Black Friday is a great day to spring for a new TV, but the days of choosing from a wall of television models that are all fairly similar are long gone, leaving behind an alphabet soup of HD, LD and other acronyms, flat vs. curved screens and a bevy of sizes and other options.
If there was ever a time to splurge, television experts say this is it. New technology is priced to sell. But don’t be steered blindly by salespeople on this decision. Doubters need only recall the VHS vs. Beta wars of old. Sure, Beta proved to have the highest quality picture, but laypeople could not see that difference, video rental options were very limited — and Beta was significantly more expensive.
Today, the technology is different, but there are still plenty of ways to overpay and/or get technology that you won’t use.
Your best bet is to gather expert advice from a variety of respected sources — and, more good news — we’ve done much of the research for you and offer you the best advice below:
1. Go big
Experts say don’t get bogged down in numbers, but a number that does matter is screen size. Yes, larger screens cost more, but prices are falling, according to Consumer Reports. And people rarely get a TV home and then complain it’s too big. They also noted that there are at least 40 sets with screens 60 inches or larger priced at $1,500 or less.
But before you strain your purse strings to buy the largest set available, remember biggest isn’t always right for you. You need to consider room size and the distance from which you view it. One do-it-yourself system recommended by Consumer Reports is to assume you will buy a 1080p set, which is the standard size for high-definition. Then measure the distance in feet between your sitting area and where you will place the television. Multiply that number by eight (they say to divide by 1.5 and multiply by 12, which is the same thing) and you’ll have the optimal set in inches. One example: If you’re going to sit 8 feet back, shop for a model that’s no larger than 60 inches. Another approach: Use an online calculator (such as this one on Rtings) to determine the ideal size for your room.
2. Screen options
It’s easy to become confused when unraveling the types of screens available. The good news is most are LCD (also called LED because they use LED backlighting), says digital guru Kim Komando. In fact, they are so common that 40-inch models might be as low as $100 this holiday season, she said. You will likely want to pass on plasma TVs because they are lower resolution and have fewer features than LCDs, she said. One other option: OLED, an organic light-emitting diode. CNET hails these TVs as the most important advancement in a decade: “It’s hard not to be excited about OLED, as it ticks all the boxes of a dream television: incredible contrast, impossibly thin, extremely energy-efficient.”
3. LED backlight explained
If you want an LED backlighted model, opt for the edge-lit system that allows for a thinner TV and more consistent lighting, advises Komando. You’ll find each system has a local dimming feature that boosts contrast. Full-array dimming is the best choice, but you pay more and likely won’t notice a difference. Think of it as the BETA choice of televisions.
4. Don’t get hung up on buzzwords
Television sales people throw around a host of terms, including contrast ratio, clear motion rate, TruMotion and more. The bottom line: Most of those terms mean nothing to the average consumer, according to CNET. Their advice: ignore those specs
5. Standard 1080p will serve you well
When shopping for a new television, you’ll likely hear about Ultra HD, also known as 4K. While 4K TVs have four times the pixels of today’s standard 1080p, CNET says there’s not that much difference in picture quality. Nor is there much 4K programming to watch yet. So if you who want the best value (and arguably the best image for standard viewers), choose a 1080p.
6. Skip the extras
Perhaps many shoppers seek out Smart TVs with plenty of extras because they’re used to all the bells and whistles on mobile telephones, tablets and computers. As CNET noted, you can connect a $40 Amazon Fire TV Stick, $50 Roku Streaming Stick, $99 Apple TV or Roku, $150 Blue-ray player, $200-$500 game console or a myriad of other devices that best suit your interests. 3D? Not really catching on. The bottom line? Why spend money on a Smart TV when you can mix and match the components you want at a fraction of the price? One other thing to consider: Inputs are a big deal, make sure your TV has enough.
7. Another fad to avoid
Clearly, tastes are subjective or Apple wouldn’t offer its iPhone 6s in four colors. But the curved television screen option is a fad you may want to avoid, said the CNET review, which found the curve detracted from the picture quality. Bottom line: Think twice before you buy one, especially if it costs more.
8. Here are the deals
Now that you’re armed with the facts to determine the best TV for you, it’s time to shop. If you’re heading out on Black Friday here are TV deals to look for from MoneyTalksNews and partner Dealnews.com.
What TV technology do you find is worth the investment? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.