TV Buying Guide

Quick Navigation: Getting Started - Types - Features - Brands - Tips - Recycling

There's more to televisions these days than screen size, and shopping for a new TV may present a challenge to anyone not familiar with all the bells and whistles that today's flat screen televisions offer. Televisions range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, and no matter what your budget, it's necessary to know what words like "LED," "aspect ratio," and "1080p" mean.

Before You Shop

Staring at a wall full of giant televisions is awe-inducing, but choosing the biggest and most expensive television isn't going to be the right choice for every shopper's needs. A 70 inch television might look grand in the store, but it could present some hefty logistical problems at home. Likewise, going for 1080p (which is a way of describing picture resolution) isn't always necessary if most of your entertainment comes from streaming activity.

Choosing LCD, LED, or Plasma

LCD televisions don't weight a lot, and there are some smooth ultra-thin LCD televisions on the market today that look fantastic in any room. Additionally, an LCD television is a budget-friendly type of TV that may cost less than 500 dollars for a top-end model of 32 inches.

A few drawbacks regarding LCD televisions have been the inability of the picture to display blacks in their true hue. Manufacturers have recently conquered this problem (for the most part) by using a different method to backlight the image. Instead of using fluorescent lights, LED backlights maximize the deepness of the blacks.

Most manufacturers sell LED televisions that are almost identical in features and size options as LCD offerings, but energy-conscious buyers may want to consider an LED set. An LED television also tends to run cooler than plasma televisions.

Plasma televisions are usually priced a little higher than LCD televisions, but their prices have been dropping in recent years. Some plasma televisions are even thinner than the thinnest LCD models with manufacturers releasing televisions that measure less than an inch thick. Buyers who want an incredible picture will gladly pay the slight premium for a plasma television.

One issue buyers have experienced with plasma televisions has been the burning of an image into the screen. Although recent models have done much to reduce this problem, a plasma screen television may have residual images burned into the screen after a few years of use.

Another Entertainment Option

Instead of hanging a television on the wall or placing one on a traditional television stand, a few other options exist for home entertainment, such as a projector, which can help simulate a movie theatre experience.

Features

Features that have become standard in today's televisions include internet access (and Wi-Fi connectivity), HDMI inputs, enhanced remote controls, and 3D technology. Although internet connections and Wi-Fi connectivity used to be premium features, these options have become much more standard in the past year. With the incredible amount of content available through the internet for streaming entertainment and movies, internet connectivity is a highly recommended feature.

Other options commonly seen include DLNA support, which is a label where any device that features that designation will connect without problems, as well as "PIP," which is picture-in-picture technology that allows a viewer to watch two pictures from different channels, simultaneously. Another new feature to consider is an advanced remote control, which may come equipped with a foldable keyboard or motion and voice control options.

When you look at the list of features on a television, the following options will create the best comprehensive viewing experience:

  • Internet connectivity
  • Wi-Fi technology
  • HDMI ports (more than one)
  • Extra ports (like composite-video for VCR use)
  • DLNA support
  • Picture-in-picture
  • Advanced remotes

Is 3D Worth It?

Manufacturers pushed 3D televisions into the marketplace to improve lagging television sales, but consumers weren't taken with 3D technology so much that people immediately started replacing their televisions.

However, many broadcasters have started to express interest in 3D presentation, so owning a 3D television could offer additional viewing options in the future. Additionally, 3D Blu-ray discs have become mainstream and the newest 3D televisions don't even require special glasses for 3D viewing.

Brands

There are a lot of brands in the marketplace today since everyone wants a slice of the home entertainment pie. Some of the most well-known television manufacturers include. Most popular TV brands are LG, Panasonic, Philips and Samsung.

Each of these manufacturers offers several different size options as well as tons of different features. Some less expensive alternatives to the bigger manufacturers offer great televisions for budget-conscious buyers, and the following brands may offer the chance for a family with a small budget to get a high quality entertainment experience:

  • AOC: limited distribution, value priced
  • Coby: entry-level prices
  • Dynex: sold at Best Buy
  • Funai: the company behind Emerson and Sylvania (among others)
  • Haier: offers models that mirror those of major manufacturers
  • Hitachi: low prices and long-lasting value
  • Insignia: sold at Best Buy, just like Dynex
  • Magnavox: the budget arm of Philips
  • RCA: commonly featured at Wal-Mart and Sears
  • Sanyo: great for inexpensive plasma
  • TCL: formerly RCA
  • Westinghouse: terrific for value-priced televisions

Additionally, a buyer may want to consider Mitsubishi for a rear-projection television or Optoma for a home projector, as well as JVC and Epsom for high-end projectors.

Buying Tips

Just like trying clothing on in the store, it's incredibly likely that the beautiful television you found in the store will look different once you get it set up at home. With that in mind, consider these other buying tips:

  • Be Earth-friendly and buy an Energy-Star compliant set
  • Comparison shop and try negotiation at local retailers
  • Don't bother with expensive cables
  • Get it delivered (television boxes are huge)

Recycling Options

It's very likely that the purchase of a new television may result in an old television reaching the end of its residency at your house. Most major retailers offer recycling options, and most large stores will offer a price drop on a new television when you recycle the old set. If the television is in good, working condition it may also be possible to sell it and recoup a portion of the original investment.