Buying a new TV can become a unique stress experience for a number of reasons. Most people tend to keep a TV much longer than, for example, having a telephone. So it seems like the pressure is greater to make the right choice. There's also a frightening amount of jargon, with few real information about which features actually make for a better viewing experience.
Unfortunately, there is no perfect formula for buying the right TV. As with telephones, you can not only see the technical specifications of a TV and know how it behaves. Even if you could, the TV needs of all people are different.
There are some great sites that specialize in television reviews such as Rting's and HDTVTest – but although they're useful, it is impossible for them to cover everything. And even if you watch a TV in a showroom, you can not fully understand the story of how a set in your home performs.
Instead, with this guide, we'd like to introduce you to all the features of modern TVs. We determine which features might be important to you and which ones you can probably ignore. Think of this guide as a glossary: it does not contain all the answers, but should provide you with the knowledge to make a better decision for yourself.
Which solution do I need?
If it's you If you buy a TV in 2019, you should probably buy a 4K device. These TVs have a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is sufficient for four 1080p TVs worth of pixels. If you buy a smaller TV under 40 inches, you may only buy a 1080p model. However, if this is an option and your budget allows it, you should definitely opt for 4K.
There are always fierce arguments about whether your brain can perceive the full 4K resolution in the distances from which people watch TV. But honestly, these conversations are not productive. 4K TVs do not just have more pixels. They also tend to have wider dynamic range and a wider color gamut, so you can enjoy a better viewing experience no matter where you sit or how big your TV is. Future
Maybe we'll switch to 8K at some point (four times more than 4K), but this future is so far away that it makes no sense to future proof by buying an 8K set now. Sure, maybe one day you can see 8K content on it. But at this point, there probably will be other things that are outdated on your TV, be it the ports you're using, the apps you're running, or some other future feature that has not even turned up.
Which size is best?
There are several formulas that are recommended to select the best sized TV for your home. For example, Samsung recommends buying a TV whose diagonal viewing distance is one-half the viewing distance in inches. So, if you sit 10 feet (120 inches) away from your TV, you want a 60-inch TV.
But it's more complicated than that, as anyone with a tiny or oddly shaped living room can testify. Sometimes you just need something a little smaller, no matter how far away you are from your TV.
The unfortunate reality is that many TV brands tend to give priority to their larger devices their most advanced technologies before these features are limited to the smaller, cheaper sets. A good example is OLED TVs (which we'll discuss in the next section). Currently, they are not available in all sizes smaller than 55 inches – though there are indications that this could change in the future.
If your budget and space allow, it's often worth it to buy a TV on the bigger side.
OLED or LCD or QLED?
One of the most important decisions you need to make when buying a TV is what kind of panel you want. Nowadays, you basically have the choice between OLED and LCD. (The latter is a category that includes QLED.) Plasma televisions have not existed for at least half a decade, and it is unlikely that MicroLED devices will be widely available for years to come.
OLED is generally considered to be the higher quality version of both technologies, not least because it is much more expensive in most cases. Since there is no backlight, each pixel can output its own light or turn it off completely. This gives OLED displays really dark blacks that provide a great sense of depth. In addition, the viewing angles of OLED TVs are excellent.
What's good about OLEDs is that basically every model on the market, regardless of manufacturer, uses the same panels manufactured by LG Display. This means that the image quality is constantly good, no matter which OLED TV from the manufacturer you buy. Of course, the image quality is not identical, but if terms like "Tone Mapping" and "Motion Handling" mean nothing to you, it's unlikely that you care too much about the differences. The bar for OLEDs is generally very high.
But they are not perfect. OLEDs can not be as bright as LCDs, which means they can be more reflective in bright rooms. It is also likely that you will hear of a problem called "burn in" when a picture displayed on an OLED TV for a long time is "etched" permanently on the TV. However, the latest report from Rtings says that this is not a problem for most people, unless you look at many similar content over time, such as a channel that always has the same logo in the same place on the screen.
The vast majority of televisions on the market today are LCDs. The quality of the LCD TV is very different, and there are also different types that need to be understood. For LCD TVs, manufacturers typically use IPS or VA panels. IPS panels have better viewing angles and VA panels have a better contrast. (TN panels are common in PC monitors, but I do not think I've ever seen them in a TV.)