TV programming has undergone extensive changes in the past decade. Streaming video, full cable packages, and skinny bundles give customers more choices than ever for programming.
The device airing the programming in your home has undergone significant changes, too. Today's TVs can have huge screens, low prices, and outstanding picture quality.
Purchasing the right TV for your needs may start with screen size, but it's about more than that. Understanding the jargon associated with television technology gives you a much better chance of success with your purchase. Our top choice comes from Sony, a trusted name in electronics.
Considerations when choosing TVs
Screen size is an important part of picking the right TV. Finding the perfect screen size depends on your budget and on the space you have available.
Calculating the right screen size for your room is an easy process. Look at the primary seating area in a room and select a TV size that matches up with that area.
First, calculate the height of the screen. Keep in mind that manufacturers list the screen size of a TV as the measurement of the screen from one corner to the opposite diagonal corner. You can find the screen height on the TV's specification list.
If you primarily view HD programming, multiply the height of the TV by three -- that's the optimal distance for the primary seating. For mostly 4K programming, multiply the height of the TV by one and a half to find the best seating distance.
Screen type: LED, OLED, and LCD refer to the technology used to create images on the screen. OLED has the highest quality, but it's also expensive. LED appears in the majority of TVs. LCD is not commonly used in modern TVs.
Resolution: TV resolution is listed as either HD (high definition) or 4K (Ultra HD). A 4K TV has 3840 x 2160 pixels on the screen, while an HD TV has 1920 x 1080 pixels. More pixels equal better picture quality. A 4K TV can show programming that's filmed in HD through upscaling. An HD TV would downscale 4K programming to fit the HD resolution. 4K programming is currently much rarer than HD programming, but 4K programs are growing in availability.
HDR: Short for high dynamic range, HDR televisions deliver improved image quality. HDR can enhance the contrast, color accuracy, and brightness of video. Currently, HDR is not available in every type of video programming. However, HDR is a technology that will be used regularly in programming in the future, so it's nice to have it available with your TV.
Connection ports: Using items like Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, streaming devices, or set-top boxes for cable or satellite subscriptions requires use of connection ports. Any new TV should have multiple HDMI and USB ports for your use.
The primary feature that affects TV pricing is screen size. Larger screens carry a significantly higher price point than smaller screens. With this in mind, new TVs can range from $150 to $5,000.
Q. Can I rely on the built-in speakers on my new TV?
A. For average sound quality, the built-in speakers are fine, but if you want high-end sound for movies, you may want to invest in a soundbar. This device greatly improves on the TV speakers' audio quality.
Q. What makes a TV "smart"?
A. Nearly all new TVs are called smart TVs. This simply means the television has built-in software that helps you find programming. The smart TV can make a connection to an internet source via ethernet or WiFi for video streaming.
TVs we recommend
Best of the best: Sony 75-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV
Our take: Even when compared to other 4K TVs, the picture quality in this Sony model stands above the rest.
What we like: The 75-inch screen fits perfectly in a home-theater room. Sound quality is better than its competitors.
What we dislike: Carries a higher price point than others in its screen size category.
Best bang for your buck: Samsung 55-inch Class 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV
Our take: Considering its price point, this model delivers excellent screen brightness and image quality.
What we like: Great option for streaming video over WiFi. Includes HDR technology, which isn't common in this price range.
What we dislike: Ships with a cheaply made TV stand that may fail.
Choice 3: LG 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
Our take: OLED technology is at the top of the TV market, delivering the best image quality you're going to find.
What we like: Large screen size is great for home theaters. Picture sharpness is well above average.
What we dislike: OLED technology is very expensive. Built-in software could be better.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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