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How to buy your next TV

  • 9 min read

By Robert Silva for Enclave Audio

A good TV is the starting point for your home entertainment adventure. However, before digging into your wallet, there are important things to consider. We break it all down for you right here. 

Room Considerations

Make sure your room supports a good viewing experience. Room conditions that can affect TV viewing include:

  • The light coming in from windows or lamp light that may reflect off the screen.
  • The seating distance you have available between you and the TV screen.

Drapes or blinds can help block window light. Setting lamps off to the side or that can be turned off during viewing minimize light reflections off the screen.

For a 55-inch TV try to have about 7 feet between you and the screen. For a 65-inch TV consider about 8ft. The best viewing distance will also vary depending on the resolution (720p, 1080p, 4K, 8K) and screen size of the TV.

Check a Viewing Distance Calculator for suggestions.

TV Size and Placement

TV screen size is measured diagonally. However, to make sure the TV will fit your space, take note of the horizontal width and height of the TV's external frame, including any stand that it comes with (unless you plan to wall-mount the TV). 

If the TV isn't displayed at your dealer, the diagonal screen and frame measurements (including for any provided stand) should be on the TV's official product webpage. You need to know the model number. 

Measure the space where you plan to put the TV. If going in an "entertainment center" cabinet, allow a few extra inches on all sides and several inches behind the set for ventilation and easy access to the TV's rear or side panel connections. Leave room to access the TV’s connections. Record your measurements and compare them with the TVs you are considering.

TV Tech Choices

There are two TV types available: LCD and OLED. Both are flat and thin but have technical differences that may affect your choice.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) TVs employ LED back or edge lights that pass light through LCD chips in order to display the image on the screen. LCD TVs with LED back or edge lighting are referred to as LED or LED/LCD TVs.

QLED TVs are also LCD TVs but include a layer of Quantum Dots (Q) placed between an LED backlight (LED) and the LCD layer to enhance color performance.

OLED TVs use microscopic Organic-based Light Emitting Diodes which serve a dual role as the light source and the screen pixels. No additional backlight or quantum dot layer is required to produce images. 

OLED TVs are the best choice for precise color and wide contrast. OLED is also the only TV technology available (currently) to consumers that can display absolute black. OLED TVs also have a wide viewing angle with minimal color or contrast fading. 

However, OLED TVs are not as bright as LCD TVs, which makes them more suited for a darkened room, and they are susceptible to screen burn-in of long term static images.

LCD TVs in combination with LED edge or backlighting are more practical for a bright room but have narrow viewing angles. If you sit to the sides you will notice color and contrast fading. Also, LED/LCD TVs can’t display absolute black. 

QLED TVs approach the color performance of OLED TVs and also display brighter images than OLED. However, the viewing angle is narrower and QLED TVs can't produce absolute black. 

When comparing equivalent screen sizes and features, OLED TVs are more expensive than LED/LCD TVs but select models are about the same price as some QLED TVs. 

Picture Quality Features 

No matter which type of TV you buy, here is what to check to get the best picture quality.

Black Levels

Look at the black levels in displayed videos. Deep black levels complement wider contrast and enhance color. OLED TVs perform the best in this area as they can display absolute black. If the TV is an LED/LCD or QLED TV, they can't display absolute black, but some display deeper blacks than others. However, for those TVs, check for any "spotlighting" in the screen corners or unevenness in black levels across the screen surface. 

Resolution

Resolution is how many pixels are displayed on a TV’s screen surface. The total number of pixels is determined by multiplying the number of horizontal pixels from one-row times the number of vertical pixels in one column. On OLED and LED/LCD and QLED TVs, the rows of pixels that make up the total are displayed progressively (one following the other in numerical sequence) – that is what the "p" part means.

  • For 720p TVs (expressed as either 1280 x 720 or 1366 x 768 pixels) the total number of pixels is about 1 million. This is the low mark of high definition. 
  • Full HD 1080p TVs have a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (2.1 million pixels total.
  • 4K UHD/Ultra HD TVs have a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels (8.3 million pixels total).
  • 8KTVs have a resolution of 7680 x 4320 pixels (33.3 million pixels total). 

For 720p or 1080p TVs in smaller screen sizes (32 to 40 inches), the visual difference is hard to detect. Depending on the content source and your own visual acuity, you may start to notice a difference beginning with screen sizes 43-inches and larger.

Most TVs sold are 4K Ultra HD TVs with screen sizes ranging from 40 to 80+ inches. Depending on seating distance, the difference between 1080p and 4K may not be noticeable until you get up to screen sizes larger than 55 or 65-inches.

Even with screen sizes as large as 65 or 75 inches, it's hard to notice the difference between a 4K and 8K TV.

Almost all TVs 43-inches and larger support 4K resolution, and a growing number of TVs 65-inches and up support 8K resolution. It's rare to find 1080p TVs in screen sizes larger than 49-inches and 720p TVs are now relegated to 32-inch and smaller screen sizes.

There are a lot of 4K TVs priced in the $500 to $1,000 price range that provides good performance for most buyers. Unless you like to be the first to buy new tech or desire an 80-inch or larger screen size, it's premature to purchase an 8K TV as there is very little 8K content to watch.

Video Processing

In addition to resolution, TVs include additional video processing, the most important which is upscaling. 

Upscaling helps a standard resolution video image (such as VHS, DVD, and some streaming content) look better on an HDTV or UHD TV, but not all TVs perform this task well. Even with the best scaling capability, you can't magically transform a standard resolution image into a true higher resolution image.

When considering an HDTV or 4K Ultra HD TV, check how both HD and standard definition content is displayed (for 4K TVs definitely consider how 1080p and lower resolution content looks). See if the dealer will show some standard definition content on the TV.

HDR

HDR (High Dynamic Range) is included on most 4K and all 8K TVs. There are a few 720p and 1080p models from LG that include HDR capability, which is targeted to gamers. 

TVs with HDR display increased brightness and contrast range, which also contributes to improved color quality from compatible HDR-encoded content sources. How well a TV can execute HDR depends on its light output, which is stated in Nits. For OLED TVs 700 nits or higher delivers good HDR results. With LED/LCD and QLED TVs, 1,000 nits or higher is desirable. 

There are several HDR formats. All HDR-equipped TVs are HDR10 compatible, but many are also compatible with other formats, such as Dolby Vision and HLG. Samsung and a few other brands are also compatible with HDR10+, which is Samsung's equivalent of Dolby Vision (Samsung is one of the only TV makers that isn't compatible with Dolby Vision). HDR content is available on most Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and select streaming movies and series programming. HLG is designed for use in TV antenna/cable and satellite transmissions. 

Dolby Vision Example

Refresh Rate and Motion Processing

The refresh rate represents how many times a TV image is reconstructed every second. The more times the screen is "refreshed" every second, the motion of the image is smoother. 

The TV Refresh rate is measured in "Hz" (Hertz). A TV with a 60hz refresh rate represents the reconstruction of the screen image 60 times every second. For 30 fps video, every frame is displayed twice, for 60 fps video, each frame is displayed once. 

Most TVs have a refresh rate of 60Hz. A higher-end TV may have a refresh rate of 120Hz.

Many TVs also provide additional motion processing features, sometimes referred to as Motion Smoothing (label varies by TV brand) intended to improve motion response further. 

  • Backlight Scanning is used on many LED/LCD and QLED TVs. The backlight is blinked on and off at double the speed of the refresh rate.
  • Motion/Frame Interpolation is another technique in which a black frame or intermediate frame is displayed between a previous and subsequent frame. This method may be used on LED/LCD, QLED, and OLED TVs. 

Motion smoothing works well for sports and other types of live or taped TV content, but doesn’t work well for movies as it can result in the "Soap Opera Effect". This makes film-based content look like it was shot on video, which gives movies an odd, videotape, or stage production look, like a soap opera, or taped TV broadcast. If you find this effect bothersome, most TV makers provide settings that can adjust the amount of or turn off added motion processing beyond the TV's refresh rate. Check for settings such as Cinema or Filmmaker Mode

TV refresh rate and motion processing

Matte or Glossy Screen

In addition to the TV’s internal video features, check the TV’s screen surface. Matte screens have an anti-glare coating that reduces light reflections. Glossy screens can reflect, magnify, and distort light and direct it towards your seating position. Matte screens are better for daylight viewing, glossy screens do better in a darkened room.

The Connections

Your TV also needs to have the inputs and outputs to connect a variety of external sources, as well as a sound system. The TV you select has to have the connections you need. 

There are several types of audio and video connections located on the side and/or rear of the TV. 

All available TVs have HDMI inputs (check for version 2.0 or 2.1) for HD-Cable/Satellite Boxes, DVD/Blu-ray/UHD Blu-ray Disc players, Game Systems, and Media Streamers, such as Roku, FireStick, Chromecast, Apple TV, and others. Additional connections are provided for older devices that may not have HDMI connections. You can also connect an antenna to your TV for reception of over-the-air broadcast channels. 

You may also find one or two USB ports (ver 2.0 or 3.0) on the TV for connecting flash drives and other compatible devices, which may include an external Windows-style keyboard or mouse. 

Most TVs provide analog and/or digital optical audio outputs, HDMI ARC/eARC, or all three. Check for these options even if you don't currently have an additional sound system. 

One way you can use HDMI ARC is to connect to an Enclave Audio control center that, in turn, sends sound wirelessly to its surround sound speakers. Also, on select LG Nanocell and OLED TVs, you can plug in a transmitter made by Axiim that allows the TV to send sound wirelessly to

WiSA-enabled speaker systems

TV Connections

Smart Features

Most TVs are Smart TVs. To access their smart features, they need to be connected to a broadband router and the internet. This is done via provided Ethernet connections or Wi-Fi.

Smart TVs can access and stream TV programming, movies, videos, and music via the internet and/or network-connected PCs, and even smartphones. This is in addition to content accessible via antenna, cable/satellite box, DVD/Blu-ray players, and game consoles.

Internet streaming services are provided via pre-loaded or installable apps, which vary with the TV brand/model. The services available on most TVs include Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Pandora, iHeart Radio, and much more via an App store. Some app store platforms include Roku TV, Android TV, Fire Edition TV, and TVs with Chromecast built-in that allow you to customize your streaming app selections.

Smart TV App Features

Control Options

A TV remote control should be easy to use. If you need to control several devices, see if it is compatible with your other devices (some TV remotes do, and some don’t). Also, check for convenience features such as backlit buttons or voice control. You may also have the option in a pinch to use control buttons on the TV. 

In addition, some home theater audio systems come with remotes that can also control some of the features on many TV brands. 

If you lose the TV’s remote, and need an exact replacement it may be expensive. A universal remote may not control all functions of the TV. If you need an exact replacement, check out Remotes.com.

There are also remote control apps for both Android and iPhones that you may be able to use with your TV. Some TVs are also compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, or Bixby (on Samsung TVs). 

Accessories and Add-ons

Don't forget additional accessories, such as cables, power surge protector, wall mount, and other items to complete your TV setup. Also, don’t forget to include a comfortable chair or couch, and consider getting a soundbar or surround sound system to complement your TV. 

Bringing Your TV Home

Ordering a TV online or having it delivered from the store is convenient, but If you buy it at a store and take it home yourself, make sure your vehicle is large enough to transport it. In addition to the TV size measurements, dimensions of the TV’s box is available on the TV's product page.

Compact cars can't fit a TV larger than 32 or 40-inches in the back seat. If you have a hatchback or SUV, you should be able to accommodate up to a 40 or maybe a 50-inch set, but avoid laying the TV flat. It's best to transport the TV vertically. Secure the set so it doesn't bounce around creating a safety hazard or damage to the TV.

If you take the set home, you are on the hook for any damage during transport. If the store delivers it, they absorb the loss for any damage.

 

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