Everything You Need to Know Before Buying a TV: A Complete Guide
These days, TVs have so many complicated features that it can be hard to know which one to buy. Should you get an LED, QLED, and OLED TV? Is an 8K TV really worth it? What’s the difference between HDR10 and HDR10+? To make things simple, here’s a comprehensive guide that explains everything you need to know about buying a new TV, so you can make the best decision when shopping for a new flat screen.
When it comes to TV size, bigger is almost always better. To calculate how big your TV should be, measure how far you will sit from the screen and divide that number by 1.5 to 2.5. So, if you sit 15 feet (180 inches) away, you should get a TV between 72 and 120 inches large.
However, if you plan on buying a high-resolution TV, you might even have to go bigger. According to guidelines from THX, you will need to sit 10 feet away from a 70-inch screen in order to see the benefits of a 4K TV.
One of the most important things to consider when buying a TV is its resolution. This refers to how many pixels, or points of light, a screen has. Basically, the higher the resolution, the more details you will be able to see.
These days, most TVs support Full HD (high-definition), 4K, and 8K resolutions. Full HD (also known as 1080p) TVs have over 2 million pixels, while UHD (ultra-high-definition) 4K TVs have over 8 million pixels, and 8K TVs have over 33 million pixels.
Full HD TVs have been the cheapest option for years, but 4K TVs are becoming much cheaper these days. In fact, HD TVs are being phased out, and it can be hard to find big-screen models anymore. On the other hand, 8K TVs are still very expensive, and there’s not a lot of 8K content available currently.
There are really only two different types of displays on the market: LED and OLED. While LED TVs use backlights to illuminate the pixels, more expensive OLED TVs use self-lighting pixels, which improves the contrast and overall picture quality.
What Is an LED TV?
An LED (light-emitting diode) TV uses filters to block or changes the light of each pixel. LED TVs are the most common and budget-friendly models, and they can get very bright. However, this also means that darker scenes often appear washed out.
What Is a QLED TV?
A QLED TV is just like an LED TV, except it uses a “quantum dot” layer between the backlight and the LCD panel. This additional layer shines the backlight through tiny crystals to increase the color brightness, color accuracy, and color volume.
Some TV manufacturers have released new LED technology, like Mini-LED models that use thousands of tiny LEDs to improve the control of the backlight. However, when TV companies use terms like ULED, Neo LED, and QNED, these are just LED TVs with slight improvements.
What Is an OLED TV?
OLED TVs are completely different from LED TVs because they don’t use a backlight. Instead, each pixel in an OLED TV can be turned on or off individually. This means you will get much darker blacks and a nearly perfect contrast ratio with an OLED display.
The biggest downside to OLED TVs is that the individual pixels can degrade over time, leading to “permanent image retention.” This means static images and graphics can “burn in” your screen, especially if you leave your TV paused for a long time.
What Is Local Dimming?
If you are buying an LED TV, it is important to know what type of backlighting it uses. Older edge-lit TVs use a row of LEDs on the side of the screen, while direct-lit TVs use a grid of LEDs. However, both of these displays will cause light to “bleed” from the brightest parts of an image to the darker areas.
Full-array TVs have a feature called “local dimming,” which divides the LED backlights into “zones.” Each of these zones can be individually dimmed to improve the overall contrast. The more local dimming zones a TV has, the deeper its blacks will be.
TV Buying Guide: What Is HDR?
HDR (high dynamic range) adds details to the shadows and highlights of an image. That means you’ll get whiter whites, deeper blacks, and a wider range of colors compared to older displays with Standard Dynamic Range (SDR).
However, in order to take advantage of HDR content, you need a TV with a peak brightness of at least 500-1,000 “nits” or more. Since most LED TVs are brighter than OLED TVs, they are often better at handling HDR content, especially in rooms with lots of light. On the other hand, OLED TVs can display deeper blacks, so they are better for watching movies in dark rooms.
HDR10 vs HDR10+ vs Dolby Vision
The three main HDR standards are HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. HDR10 is the most popular standard, but it can make an entire movie look brighter or darker than it should be. On the other hand, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision can get brighter, support more colors, and produce the most natural image.
In order to take advantage of an HDR TV, you also need to be watching HDR content. Currently, HDR10 and Dolby Vision are supported by lots of streaming services and Blu-ray players, while HDR10+ is less commonly used.
Most TVs these days are too thin to contain high-quality speakers. To get the best sound from a TV, you will need to connect it to a soundbar or surround-sound system via an HDMI ARC (audio return channel) or eARC (enhanced audio return channel) port.
With ARC, you can connect your TV directly to a soundbar or AV receiver with a single cable. However, eARC supports higher quality audio formats like DTS:X and Dolby Atmos. These surround-sound technologies create a 3D sound that comes from all around you.
A TV’s refresh rate refers to how many images a screen can display per second. Generally speaking, a high refresh rate will result in smoother motion, especially when watching sports or playing games on next-gen consoles, like the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5.
However, it is important to note that no 4K TV can have a native refresh rate higher than 120Hz. If you see a 4K TV that is marketed as having a refresh rate of 240Hz, it probably only supports 120Hz. So, make sure to check the “native” refresh rate before buying a TV.
TV Buying Guide: Choosing a TV for Gaming
If you are buying a TV for gaming, you want to find one with a low input lag (also known as latency). This is how much time it takes for the screen to respond after you push a button on your controller. Preferably, you want a TV with an input lag under 30ms (milliseconds).
TV Buying Guide: Ports and Connectivity
When buying a TV, you also need to make sure that it has the right ports. Specifically, you want a TV with several HDMI 2.0 or HDMI 2.1 ports. These high-speed connections support higher resolutions and faster refresh rates from your other devices,
At the moment, HDMI 2.0 is the most common HDMI standard. But, if you have an Xbox One X or you want a future-proof TV, you want a TV that has at least one HDMI 2.1 port. It is also important to note that you will need a high-speed cable in order to take advantage of your HDMI 2.1 ports.
If you have a smart TV, you also want to buy a TV with an Ethernet port. This will allow you to connect your TV directly to your router to get the most reliable signal.
Should You Buy a Smart TV?
A smart TV connects to the internet, allowing you to watch thousands of movies and TV shows on streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, and more. You can also connect a smart TV to your smart speakers and use voice commands to change the channel, turn off your TV, and more.
Each smart TV comes with a streaming platform built in, such as Roku, Android TV, and WebOS. You can also control most smart TVs using the dedicated smartphone app. Some smart TV apps also let you connect wireless headphones to your TV or stream content from your smartphone to the TV.
If you plan on buying a smart TV, and plan on using WiFi to connect it to your network, check out our guide on how to test your WiFi speed to find out if your signal is strong enough.