Updated December 4, 2016 . AmFam Team
Ready to upgrade your TV and take your home entertainment to the next level? Before you head off to your local big box store or add that awesome new screen to your online cart, make sure you know just what you need. Because when it comes to TVs there’s a lot of information out there.
Need some help navigating the seas of available TVs? Use these tips to get the right one for any room — from man cave to she shed!
Generally speaking, the bigger the TV, the more thrilling the view — and the bigger the price tag. So before you get your heart set on that 90-inch giant, think about how much you want to, or can, spend. And keep your eyes open for smart deals. Typically, the holidays are a great time to TV shop.
Another budget tip when shopping electronics and especially televisions: the longer you wait, the cheaper they are. High-tech home equipment evolves rapidly, and that means new sets are always cropping up, forcing the price of slightly outdated technology way down. If you don’t need or want the newest bells and whistles, you can really score a deal.
Where will your new television go? Thinking about a wall mount? Or a cabinet in the corner? It’s easy to envision when you’re standing in the room. But when you’re staring at all those flashy screens, it can get tricky. A simple solution: have a room photo handy when you shop. A layout reminder makes things a lot easier.
Once you know what your budget can take on and have a general idea of where the TV will go, the next step is to figure out just how much TV your room can hold. Grab the tape measure and get a few simple measurements of your wall or space to make sure the one you really like will actually fit. If you’re trying to fit your television into a wall unit or entertainment center, remember to leave at least an inch of ventilation space around the set.
Not sure how far or how close you should sit? A little math can be really helpful. For a 1080p HDTV, experts suggest a viewing distance 1 ½ to 2 ½ times the TV size. To get up close and see the extra detail of a 4K TV, a distance of 1 to 1 ½ times is suggested. So, let’s say you buy a 55-inch, 4K TV. The best distance from TV to couch is about 4 ½ to 7 feet. Have a seat. Looks good, doesn’t it?
Did you notice that the recommended viewing distance is closer for 4K? That’s because the resolution doesn’t lose as much intensity as 1080p does when you get closer. This requires a deeper dive into resolution and how it can affect your decision.
This is typically a very confusing area and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the numbers. So, let’s demystify what the different types of resolution are and what they mean. The newest resolution on the scene is 4K which is also called Ultra High Definition (UHD). The nickname 4K refers to the fact that it’s roughly 4000 pixels across. The next step down, and probably the most popular resolution today is a 1080p TV, otherwise called Full HD, which is 1920 x 1080 pixels.
The more pixels, or tiny little dots, you have the more realistic the painting looks, or the greater the resolution. So in theory, you’d want to go with the 4K because it has roughly 4 times the total pixels as 1080p. But this theory doesn’t necessarily hold true as there are limitations to the human eye. It’s doubtful you’ll notice much difference in the resolution between these two television sets if all else is equal. The good news is that 4K television sets tend to be pretty inexpensive so, if you want one, you’re not paying a lot more for the added pixels.
Content also plays a role in the resolution you see. You may want to watch everything in UHD for an ultra-realistic experience. The problem is not all content comes in 4K, at least not yet. All ends of the spectrum have to catch up with technology for a real jump in resolution to be apparent. Most shows are still shot at the lower end of high definition since it’s the most cost and time effective option. But things are changing so you’ll probably see more 4K content in the future.
Most new television sets have a liquid-crystal-display or LCD technology. The old-fashioned cathode ray tube technology is not quite a dinosaur, but it’s probably well on its way to extinction. And plasma televisions were discontinued around 2015. LCD technology is what makes it possible for today’s television sets to be so lightweight and thin. Both LED and OLED use LCD technology.
The differences between LED and OLED are pretty complicated, but the results are easier to understand. LED gives you more options in television size and works with smaller sets while OLED is only used on the larger television sets. The view of an LED television is best when you’re directly facing the screen while OLED is able to produce an image that looks great even when viewed from an angle. LED televisions come with 1080p and 4K resolution while OLED only comes in 4K. The real difference between LED and OLED, or the one that will probably matter most to you, is ambient lighting. OLED looks amazing in the dark or very dimly lit rooms, LED maintains a vivid picture with the lights on and even in daylight.
Have you ever noticed a “blur” when looking at big-screen LCD televisions? Initially LCDs suffered from a ghosting effect as the image refresh rate lagged. Most televisions have a 60Hz rate which means you see 60 frames per second. Some televisions now have a higher refresh rate, 120Hz, which is twice as fast and really helps sharpen the image if you find that blur is a factor.
When Smart TVs were first introduced they weren’t actually a smart buy because they offered more confusion than function. But today the Smart TV is the way to go if you love streaming. It allows you instant access to all of the programs you love for a TV binging extravaganza.
If you’re still tied to cable or satellite and not streaming much, then the smart features aren’t as important. But, if you think you’ll be streaming, or pulling shows directly from the internet, in the future, don’t worry. There are ways to add smart capabilities with an extra, and inexpensive, box if you decide you want to stream.
Buying a new big-screen TV doesn’t have to be a big deal. With these tips you’ll be on your way to the entertainment experience you’ve been dreaming about. Next step, finding a movie the whole family can agree on. Good luck with that one!