How to Buy The Best TV For You

There are a lot of different TV options out there. As technology has improved and progressed, new models of TVs have come and gone. Now, if you do a quick search for “new TV”, you’ll get thousands of different results. There’s a lot of different terminology out there as well that helps to confuse the issue. LCD vs Plasma, refresh rates, resolution, what does it all mean? What’s important and what’s not important? There’s plenty of guides out there that will tell you what they think you should know, and they are definitely worth reading if you want to make sure you have the absolute best TV possible, and are willing to pay for it. Don’t have the time, or just plain don’t care? Here’s the bottom line – what you need to know when you go to buy the best TV for you.

TV Type

There’s two main types: LCD and Plasma. In the end, it doesn’t really matter which one you pick. They refer to the type of technology that drives your TV, but to be honest, unless you have an LCD and a Plasma both in your home in the same room right next to each other, you’re not going to notice the difference. Plasma is generally better in higher light situations (near a window) and has better viewing angles (but do you really sit at a huge angle from your television anyways? If you do – just rearrange your furniture). Either way, TV type doesn’t matter – just get whichever is on sale or within your budget.

There’s also an LED-LCD subtype. It’s an LCD screen that uses LEDs to make the lights go on. If it was 1 year ago, I’d say pass on them, but now, again, it really doesn’t seem to matter. It changes the picture a little bit, but again, unless you’re watching two TVs right next to each other in the same room, you won’t notice the difference. Some LED screens have trouble with light bleeding through on the edges, so make sure that you have a good return policy or warranty on your TV and you’ll be fine.

TV Screen Resolution

If you’re going to buy a new TV, it had best be a high definition TV (do they even make non-HD TVs anymore?). Here’s there’s two options. 720p, and 1080p. Yes, they make 1080i sets, but you should avoid those. Why? You don’t really need to know. It refers to how the high definition picture is displayed on the screen (progressive is p, interlaced is i). Progressive is better, if you want to know more, google it. So should you get a 720p or 1080p screen? It depends on the screen size. If it is 32″ or less, buy 720p. If it is 33″ or bigger, get 1080p. Why? Essentially, at 32″, a television screen is incapable of producing a 1080p picture that your eye is capable of telling the difference from a 720p screen at a reasonable viewing distance. It’s at like, 6 feet. So unless you’re using a 32″ television as a computer monitor (you shouldn’t), just follow the rule.

TV Screen Size

How big of a TV should you get? Basically, there’s something called “ideal viewing distance”. It basically is an attempt to replicate a type of experience in your living room. If you have a bigger room, you should get a bigger TV. The farther you are sitting from your TV, the bigger a television you’ll need. Now, there’s a number of calculators and guides on the internet that you can follow, but basically the rule is this: buy the biggest TV you can afford. I’m serious. Determine your budget, and get the biggest TV you can purchase. If that is over 32″, make sure it’s 1080p. Other than that, there’s a lot of crappy misinformation out there that you really don’t need to know. It’s practically impossible to buy too big of a TV, so don’t worry about that (unless you’re sitting 6 feet from the TV. Which you shouldn’t be – it’s a TV).

But What About…

3D TV? It’s a gimmick. If you really want 3D TV, you’re looking at a 3D capable TV, glasses (yes glasses) for everyone that wants to watch the TV at the same time as you, 3D content (meaning additional costs), and all so that you have the joy of having a headache. Not worth it. Watch the 3D in theatres where it belongs, and will shortly die as well.

120Hz, and 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio? Meaningless numbers. The Hz refers to how fast your screen refreshes. 3D TVs require a 120Hz refresh rate. Other than that, your television will be limited by the content, and 60Hz (aka, any other TV in the world) will be fine. The contrast ratio? You can pretty much attribute that to a completely made up number. Every TV manufacturer will calculate that number differently, and essentially means nothing.

Internet-capable, Google TV, built in Netflix, etc. More Gimmicks. I haven’t heard of a single TV interface that’s actually revolutionary or worth paying more for. If your television comes with it, fine. Use it if you want it. If your TV costs more because of it? Skip it. Not even remotely worth paying for. You probably already have 13 internet capable devices in your home, half of which can connect to your TV. Any game console, Apple TV, Roku Box, laptop or computer will be able to hook up to your TV and provide internet, video streaming, free TV,  etc.

So in reality, all it will boil down to is a decent sized TV. Are there brands to avoid? Probably. Just make sure that your television comes with at least a 1 year warranty, pay with a credit card that doubles that to 2 years, and you’ll be set.

Written by Alan Schram

Alan Schram writes about personal finance and his encounters with it in his everyday life. Alan is recently married and is looking to save money on expenses and reduce his debts.

4 Responses to How to Buy The Best TV For You

  1. Hi Alan, I’m with you about 3D TV viewing being pretty worthless….at least for the near future. However, there is some value to those 3D TV’s for their non-3D capabilities. Take for example the Samsung UN55C8000. I freakin love this TV! You will definitely notice a difference in picture quality for this TV w/ the 240Hz versus models with just 120Hz. Just go to a Best Buy and look at two TV’s side by side and you’ll see what I mean…..like night and day for regular TV viewing and worth a few extra bucks.

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