Stuff We Love
The Best TV Buying Guide for Your Home
From dazzling displays to smart features, there’s a lot to consider when buying a TV. This guide answers all your burning questions, and then some!
Consider Screen Size
According to Samsung, personal preference plays a part in determining the best screen size for your room. However, they also provide this formula:
Viewing distance (in inches) divided by 2 = recommended TV size.
For example, if you usually sit 10 feet from the TV, that’s 120 inches (10 feet x 12 inches).
120 divided by 2 = 60
So, the optimal screen size for you is 60 inches, and remember, that’s the diagonal measurement of the screen.
Consider Resolution: 4K or Full HD?
Full HD has been on the scene for a while now. It refers to 1920 x 1080 resolution, or the number of pixels that make up the picture on a display in horizontal rows and vertical columns. But a useful TV buying guide will no longer show full HD as the only option available. Now, you can choose Ultra HD, also called 4K. TVs with 4K displays have 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is four times that of full HD. There are also 5K and 8K TVs available. The 8K TVs are rare and expensive. Expect to pay around $5,000 for a 65-inch 8K model.
We love the Samsung Flat 55-Inch 4K with UHD TV for $498. The enhanced detail, including PurColor technology, which not only makes everything on the screen appear life-like, but offers millions of shades of color that make for a mesmerizing, vibrant picture. Your favorite movies will appear like they never have before.
You’ll find that no matter the price of a TV, HDMI ports vary. For those who want to add a sound bar, a game console, a Fire TV Stick and more, you’re going to want to make sure you have enough ports on the back of the TV. A good rule of thumb is to be sure the TV has a minimum of three HDMI ports.
We love that the VIZIO 55-Inch Class Ultra HD Full-Array LED Smart TV has five ports!
Wiring the TV correctly is an important first step and then hiding the ugly wires is a critical second step. Try sneaking them into your TV stand, zip-tying them together, or hide them by DIYing this clever and simple “chase.”
HDR, which stands for high dynamic range, is a another step up from 4K. It provides even more colors, contrast levels and increased brightness. Unlike with 4K, the standard for HDR is yet to be set, so purchasing a TV solely by this label isn’t recommended.
We like the LG 65-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED NanoCell TV because it’s compatible with Dolby Vision.
Consider Dolby Vision
There are several types of HDR on the market, including HDR10, which is considered the standard. There’s also Dolby Vision, which is considered the enhanced version of HDR10.
While all HDR masters contain metadata—which is responsible for dictating the color and brightness—generic HDR10 uses static metadata, which is a single average of color and brightness for the entire show you’re watching. On the other hand, Dolby Vision uses dynamic metadata, which sets individual color and brightness levels for each frame.
The Sony 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV offers Dolby Vision and gets rave reviews on Amazon.
Consider a Smart TV
Today, smart TVs are a dime a dozen, but they’re not all created equal. The type you choose can totally alter your viewing experience. A basic smart TV will have a limited selection of popular services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Others feature a larger array of apps and full web browsers. The most advanced will have voice commands, provide you program recommendations and more. What a smart TV is the most useful for is cutting the cord on cable or satellite services.
TCL offers budget-friendly TVs with built-in Roku services.
LG offers high-end models that provide LG ThinQ with the voice assistance of the Google Assistant and Alexa to control your entertainment and smart home.
Streaming Media Players
If you choose to get a budget TV that doesn’t have smart features built-in, or you get a basic smart TV, you may be interested in adding on a streaming media player to boost your entertainment options. You can choose from a set-top box like the Apple TV or the Amazon Fire TV Cube, which support 4K video. You can also opt for a stick player, like Google Chromecast or the Ultra Roku Streaming Stick, which support 4K.
The Screen: Flat or Curved?
Flat TVs are the standard, but is there any reason besides getting something out of the ordinary to purchase a curved one instead? The two designs aren’t incredibly different from one another. “Compared to flat-screen TVs, there was no meaningful difference in picture performance in our tests,” says Consumer Reports’s head TV tester, Claudio Ciacci. “What’s more, a curved screen introduces a subtle geometric distortion to the image when viewing from the sides or if the TV is placed too high up on the wall. So these curved TVs look best when viewed straight on, and at eye level.” And, as you would expect, curved TVs are more expensive than comparably sized flat-screen TVs.
Those who do favor a curved screen explain that, “by curving the image slightly forward, the world you’re watching seems to ‘wrap around’ you more, entering slightly more into your peripheral vision and thus drawing you deeper into the world you’re watching,” according to Trusted Reviews.
Extended Warranties: Necessary or Not?
Manufacturers are boosting warranties to generate revenue. It’s as simple as that. The newest TVs on the market today have virtually shockproof components, including the LEDs used to light the picture. If your new TV is a dud, you will usually know within a month of buying it, and that will usually covered under store-return policies. Bottom line: spending the extra money for an extended warranty is a waste of your money. A regular one-year warranty will serve you just fine.
Go for the Bargain!
Whether you’re going for an entry-level smart TV or a high-end TV with the best dazzling display out there, don’t just assume a really expensive TV is the best TV. You’ll hear it everywhere these days: current TVs are the most affordable they’ve ever been. You can get a 55-inch TV complete with 4K resolution, HDR support and smart features galore for less than $500. You can get 65-inch models for less than $1,000. And, let’s not forget that there’s always a sale on electronics right around the corner!
Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.