6 Things to Consider When Buying a New TV
As with all electronics, there’s a profound level of complexity that most of us could never hope to understand — and others wouldn’t care to know how it all works. What really matters when you’re TV-shopping is what it all means to you as the user of the product. So, let’s examine the aspects of most importance in TVs to get acquainted with what they mean when you’re buying a new television.
One of the first things you’ll want to do to narrow down your browsing is to figure out what type of TV you want. There are LCD TVs, LED TVs, OLED TVs, and plasma TVs to chose from.
Plasma: If you’re planning on getting a relatively big TV and are going to focus on high-quality cinematic viewing, a plasma TV might be for you. They tend to have excellent color quality and a high contrast ratio (we’ll get into that later), which makes for a beautiful image. They aren’t the brightest TVs though, so ambient light can become a particular problem for plasmas.
LCD: Liquid Crystal Displays are pretty common to find, and may be the cheapest option. They’re energy efficient and usually have good color. For simple use, they’ll probably get the job done. However, if you’re trying to do high frame-rate gaming, they might not be the best choice.
LED: TVs branded as LED are actually just LCD TVs that use LEDs as a backlight for the liquid crystals in the display. If a TV has “local dimming,” it will have an advantage when it comes to contrast ratio, which is a plus. On top of that, LED TVs are less power hungry than standard LCDs and plasma. Unfortunately, they may be more expensive.
OLED: Organic Light Emitting Diode TVs actually are different from LCD TVs. OLED TVs use colored LED lights to create the image, so they save on power, though not always as much as LED TVs. They do manage to create a high-quality image, and a bright one at that, so they may be best for those planning on watching TV a lot during brighter hours, when glare could otherwise be a problem.
Many companies determine the contrast ratio of their TVs very differently. The contrast ratio is simply the difference in brightness between the darkest black and whitest white the TV can produce. With a low contrast ratio, black areas of an image might appear more like a washed-out gray, or bright areas may lack vibrance. You’ll often see numbers like 2,000:1 or 5,000:1 to indicate the contrast ratio, and the bigger that ratio, the better — in theory.
Color reproduction and color depth
This isn’t very likely to come up, as most TV manufacturers will keep their color depth at a level that won’t frustrate consumers. But if you’re shopping for a real bargain-priced TV, you may want to make sure that you get one with a bit depth of “8 bits per channel” or more, with particular emphasis on “per channel.” This will ensure that the TV is able to create enough colors to satisfy the human eye and present photo-realistic images.
This one shouldn’t take much thought. The aspect ratio is simply the ratio of a television’s width to its height. It has no particular effect on the quality of the image created by the TV. It’s most important for what you plan to view most, as you’ll want to be sure the TV’s aspect ratio is close to the aspect ratio of whatever you watch most.
The refresh rate of your TV is the number of times the image on the screen is refreshed per second. It’s measured in hertz, so you might see 60Hz, 120Hz, or even 144Hz listed on the box. Fortunately, you can trust this number a lot more than you could trust the contrast ratio. Higher refresh rates create a smoother flow between images and reduce motion blur, which is handy if you watch a lot of action movies. High refresh rates can also be good for gaming.
The TVs you look at may have more input options than you will ever know what to do with. What’s important is that you know what you will be trying to connect to your TV. If the TV has a coaxial F connector, you don’t need to worry about it if you only plan on plugging things in via HMDI and it has plenty of those.