Technology in television manufacturing keeps growing by leaps and bounds, and this TV buying guide will help you determine which television is the best fit for your home.
When you visit a television store or browse various brands and models online, you’ll notice that prices vary widely. Unfortunately find good information that allows you to make an informed decision isn’t always easy to come by. There is a lot of sales talk, hyperbolic terms, technical jargon and claims that can easily confuse any buyer. Since televisions are very durable and most people buy them with the intention of using them for five years or more, you want to carefully do your research before committing to a TV model.
A consumer who knows what they want and how much they can afford to spend will having an easy time buying a TV.
To make the process easier, let’s divide the buying process into seven main steps, namely:
- Factors to consider when buying
- TV must-haves
- TV nice-to-haves
- TV dealbreakers
- Narrow down the choices to your top three
- Look for the best deal
This TV buying guide will also discuss whether there is an ideal time to buy televisions to score the best deals at affordable prices.
TV buying guide step 1: Determine factors that affect your TV buying decision
When you purchase a television, you probably already know what you are going to use it for. It is important to note that very few televisions are good for everything. Most televisions are optimized for certain activities and situations. The following are some of the factors that can affect your TV buying decision.
- Location of the TV
Where you plan to place the television has a big impact on the type of TV you should go with. A living room television is usually quite big, and the size is only limited by the size of the room. A bedroom television is typically a bit smaller, while a television for your kitchen is often the smallest.
If you have a dedicated entertainment room, man cave or game room, you can also get a very big television for that room with all the bells and whistles for this space. However, a television that goes in your kitchen doesn’t need too many features. Just something you can watch media/TV with.
Let’s continue with our TV buying guide.
- Size of the room
There is no denying that very large televisions can be very attractive. However, if the room is small, a large television can overwhelm the space and feel out of place. Therefore, it is important to consider the size of the space as well as the viewing distance.
If your room is too small, you may end up being too close to the television. You are sitting too close if you can easily make out the pixels and the screen’s structure. It is important to find that sweet spot between screen size and room size for a more immersive viewing experience. It is important that the images on the television fill up your field of vision so that your eyes do not stray from the action for a more theatre-like viewing experience.
If you want to buy an HDTV, ensure there is enough room in your home so that the distance between the screen and your chair is between 1.5 and 2.5 times the screen’s diagonal measurements. Therefore, if you have a 40-inch television, you can sit between 5 feet and 8.3 feet for the best viewing experience. The bigger the television screen, the larger the viewing distance. If you have a 4K TV, the viewing distance should be between 1 and 1.5 times the screen’s diagonal measurements.
Sitting too close to the television is not optimal, but neither is sitting too far away from it. If you sit too far away from the screen, you will miss out on all the amazing features you paid for. It is better to either buy a bigger TV or rearrange your furniture so that you are a bit closer to your television.
Ultimately, bigger is always better. Therefore, it is advisable to purchase the biggest TV your room size, your viewing distance and your budget can accommodate.
- Viewing angle
One of the main factors that affect viewing quality is the viewing angle. Regardless of the technology or the price and size of the television, consumers enjoy a more immersive viewing experience if they view the television straight on and at eye level. If the television will be in your den or bedroom, you can get any type of television, including a curved design. However, if the television is in the living room, you have to consider all the viewers.
If you often have people over to view sports games or movies, chances are that there are people who will sit at an angle. Therefore, you need to get a television that has a wider viewing angle to ensure that everybody in the room enjoys the game or show.
- TV uses
What you use the television for also determines the type of TV to buy. If you plan to buy the television for your kitchen so you can keep an eye on the game, while your fix meal, you can get a standard TV.
However, if you use it to watch football or play videogames, you need something better than a standard TV.
- Lighting situation
The lighting situation in your room also helps to determine the type of TV you should buy. If your room has a lot of windows, you need a TV with an anti-glare screen and brightness control features. If you like to watch television at night in total darkness, you need a television with a screen that is not too bright to reduce eyestrain. The amount of light in your room can also affect your TVs contrast.
- How tech-savvy are you?
A television that is chock-full of features can be frustrating to use if you are not very tech-savvy. If you can barely operate a standard TV, purchasing one with loads of features that you’ll never use is a waste of money.
TV buying guide step 2: Consider TV must-haves
Technology has advanced to a point where even cheap televisions look really good and have some decent features. Therefore, there is never really any excuse not to get the best television your budget can accommodate.
In an effort to compete, most television companies have included lots of convenient features to enhance the consumer’s viewing experience. Some of these features are must-haves, as they improve picture and viewing quality. Others are nice to have but are not really necessary. There are also a few deal breakers that every consumer must have. The following are some of the must-have features. Let’s jump right into the second step of our TV buying guide.
- Picture improving technology
Picture improving technology is especially important if you want a large television. Any picture-enhancing feature is a plus. For example, you should consider the refresh rate of the television to ensure it meets your viewing needs. If you simply watch talk shows and comedy shows, a refresh rate of around 60Hz is enough. However, if you watch action or adventure-packed shows and movies, you should get a TV with a refresh rate of at least 120Hz. The higher the refresh rate, the less blurry the picture will be and the clearer all those special effects will be.
- 4K screen resolution
This is only important if you want to future-proof your investment. The screen resolution determines how sharp an image appears on your television. An affordable HD television may only support around 720p, which means that the screen displays 72 horizontal lines of pixels.
There are some HD televisions that are 1080p and are known as full HD. These televisions have 1080 horizontal lines of resolution. The image is quite sharp, but it is not as good as the image on a 4K screen.
4K TVs are also known as Ultra HD sets. These televisions have four times the number of pixels in the current HD televisions, which means that small objects are sharper and have more detail. The images are also richer and offer more realism.
Fortunately, Ultra HD images are becoming a lot easier to find. Streaming services such as YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are starting to offer 4K content, and it is also easier to find Ultra HD Blu-Ray discs. Other companies that have embraced 4K include DirectTV and Comcast Xfinity. Furthermore, most 4K sets can upscale HD and Full-HD content for better viewing quality.
More and more television companies are focussing on 4K sets, and it is clear that this is the technology of the future. If you wish to purchase a TV you’ll use for at least the next four years, it is better to spend a little more money on a 4K set.
- High contrast ratio
Contrast ratio is a term that a lot of manufacturers throw around loosely. The contrast ratio is the difference in the intensity of light between the whitest white and the blackest black that the television can produce. If the contrast ratio is low, the dark areas will look like a washed out grey and the white areas will lack vibrancy. In theory, the higher the contrast ratio, the clearer and sharper the images will be.
However, most manufacturers measure contrast ratio very differently. A company may claim that their TV has a very high contrast ratio, yet the images will not be as pretty as those of a TV with a slightly lower contrast ratio. The best way to ensure you get the best TV is to read reviews from people who have actually used the TV. When buying a TV, purchase televisions that have a ‘true’ or ‘native’ contrast ratio as opposed to a ‘dynamic’ ratio, as the numbers are likely to be more realistic.
- HDMI connections
Most people do not consider HDMI connections when purchasing a television, even though it is a very important factor. Companies looking to reduce production costs can put one or two HDMI connections at the back. When it comes to HDMI plugs, the more the merrier. You will need a place to connect your Roku or Chromecast, sound bar and even game console. When looking for a TV to buy, choose one that has at least two HDMI plugs.
- LED or LCD televisions
This is one of two types of TV sets. These HD or Ultra HD TVs use light-emitting diodes to illuminate the screen. Depending on the display technology, LED TVs can light up or dim specific parts of the screen for a better mix of dark and light areas in a scene.
LCD TVs use light emitting diodes on the edge of the screen, while other support active dimming. In Full-array LEDs, the diodes are directly behind the screen and can light up or darken specific areas individually. This makes the backlight a lot more precise for better contrast. In the past, full-array LEDs were only present in premium models. However, as television sets become cheaper, this feature is becoming a lot more common in mid-range TVs. It is something this TV buying guide stresses to keep an eye out for when shopping for a television.
A new LCD technology that is becoming more common is known as quantum dots technology. A TV that uses quantum dots has another layer of nanocrystal dots that light up when the backlight hits them for increased brightness and a better color spectrum.
LED technology is a must-have, as it ensures brighter screens and better visibility, even in sunny rooms. Furthermore, this technology is constantly improving, and things will only get better.
- Input lag
This is a very important consideration for gamers. Input lag is a measurement of the time gap between you making an action and the action appearing on your screen. The greater the lag, the more behind the screen is from what is really happening in your game. This can make your game controls feel very unresponsive. It can also make it very difficult and frustrating to play a fast-paced game.
Gamers have to look for a TV with a shorter input lag. Certain television sets have a special gaming mode feature that allows the input signal to skip certain processes that may create lag.
TV buying guide step 3: Consider TV nice-to-haves
- Additional motion blur features
Motion blur can negatively affect your viewing experience, and some companies have special features to help make images smoother. Such extra features may have a name such as frame or motion interpolation. However, the effect may be excessive, and the image may not look good to everyone. Sometimes these features enhance the image so much that every image gets a cheap-looking, razor-sharp sheen often known as the ‘Soap Opera effect’. Fortunately, these features can be disabled if you dislike them. While some motion interpolation features can make the image sharper, they aren’t always necessary.
- OLED display
OLED televisions are a bit better than normal LED or LCD displays. Instead of backlights, OLEDs use organic light emitting diodes, which are controlled by the pixel level. This helps the television achieve a remarkable level of contrast. OLED display offers the best picture quality, as the colors pop and the blacks are a lot deeper. The image also retains its quality when viewed from the side. However, the peak brightness can be lower than some LCD televisions. Furthermore, the price of an OLED TV is ridiculously high. This is one of the features that are nice to have, but not really necessary unless you have a lot of disposable income.
- Smart TV platform
Smart televisions platforms offer both convenience and multi-functionality. Most televisions used today are Smart TVs. They typically come with built-in Wi-Fi so users can access Internet-based services such as YouTube and Netflix. The latest TV models have search capabilities that make it easier for you to find content and live programming across various streaming services.
Different TV companies use different platforms. LG and Samsung use their own in-house software, while Sony uses Android TV. There are usually slight differences in the app selection, but most of these platforms offer the basic sets of features.
Furthermore, even if the TV does not have this platform, you can plug in Apple TV or Chromecast instead of relying on any onboard software. In fact, the external box or dongle runs a lot faster and provides a better selection of apps. You will also get more regular updates than anything on a TV itself.
The only exception is if you already have a lot of Google software and products, as it might be better to purchase a TV that runs Android TV. All your online history and personalized data will easily sync with your new television. If you have an Android phone, you can even mirror it on the television.
- Curved screens
One of the innovations that attract a lot of TV buyers is the curved screen. Companies promise that this screen gives consumers a more immersive and theater-like viewing experience.
However, curved screens are only good for their aesthetic value. They do look chic and visually appealing, but that’s where their advantages end. They do not have any technical advantage over rectangular TV sets, and they can actually be quite disadvantageous. For starters, the slightly curved look can distort some images and make it harder to view the TV from certain angles. LED televisions are also less likely to have uniform brightness throughout the screen.
There are also buyer reports that curved screens can result in viewer fatigue. Regardless of the disadvantages, curved screens are notably more expensive than comparable flat models. They are basically a costly fashion-statement that does not add any value in terms of picture quality.
HDR stands for high dynamic range. An HDR television has a lot more colors, better contrast and more brightness. It is an upgrade on an ultra HDTV or 4K format.
The very basic HDR standard is the HDR10, and most television companies offer it. Dolby vision is a little bit more demanding and meets stricter HDR criteria than HDR10. However, there isn’t much HDR programming, though the situation is slowly improving. Most streaming services have a growing number of HDR shows, and satellite and cable are also getting their own form of HDR.
Ultimately, you can get a TV that has HDR because the feature is nice to have and dramatically improves the picture quality. Most 4K televisions already have HDR. However, if you cannot afford to get a TV that has it, you will still enjoy your viewing experience.
- Audio features
Most flat TVs have a very slim design, which means that they don’t have enough space for large speakers that produce a richer sound. There are some companies out there that are really trying to improve their TV’s sound quality. However, there are some very good HDTVs that still produce poor sound. This should not be a deal-breaker when purchasing the TV. If the set has poor sound but lots of great features, buy the TV and get a soundbar.
Soundbars are a lot more popular than surround-sound systems, which can be quite a hassle to install and create a lot of clutter. One of the main reasons for the increasing popularity of soundbars is their affordability. They are also easy to install and can remarkably improve the cinematic experience of watching your favorite movies.
Some of the newer models are very thin and can fit under your TV neatly without blocking the bottom of the picture. You can also mount some models on the wall under your wall-hanging TV. There are companies that offer sound stands or boxes that you can slide under your TV set.
If you want a fuller audio experience, you can get soundbars and TVs that support Dolby Atmos. This is a new Dolby audio standard that features overhead sound. You do not have to stress about extra cables that create clutter as most modern televisions have at least one ARC HDMI port. ARC or Audio Return Channel is an HDMI feature that lets you use the HDMI for both audio input and output. This allows you to get quality sound for all your devices without using a special receiver.
- Voice control
Voice control features such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are some of the biggest TV trends at the moment. These features allow consumers to use their voice to search online, play music and control the speakers without touching the remote. This feature is very convenient, especially if you’re the type to lose the remote control often. While it is a very nice feature to have, it is only necessary if your budget allows it.
TV buying guide step 4: Consider all your deal breakers
What you plan to use your TV for will determine your deal breakers. If you like browsing and streaming movies, it is better to get a Smart TV. If you play games often, look for a television that has low input lag. If you prefer to watch movies on your TV, anything with a low contrast ratio is a deal-breaker. Sports fans, on the other hand, have to remove any television that has a low refresh rate from their shortlist.
TV buying guide step 5: Creating a budget
One of the major factors that determine the type of television you buy is your budget. After determining the features you really want and the ones you can do without set a rough budget range to work with. The intention is to buy a TV with as many must-have features as possible and as many nice-to-have features as you can afford. The budget also ensures you don’t spend more money than you need to.
It is important to note that you may have to compromise to get what you want. If a feature is important to you, you may have to get a smaller-sized TV or to forego other expensive features.
If your budget is small, you may have to opt for budget brands as opposed to top-shelf brands. You may also choose a smaller TV from an unknown brand. Such TVs are good for kitchens and bedrooms and often have very basic smart features. If you want a TV with a little more features with a budget of less than $300, you may have to settle for a second-hand set.
If you have a slightly bigger budget, such as between $300 and $600, you may get a more decent TV set. There are quite a few good TVs that cost as little as $400, but the more you pay, the better and larger televisions you’ll find. Most TVs in this price range will have decent smart features, and they are quite good for movies and games.
If you have around $1000, you can get a TV that is really good with a high resolution and contrast ratio. You may also get a larger TV with excellent picture-processing technology. When you have a lot of money to spend, it is better to shop around to ensure you get the best bang for your buck.
TV buying guide step 6: Narrow down your choice to three
After considering every factor, narrow down your choices to three TV sets. Ideally, your shortlist should include a cheaper TV, an expensive set and one in the middle that meets most of your viewing needs. You can then read online reviews from people who have already bought these. An obvious winner may present itself. If you like all three choices, purchase the one that gets you the best deal.
TV buying guide step 7: Look for the best deal on your top-three televisions
Finding the best deal involves comparing prices and looking for insider tips from current owners and retailers. For example, don’t buy a TV just before Christmas, as the prices are usually higher. Approach periods before global sporting events, such as the Olympics or World Cup, with caution for the same reason.
January is a good time to buy due to sales. However, the best time is often between February and April as companies prepare to release new models. This means that the prices of new models begin to go down.
Should you get the extended warranty?
After spending so much money to buy the television, you may be tempted to get the extended warranty. Fortunately, most televisions are built with durability in mind, and you may never use the store’s extended warranty. The LEDs are virtually shock-proof, and most HDTV features are extremely resilient. If there are any issues, you will likely notice them within the first 30 days, and most stores already accept returns within the first month.
Most manufacturers offer a one-year warranty, just in case you notice any problems within the first year. Some credit card companies also provide additional coverage on the purchase. If the price of a warranty makes no difference to you, go ahead and get it. Otherwise, save your money and skip the extended warranty.
Wrapping up our 2018 TV buying guide
Are you in the market for a new television? A lot of people find the process of purchasing a television overwhelming and grueling. Some consumers are afraid of experiencing buyers’ remorse after spending so much money on a new set.
Follow the tips outlined in this TV buying guide, and you’ll find a television set that meets your viewing needs and stays within your budget. You’re in a good place to start your search. We have lots of TV reviews on our site.