Knowing how to buy TV is more complex than ever. There are new technologies, formats and buzzwords you need to keep up with. Plus, prices are everywhere as well, as more affordable companies try to topple brands like LG and Samsung. You know everything looks better on a better TV, but how do you find the right TV for you? With so many display options and technologies (not to mention a dizzying number of smart functions), it's easy to get overwhelmed.
Today, there's an impressive array of High Definition (HD), 4K Ultra HD, and even 8K TVs in stores, from big screens to high-end screens that distinguish the best TVs available. From the differences between 8K and 4K resolution, the fundamentals of smart TV features, why you want HDR, and the differences between LED and OLED , we have answers to all common questions about smart TVs. And if you are looking for a TV specifically for gaming, different features are more important. So, let's show you everything you need to know to buy TV smarter!
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TV Buying Guide Quick Tips
If you are in a hurry, here are the most important items to consider before buying a television. We explain each of these points in more detail in our TV Buying Guide below:
- Don't buy a TV with less than 4K resolution. Avoid full HD or 1080p sets, the price is not so much cheaper and the quality is better.
- You can skip 8K TVs (for now). 8K TVs are very expensive and 8K movies and shows are not available yet.
- Look for a 60Hz or 120Hz refresh rate: When it comes to refresh rates, 60Hz is good, but 120Hz is better. A higher refresh rate provides smoother motion for everything from movies and shows to live sports and games.
- Look for an HDR-compatible set: it offers more realistic colors and better contrast.
- OLED TVs look much better than most LCD sets: but QLED TVs from Samsung, Vizio and TCL are an affordable compromise.
- Look for at least four HDMI ports. And opt for the latest HDMI 2.1 format if possible.
- Plan to buy a soundbar. TV speakers are worse these days because the screens are thinner.
Choosing a display: OLED, QLED and more
Currently, there are two dominant display technologies on the market: LED-LCD (including QLED) and OLED. Understanding the differences will help you make the right decision on how to buy TV. A simple rule of thumb is to match your screen type with your viewing habits.
Most TVs on the market are LCD panels illuminated by an LED backlight. This includes newer, cheaper TVs from brands like TCL and Hisense to LG's NanoCell line and Samsung's top-notch QLED sets.
However, not all LED-illuminated panels are the same. Panels advertised as QLED use a layer of quantum dots that improve the range and vibrancy of colors on the screen. Of all the LCD panels on the market, QLEDs are the best there is.
The only downside to panels that use traditional LED lights is that they are backlit. This means that to display an image, a bright LED must shine through the various layers that make up the panel. This can result in poor black reproduction and possible light leakage at the edges of the screen.
Newer (and better) LED models use full matrix local dimming (FALD) to darken selected areas of the screen and improve black reproduction. This helps the LCD panels to be much closer to a “true” black. As the blackout zones can be quite large, the technology is not perfect. This process usually produces a “halo” effect around the edges of the darkening zones.
OLED is a completely different technology from QLED. These panels are self-emitting, meaning that each pixel produces its own light. There is no LCD film and no backlight shining through the “stack” of layers that make up the screen. In fact, an OLED battery is incredibly thin.
This means that OLED screens have “perfect” blacks because they can turn off pixels completely. The result is an impressive image with excellent contrast. On the other hand, OLED screens can suffer from the poor performance of near black. Some models are prone to “black crush”, in which dark shadow details are lost.
OLEDs are also susceptible to burn out under certain conditions. So, be careful when choosing how to buy TV.
We made a very interesting and complete post about display types for monitors. in it you'll understand the differences between displays TN, VA and IPS and which one is most recommended for you and your daily use. Check out:
If you want to know how to buy TV with this technology, try and buy the Smart TV 55″ 4K OLED AI ThinQ, from LG, which will meet all your gaming requirements, besides being able to control your Smart Home without leaving the couch or bed .
OLED technology can also be a little more expensive than traditional LED-lit displays because it's a newer technology with a higher manufacturing cost. With that in mind, LG's flagship displays, such as the C9 and CX, typically fall into the same category as Samsung's QLED monitors.
But there is also an outlier: mini-LED. These panels still use traditional LCD technology, but with smaller LEDs. This means that they can reach many more blackout zones. The result is a much less noticeable halo effect and the same deep black tones you might see in an OLED.
While MiniLED TVs provide a great balance between price and picture quality, they're rare at the moment. So, ignore them when looking for how to buy TV. TCL is currently the only company that sells Mini-LED models on the market, mainly in the US, although more models from Samsung and others are expected to come in the near future.
Brightness and viewing angles
It's important to match your display technology with your environment and display habits. As LCD devices (including QLED) use an LED backlight, they can be much brighter than OLED models. This is because OLEDs use organic compounds, whose brightness is limited due to heat output.
A QLED array can be twice as bright as an OLED, making it perfect for viewing in a brightly lit room. On the other hand, if you like watching movies in the dark or mostly at night, the higher black levels of an OLED will produce a better picture. If you hate faded blacks, OLED is the way to go.
OLED monitors also have excellent viewing angles, making them ideal for group viewing. Although some color shift may occur when watching off-axis, the image will not substantially darken, even at extreme angles. This makes OLED a great choice if not everyone in the room is facing the screen.
Different LCD models use different types of coatings and panels in an attempt to get around this. For example, LG's NanoCells use IPS panels, which have excellent viewing angles but poor contrast ratios. A great model compatible with this technology is the TV 55″ NanoCell 4K 55NANO85SPA, from LG, with a frequency of 120Hz and HDMI 2.1. In other words, the perfect option for you who want to know how to buy TV.
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On the other hand, VA panels, like those in Samsung's QLEDs, suffer from poor off-axis viewing angles, but have the best contrast ratios and color reproduction.
If you have a large family or enjoy having friends over to watch sports or movies, be sure to consider the viewing angles and ambient light in the room before choosing how to buy a TV.
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High Dynamic Range (HDR): the future of video
High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a leap forward in display technology in how to buy TV. Dynamic range is the visible spectrum between the darkest blacks and the brightest lights and is usually measured in dots. While a traditional standard dynamic range (SDR) TV has a range of about six dots, newer HDR screens can exceed 20.
This means you get more detail in shadows and highlights, which makes the image richer. HDR also incorporates a wider color gamut and much higher peak brightness. You will see more shades of color, which results in fewer “bands” or grouping of similar colors. You'll also see flashes of brightness from objects like the sun, which creates a more realistic presentation.
HDR is a big deal, as most new movies and TV content are taking advantage of it. The next generation game consoles (like the Xbox Series X and S and the PlayStation 5) also place great emphasis on HDR, although high-end systems have been using it for years. If you watch a lot of movies or play games, you'll want good HDR support.
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First, before knowing how to buy TV, it helps to understand the differences between the main HDR formats. Below are the most important features to watch out for:
- HDR10: This is basic and standardized HDR. Almost all TVs on the market support it. If you buy a film with a “High Dynamic Range” sticker on the box, it almost certainly includes HDR10 support.
- Dolby Vision: a superior HDR implementation that uses dynamic metadata to help TV produce the most accurate frame-by-frame HDR image.
- HDR10+: an open evolution of HDR10, it also includes dynamic metadata. This format is mostly found on Samsung TVs.
- Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG): This is an HDR broadcast implementation that allows both SDR and HDR monitors to use the same source. Additional data is provided for HDR-compatible monitors so they receive a better image.
With the exception of HDR10 (the “standard” HDR implementation), Dolby Vision is much better supported than HDR10+. Streaming services like Netflix use it for almost all new content, and Microsoft is also committed to bringing Dolby Vision to Xbox Series X and S games in 2021. To learn more, check out our article on what is Dolby Vision for games.
As 4K TVs and HDR support are gaining widespread adoption, most people finally have a good reason to upgrade. So why are manufacturers already trying to get you to buy an 8K set?
It's true that some 8K devices – like Samsung's next-gen QLEDs – aren't that expensive right now. Unfortunately, 8K is still not worth the investment. For some, 8K will never pay off because the perceived jump in image quality is negligible at best.
The jump from standard definition to HD was huge in terms of image quality, but from HD to 4K, things started to get a little murky. You need to be some distance away from the TV to see the benefits of 4K, but there's no denying that the picture is sharper and more detailed.
So how about 4K to 8K? As you might have guessed, this is a diminishing returns game. While the difference is noticeable when you approach much closer than would be considered a reasonable viewing distance, overall, you probably won't be impressed.
Then there is the question of content. While an 8K screen does a good job of upscaling 4K content, finding native 8K content is virtually impossible at the moment. YouTube supports it, but there is no way to filter search results for it. Some streaming services don't even offer 4K content yet, and many cable broadcasts are still in standard definition.
Netflix recommends an Internet speed of 25 Mbps for streaming 4K content, which is already heavily compressed. By this logic, you would need at least 50 Mbps for 8K content, which would also use a lot more bandwidth than 4K.
One day, 8K will be worth it because it will be the default, just as 4K is now. There will be better reasons to update how to buy TV when that time comes. Let's not forget how poor HDR implementation affected the first 4K TVs when they were released. We've only had a few generations of truly excellent 4K TVs, delivering a remarkably superior viewing experience over our older HD devices.
Extravagant features: pay attention to detail
You can buy a great TV for around $1500, but spending $3000 doesn't necessarily mean you get a TV that looks visibly better. You can even spend more money and buy a TV that somehow looks worse.
This is because TVs can differ greatly in terms of additional features. To avoid wasting money on features you might never use, it's worth taking the time and familiarizing yourself with some of them.
The image processor on your TV can greatly affect image quality. A good image processor can take a 720p blurry video and make it presentable on a 4K screen. A bad image processor, however, can handle 24p cinematic content very poorly and exhibit a distracting judder or judder. Cheap devices may perform poorly in this area, but premium brands such as Sony handle this well on their more high-end devices.
Some brands go even further with features like black frame insertion (BFI), which literally insert black frames at defined intervals to make movement smoother. This may be important for movie buffs, but it's not something you should prioritize if you just want a TV to watch the news.
Connectivity is another area that can be valuable. Most TVs include HDMI 2.0 ports, but the new 2.1 standard is slowly being implemented. Unless you want the highest resolutions and frame rates (120 Hz) on PS5, Xbox Series or a high-end PC, you don't need HDMI 2.1.
Currently, one of the best models with this entry and technology is Samsung's Smart TV 55″ 4K, which, in addition to being huge, has the company's state-of-the-art Crystal UHD imaging technology, which will make your experience in how to buy exceptional TV.
A high refresh rate screen lets you view content at up to 120 Hz – twice that of most TVs on the market. However, unless the source (such as a new console or graphics card) is providing an image of this quality, you don't need a 120Hz display.
Game features like FreeSync and G-Sync make gaming a more enjoyable experience. They smooth out frame-rate drops, but aren't necessary for most people. Unless you know you need the feature because your hardware supports it, you can cash it out and save some money.
Newer consoles from Sony and Microsoft use HDMI VRR, so they don't necessarily need these features.
One area that seems to have improved overall on newer TVs is software. While one you bought a decade ago probably has a slow or clunky interface, new smart TVs often use modern operating systems like Android TV, LG WebOS, Samsung Tizen or TCL Roku.
You can try the interface before you buy a TV, just to make sure you like the operating system you'll be using for years to come.
Bad sound: the problem with audio
Modern TVs often emphasize format above almost everything else. That's how we get ultra-thin bezels, thin OLED screens and flush-mounted wall. The side effect of this is that most TVs come with crappy, below-average speakers that don't fill a room with good audio.
There are exceptions: Sony's OLEDs use the glass screen as a kind of speaker and some TCL models include built-in soundbars. However, most – especially those on a budget – are likely to be disappointed when it comes to sound.
To improve your experience, you might want to leave room in your budget for some audio hardware as well. You don't necessarily need to break the bank on a Sonos Arc soundbar, unless you want an immersive, ambient-shaking experience with a small object in your entertainment unit, whether in the living room or bedroom.
For the best experience with your TV, we recommend that you buy a quality soundbar. The JBL SB160 Soundbar has 220 watts of power, is wireless, comes with Dolby Digital, HDMI ARC optical connections, four powerful full-range drivers and a wireless subwoofer, and is sure to (much) improve the sound you'll hear. in the environment your TV is in.
Soundbars are designed to deliver better-than-TV audio at a price that won't make you shudder. Many support the latest standards, such as eARC and Dolby Atmos, but these are secondary to the main function: to compensate for the terrible built-in audio prevalent on TVs today.
As with any modern electronic product, independent reviewers hold the key to making an informed decision. RTINGS is one of the best resources for how to buy TV. A wide range of testing criteria is used across all of the TVs reviewed, which provides an objective overview of strengths and weaknesses.
Just apply your findings to your situation, your living room, and your viewing habits. There is no one TV that is perfect for everyone. Just be sure to avoid the usual mistakes people make when looking for how to buy TV.
Now, comment what you think of the suggestions. Is there any point that was in doubt? Contact us in the comments and read more about tech on our website.
Which TV has the best contrast?
OLED TVs are considered the best screen on the market so far. Their technology illuminates screen areas individually, without backlighting. They consume less energy, have the best contrast and high brightness level. They are even able to reproduce black colors better.
Which TVs have 120hz native?
LED, OLED, QLED, Neo QLED or NanoCell TVs, ranging from 4K or 8K, generally have 120hz native. The best known brands for this refresh rate are Samsung, LG and TCL, starting at 50 inches.
What are the best television brands?
Good brands are TVs made by LG, Samsung, TCL, Philips, Panasonic, Sony, Philco and AOC.
What type of TV has the greatest durability and longevity of use?
Plasma TVs last better than LCD, LED and OLED TVs. In general, a plasma TV can last up to 12 years if it is used eight hours a day. An LCD television, for example, can last, on average, 7 to 8 years.
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