Essential Advice For Buying A New TVBuying a new TV used to be easy – you'd pick a screen size and a cabinet finish and boom, you were done. But buying a TV in today's market presents so many choices and complexities that confusion is rampant, not only for the buyers, but often for the sellers too. The web is packed with TV reviews and specifications, but specs don't tell the whole story and reviewers can only relate their own experiences with a product. Those can be very different from your own needs and expectations. The best way to know "what's the best TV for me" is to prep yourself a bit before making your choice. Here are some helpful tips:
Start With The Right Screen SizeWhile it may seem counter-intuitive, in the world of TVs, bigger isn't always better. A screen that's too large for your normal viewing distance will be fatiguing and strain-inducing to watch. Moreover, if most of your program choices are standard definition (like DVDs, non-HD cable and Internet streams), a bigger screen may actually look worse to you than a smaller one - any imperfections will be magnified and very apparent. On the other hand, a too-small screen won't give you the immersive video experience you're looking for. A good rule of thumb is to choose a screen size that's one third of your normal viewing distance. If you sit 10 feet away from the screen (120 inches), a 40-42" inch model will serve you nicely, and so on.
The TV's Technology Does Make A DifferenceThere are numerous flat-panel TV technologies on the market, including LCD, two types of LED TVs (though these are really LCD TVs with enhancements) and plasma TVs. There are also still some big rear-screen projection TVs that use DLP technology, and of course, there are front projectors that use your wall or an external screen to display pictures, but these are a different animal. All these TV technologies have their pros and cons. Some will give you a better picture than others, some perform better in bright rooms than others. Some are more economical to buy, while others command a price premium thanks to super-thin styling. Some TVs aren't flat at all but emphasize screen size, value and performance, if you've got the space for a non-flat set. To get a better sense of the advantages that each of these technologies offers, see our TV Technology Comparison Guide.
The Programming You Watch Most Often MattersWhen fed with a nice high-definition signal, most TVs, even cheap ones, can look really good. And if that's all you watch, most TVs will offer a very satisfactory picture; you can prioritize other criteria to make your choice, like styling or price. But not all programming is high-def, notably DVDs, non-HD cable and satellite, and Internet video like YouTube. When these signals are fed to an HDTV, the TV converts them to its own "native" resolution - a digital process that's no small trick to perform well.
A too-cheap HDTV will likely have lower quality video processing to convert and display these non-HD signals, with the result being a picture that can be surprisingly poor. Whenever you see bad picture quality on an HDTV, poor video conversion is almost always the culprit. If non-HD sources make up a lot of your viewing habits, it's worth considering the mid-to-higher level offerings from any given manufacturer's "good-better-best" selection. A few dollars more (sometimes not many at all) can often be the difference between a TV you love and one you regret. Better models (often denoted by a different model "series") are often more technologically capable than lower model series.