When did buying a TV get so complicated? With the advancements in LCD technology that have come over the last few years, today’s television sets are better than ever before. But the flipside of that coin is that picking one out at the store has become a lot trickier. So forget about terminology for a second—we’re looking at you, HD, Ultra-HD, OLED and 4K—and just focus on these five important TV considerations before you plunk down your hard-earned money.
1. How big is your space?
You’d be amazed how many people end up returning their new TV to the store because it doesn’t fit in their entertainment center. Before you do anything else, use a tape measure to determine the size of the space your new TV needs to fill. You’ll want to leave at least an inch or two of leeway on the top and sides, and several inches behind for ventilation. And when you get to the store, keep in mind that the TV screen size advertised by the manufacturer is the diagonal corner-to corner length, not the width of the TV.
2. What room is it going in?
It’s important to assess the room your TV is going to live in, partly because you don’t want to overpower a small space with a gargantuan TV screen, but also because you’ll need adequate distance between yourself and the TV for it to look its best. For example, a 50- or 60-inch LCD TV needs to be viewed at a distance of 8 feet or more to really look its best, but a 30-inch LCD TV will give you a good picture at just 3 to 4 feet. So bear in mind that bigger isn’t necessarily better, especially in a small space.
3. How good is the picture quality?
Ignore, for the time being, all the numbers and letters that TV manufacturers use to make their products sound super-awesome. How does the TV look to you? Consider the resolution, the contrast, the darkness of the screen surface, the flatness of the screen and the screen dimensions, and ask yourself if it’s good enough for you (and good enough for the money it costs).
4. What are its audio/video capabilities?
Make sure the TV has a least one set of audio/video inputs, and one one set of audio outputs. Today, most TVs have these, but the number and types of inputs vary quite a bit. What you need depends on how you intend to use your TV and what you plan to hook it up to, but it’s always smart to buy a new TV that has the input/output flexibility to add more components in the future.
5. Does it have smart features?
Smart TVs aren’t for everyone, but with Netflix, Hulu, and other similar services becoming more and more popular, so are smart TVs. If you decide to get a TV with an Ethernet connection or built-in WiFi, it allows you to watch content on your TV via the Internet, in addition to your TV’s tuner, satellite or cable connection, and DVD/Blu-ray player.