backlighting, to provide brighter and more vibrant images. When looking for a television, however, pay attention to the details: The LCD display of an LED TV is most likely backlit by LEDs. Similarly, LED backlighting may be used on an LCD display, either as a full-array layer or as edge lighting. However, there’s a chance your LCD TV won’t have backlighting, making it dimmer, duller, and (ideally) less costly than other versions. Pay attention to the specifics because the devil is in the details.
If LEDs were an upgrade over CCFLs, getting them smaller — much smaller — is an even greater leap forward. Mini-LEDs are so small that they can fit 25,000 of them on a 75-inch TV. This brings brightness and contrast control closer than ever to what OLED’s emissive pixels can achieve.
For those interested, there are many mini-LED TVs on the market right now. LG, for example, has adopted this technology with their “QNED” (Quantom Dot + NanoCell + Mini-LED) TVs, such as the QNED 90 Series, which is available in sizes ranging from 65 to 85 inches. Samsung is also getting in on the action with their Neo QLED 4K TVs, which are powered by mini-LEDs.
Organic light emitting diodes (or OLEDs) are the latest and best in display technology, producing their own light when a current passes through them. As a consequence, OLED TVs are significantly smaller than LED TVs (which are, after all, just LCDs with LEDs mounted on top), and they manage light and color far better.
Any LED or mini-LED TV with an additional layer of quantum dots inserted directly behind the LCD matrix but in front of the backlight is referred to as a QLED TV. Quantum dots are nanoparticles with the unique characteristic of emitting light when exposed to it.
They increase the brightness of an LED display and can help create more natural colors by compensating for the naturally blue light that most LEDs emit. The impact becomes more apparent as the illumination becomes brighter. QLED TVs are ideal for brightly light areas because of this. They may not be able to achieve the same level of blackness as OLED, but they make up for it by being significantly brighter.
Over-the-top services, like Netflix, are a type of streaming video service that delivers television over Internet data rather than cable or satellite. Many individuals are switching to these less costly plans for their television viewing requirements, but because they require high-speed internet, they still have to pay their cable company for data.
Quantum dot technology, an alternative to backlighting, improves color and brightness for LCD panels by using colored lights rather than the white LEDs used in full-array or edge-lit sets. A layer of quantum dots is placed beneath an LCD to make the technology function. These dots come in a range of colors and light up in response to the image on the LCD screen in front of them.
For fast-moving programming, such as live sports or video games, the refresh rate, or how often the television’s screen can change, is an important consideration. A 60Kz refresh rate is seen on older or less expensive televisions. Although 120Hz is plenty, modern sets may go up to 240Hz or even 360Hz.
Smart TVs, which have built-in software that allows you to watch streaming content, are almost ubiquitous these days. And although it’s wonderful to be able to access these internet services without an additional box, be careful of manufacturers utilizing their own proprietary smart systems, because they may be sluggish to update them. In general, Roku-enabled televisions are a safe bet. Android TVs should be, but Google isn’t always reliable when it comes to updating its products.
Though they aren’t marketed like they used to be, viewing angles are a key feature for placing a television in a space where part of the seats may be off-center. If the television you’re interested in doesn’t list the viewing angle, look up user reviews online or visit a local store to see it in person. Because the color and light levels of a television can fade when viewed incorrectly, you should be sure you understand what you’re getting before bringing one home, especially if you like to organize huge Super Bowl or other TV-centric parties.
If you thought 4K resolution was impressive, wait till you see 8K, which boosts the detail even further with 7680×4320 pixels. It’s incredible to watch, and it’s the next big thing in televisions for consumers. However, any good TV purchasing guide should inform you that it’s not worth your money just yet.
8K screens are the next big thing in televisions, and manufacturers are investing big on them. But there’s one thing that all of that eye-popping detail is missing: content. There are no 8K movies available for purchase, and streaming 4K content is already straining many people’s internet connections.
Until now, manufacturers had hoped that sophisticated AI-powered upscaling will make everything seem beautiful enough to justify prices that much beyond the cost of premium 4K TVs. The current 8K models are more expensive than the 4K competitors, but things are improving.
Upscaling is a function found on a number of video devices, including DVD players and, of course, televisions, that allows you to make lower-resolution video seem better on higher-resolution screens. It can improve the way cable signals (which are frequently broadcast in 720-pizel resolutions) are presented on 4K screens. If you want to continue with commercial television, consider purchasing a TV with upscaling capabilities.