How to Buy a new 4K TVby The NetDigz Editors 1/29/2022 4:13:22 PM GMT
With a huge range of 4K televisions to consider for your new home entertainment system, and a complex set of variables given the diversity of competing technologies, like LCD-LED vs. QLED vs. OLED, finding the best buy TV choice, at the right price, can be a massive undertaking.
To help tackle the job, we've created this guide so you can arm yourself with the information you'll need to make an informed decision for the best buy tv deals. If you're not in the mood to become a TV expert, but still want to make sure you make a good buying decision, you can jump right to our reviews of the best TVs and find just the right TV for you.
Here are the most important questions that need to be answered:
What size TV should I buy?
Screen sizes range from the smallest 10" TVs, to sets that come with screen sizes of more than 100", but the extremes are really for specialty applications and beyond the scope of this discussion.
For use as your primary TV, a 48-inch, 55-inch, or 65-inch screen probably hits the sweet spot. For much smaller main living areas you may go as low as 43-inches, or for larger living areas, a 75-inch size might do the trick. The two real determining factors are: how much room do you have for your TV stand or wall mount, and how much do you want your TV to dominate the space.
Take the time to use a tape measure on the area you plan to put your TV to ensure the dimensions of your new TV will allow you to put it where you want it. Remember, TV sizes are a measurement of the diagonal length of the TV screen, from the bottom corner to the upper corner on the opposite side. This means that the horizontal measurement of the TV will be lower than the screen size.
Also, make sure you have the room to put your seating at a comfortable distance from the screen. Generally speaking, the absolute maximum screen size you should select is a little less than half the distance between the TV and your seating. So if you're seating is 13 feet from the TV, the calculation would be 13 ÷ 2 x 12" = 78". Adjusted for a little less than half means your absolute maximum screen size would be 75". For a 65-inch TV, you shouldn't be any closer than 10-11 feet from the screen, and for a 55-inch TV, you shouldn't be any closer than 8-9 feet from the screen.
Ultimately, personal preferences are the deciding factor. More comprehensive calculations are provided in our guide on How to Choose the Right Size TV.
Should I get an OLED or an LCD-LED display?
The two dominant display technologies available today are: OLED and LCD-LED (which includes QLED).
The majority of TVs produced use LCD panels that employ edge-lighting or back-lighting. Virtually every TV manufacturer produces a budget, mid-range, and high-end TV using this technology. Key points to consider in your purchase decision is which technology is used to provide light to the LCD panel; and what, if any, local dimming technology is employed.
Edge-lit panels have LED lights mounted on the edge that fire across the screen, while back-lit screens have lights mounted directly behind the screen. A higher quality TV image, with better contrast, can be achieved with the LED lights mounted behind the screen.
Full-array local dimming is used to dim specific areas of the screen to produce deeper blacks and improve image contrast. The more dimming zones, the better the picture quality (assuming quality picture processing software).
The best LED panels are QLED panels, which add an additional Quantum Dot layer to the LCD screen to improve the depth and vibrancy of colors produced by the display.
The latest development in LED technology is the mini-LED. These panels use smaller LEDs to allow for more dimming zones, resulting in sharper and more nuanced blacks, closer to what you might see on an OLED panel. A QLED TV employing mini-LED technology delivers a compelling picture quality.
OLED panels have pixels that produce their own light, so the display needs no backlighting, which is why the best OLED TVs are incredibly thin. Also, because they can turn off their pixels entirely, OLED screens have perfect blacks and produce a striking image with excellent contrast. In essence, as a comparison to LCD TVs, each of an OLED's pixels is its own dimming zone. Bottom line, an OLED screen produces the best picture possible.
Having said that, an OLED TV is more expensive (a lot), and a good 4K LED TV still offers a fantastic viewing experience. By way of comparison, the LG C1-Series 55" OLED TV currently retails for around $1,600.00+, while the TCL 6-Series 55" QLED mini-LED TV currently retails for around $950.00+.
Are you a videophile with tons of money that has to have that OLED screen, or would you choose a TV with an impressive picture and free up some money for a good sound bar? That's no small consideration because, lets face it, the picture is only half of the viewing experience and typical TV sound systems often leave a lot to be desired.
- OLED panels aren't as bright as LCD panels, so if you are putting the TV in a very bright room, a high-end LCD TV may be a better choice for a best buy smart tv.
- OLED panels generally maintain their color and contrast over a much wider viewing angle, so if watchers are spread around the room, picture degradation on an LCD TV will be noticeable to some viewers.
What Resolution should I get?
An Ultra High-Definition (UHD) TV, also called a 4K TV, has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels (8,294,400 pixels overall), which is four times higher than that of its High-Definition (HD) predecessor that has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (2,073,600 pixels overall). With more pixels available to manipulate, manufacturers can produce greater color range, sharper images, and a more lifelike picture.
Native 4K sources are starting to become more available (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, & Ultra HD Blu-ray), and a significant number of content providers are preparing to release their entire line-ups in the 4K format. Much like the HD experience where content was sparse and then suddenly everything was HD, production of UHD content has reached a similar tipping point.
Older HD and Standard definition content also gets a boost in image quality on a 4K TV as a result of new upscaling technologies that add pixel density to the data stream, breathing new life into older content.
Blu-ray movies on a good 4K TV pushes the limits of what a human can process, and the newest game consoles are taking advantage of the stunning picture a 4K TV can deliver.
Given the significant drop in the price of TVs over the last couple of years, there's really no reason to buy a TV that doesn't have 4K resolution.
Note: This only applies to TVs that are greater than 32" in size. Smaller screen sizes don't offer enough space to effectively utilize more than High Definition pixel density.
Should I be Concerned about HDR?
High Dynamic Range (HDR) represents a significant advancement in display technology. Measured in "stops", Dynamic Range is the difference in contrast between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks a TV can produce. A traditional standard dynamic range (SDR) TV has a range of about six stops, while the most advanced HDR displays can exceed 20 stops.
More stops of range translates into greater details in the shadows and highlights of an image, often described as a "richer" image. HDR also has a wider color gamut and supports greater peak brightness. This means you'll see more shades of colors, creating greater image detail. These color and brightness enhancements help create a more realistic presentation.
Most new movies and TV content are taking advantage of HDR and, the latest generation of game consoles are emphasizing this technology.
There are 4 HDR formats supported by different TV manufacturers:
- HDR10: This is basically the industry standard HDR format, supported by virtually all HDR equipped TVs on the market. This is a Static HDR format that applies a one-time adjustment for each movie or show.
- Dolby Vision: This is a Dynamic HDR format that provides information that allows the picture to be adjusted on a frame-by-frame basis, a truly stunning development. Dolby Vision has wide and growing support from production companies and movie studios, plus streaming services like Netflix. Microsoft also has it on the Xbox Series X and S gaming consoles.
- HDR10+: Another dynamic HDR format like Dolby Vision, that lacks any real support, found mostly only on Samsung TVs.
- Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG): This is a broadcast format that provides HDR image enhancement that is equivalent to HDR10.
We recommend avoiding any 4K TV that lacks at least basic HDR. Dolby Vision is a real game changer that comes on virtually all premium TVs except Samsung (they only support their proprietary HDR10+ format). Additionally, a growing list of budget and mid-range TVs are adding support for Dolby Vision. The prospect of any meaningful content supporting HDR10+ is questionable, so it's not any issue in your TV purchase decision. HLG support is really only relevant if you intend on adding an over-the-air antenna as part of your content sources.More information on HDR can be found here.
What About Sound?
Getting audio quality from a TV that matches the video quality of 4K resolution is a difficult task. A couple of high-end models, like the Sony A80J OLED TV produce pretty decent sound, but if you're going to shell out for a premium TV, there's probably room in the budget to buy a high-performance soundbar that'll make even that TV's audio performance a non-starter.
If your budget doesn't support an audio upgrade with a soundbar, then the best TV to buy is one with the best audio quality that's within your reach.
Manufacturers promote watts-of-power as a measure of performance for their TV's speaker systems, but that information is only marginally helpful in determining how a TV is likely to sound.
A better indicator is the number of speakers a TV has, and the configuration in which those speakers are employed. A "2.1" configuration tells you that the speakers are in a stereo arrangement ("2"), with a dedicated bass speaker (".1"). A 3.1 configuration tells you that a dedicated center speaker has been added to the stereo speakers ("3"), and there is a dedicated bass speaker (".1"). This is an industry standard audio configuration designation.
A dedicated center channel always provides better audio quality, as opposed to splitting the voice channel between two stereo speakers. And a built in bass speaker is a tremendous help when dealing with hard to produce sound at the lower end of the spectrum.
It would also be helpful if your TV had forward firing speakers, as TVs with downward firing speakers tend to have a muffled sound. TVs with forward-firing speakers generally produce more powerful and clearer audio.
If you want to upgrade your TV viewing experience by having sound that matches your 4K video performance, our reviews of the best soundbars available make it easy to find a high-quality performer for any budget.
What Ports do I Need?
For most applications today, you'll need to be most concerned with HDMI and USB ports, plus multimedia support.
For HDMI ports, you should be concerned with the number ports (try and get at least three), and the version or specification for those ports (get at least v2.0). This will help guarantee compatibility with the widest range of current and upcoming equipment you may want to connect to your TV. A TV with at least one HDMI 2.1 port can provide a bit of future-proofing, but that's not an absolute necessity unless you want to add an advanced 4K gaming console at some point.
And unless its budget prohibitive, having an HDIM port supporting ARC and/or eARC can be a big deal if you are adding a soundbar to your system, or are planning to do so in the future.
USBs ports can be used for multimedia playback of photos and videos from USB drives, or sometimes for recording from the TV's tuner to an attached USB hard drive. Two to three USB ports are ideal unless you don't use your TV this way.
The best new TVs will have built-in Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port to connect to the Internet through your local network router, and look for Bluetooth support if you need to connect to external Bluetooth enabled devices.
What about Smart TVs?
A Smart TV's access to streaming services is limited by the number of network apps installed on the TV. Unlike the best streaming devices that have the ability to add apps for nearly any streaming network, Smart TVs only have a few network access apps, and they cannot be expanded easily.
Also, streaming devices provide a user interface that allows you to organize your subscriptions and search for content across different streaming platforms, capabilities that Smart TVs lack. From the menu of a streaming device, you can search across all available streaming networks, and find out which networks have your show or movie title for free, and which networks charge to watch the title.
There are some TVs that already have a streaming device built-in, which is different from a Smart TV's limited streaming service apps. The streaming devices in these TVs are full blown versions of the stand-alone streaming devices, with all of the stand-alone device's capabilities. TCL has a full line of 4K TVs that have our number-one rated Roku stand-alone streaming devices built-in, such as our top-rate Best TV for the money, the TCL 6-Series QLED mini-LED TV. Another top-notch TV that comes with an integrated Google streaming device that provides broad access to streaming networks is the Hisense U7G Series QLED TV.
We've accumulated detailed information for you on what you need to know about streaming services, and created full reviews on the best new TV streaming devices. Smart TV "features" are not a substitute for true TV streaming devices and should not be a factor in your TV purchase decision.
We've incorporated all of this information, plus the best prices on TVs, in our reviews on the best TVs available on the market today. One other thing to remember, TV manufacturers have set their TV's image controls to default settings that they feel will appeal to the broadest audience, so your TV picture out of the box might be a disappointment. You can change that disappointing picture to a very satisfying picture in a hurry by following our simple guide for calibrating your TV.