We explain how to get a great deal on a television without buying technology you won't use.
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. Today, your options include an alphabet soup of HD, LD and other acronyms, flat versus 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. There are 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. We’ve done much of the research for you, and offer our best advice below:
1. Bigger might be better
Yes, larger screens cost more, but prices have fallen in recent years. People rarely get a TV home and then complain it’s too big.
Still, buying the biggest TV you can afford might not be right for you. Consider the room’s size and the distance from which you will 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 seating area and where you will place the television. Multiply that number by eight — Consumer Reports says to divide by 1.5 and multiply by 12, which is the same thing — and you’ll have the optimal set size in inches.
One example: If you’re going to sit 8 feet back, shop for a model that’s no larger than 60 inches.
2. Screen options
It’s easy to become confused when unraveling the types of screens available. The good news is most now are LCD, also called LED because they use LED backlighting, says digital guru Kim Komando. 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. Digital Trends recently crowned OLED TVs as the king of today’s TVs:
In terms of picture quality, OLED still beats LED/LCD, even though the latter technology has seen many improvements of late. OLED is also lighter, thinner, uses less energy, offers the best viewing angle by far, and, though still a little more expensive, has come down in price considerably.
3. LED backlight explained
If you want an LED backlit model, opt for the edge-lit system that allows for a thinner TV and more consistent lighting, Komando says. 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.
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.
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. But as CNET noted, you can connect devices from Amazon, Roku, Apple and more that suit your interests just fine.
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, so make sure your TV has enough.
7. Another fad to avoid
Clearly, tastes are subjective. Otherwise, Apple wouldn’t offer the iPhone in multiple 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.
What TV technology do you find is worth the investment? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.