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Beacon Senior News

What to know when buying a new TV

Mar 22, 2021 03:06PM ● By Adam Cochran
Stock image of a flat screen TV with the words "4K" on the screen

While recently shopping for a TV, I ran into several people I knew also perusing the TV aisles. Overwhelmed by the options, they asked for my recommendations. 

So, here are my tips to buying an affordable TV:

• Buy locally. TVs are made of giant sheets of glass and they’re virtually all shipped from Korea, Japan and China. This means that the odds are relatively high that your new TV could be damaged before you even take it out of the box. If you purchased it at a local retailer, you can quickly exchange it. Most one-star reviews for TVs are from people who received damaged TVs, a factor that has nothing to do with the brand or model.

• Don’t splurge for a smart TV. Today, most TVs offer the ability to stream Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and other services without any add-on devices. But, in my experience, the built-in streaming features are rarely as good as an external Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire Stick, which cost less than $100 each. Therefore, you don’t need to pay extra because you can always add that later.

• Screens are measured diagonally. If you have a 52-inch-wide space for a TV, it’ll fit a 58-inch TV. Make sure to measure the space you have available for a TV and compare it to the dimensions on the box. You should find dimensions with and without the legs or stand.

• You get what you pay for, but you can pay too much. Many low-end TVs are made by the same manufacturers. Formerly trusted brands like Sharp, JVC, Toshiba and Westinghouse are made of lower quality materials. Like anything else, you can have low cost, fast manufacturing or good quality, but you can’t have all three.

If you see the same TV model excessively stocked by all retailers, you can bet that the TV was produced at high volume with inexpensive parts, and it won’t be the same quality as the better brands.

• LED, QLED, or OLED? Anyone shopping for a TV should know they vary in brightness, color and contrast. The least expensive TVs offer an edge-lit LED panel, which means the light is coming from the edges of the screen and shines through the transparent red, green and blue pixels. More expensive LED TVs offer direct-lit LED screens where the backlight runs across the entire screen.

QLED TVs offer higher contrast and brighter screens across smaller pixels in a wider range of colors. OLED screens offer the most contrast with deep blacks and vastly superior color because each pixel makes its own light.

Before you decide, compare the display TVs. If you can’t tell the difference or it doesn’t matter, don’t waste the money.

Display TVs are calibrated differently. Here’s a dirty little secret: Expensive display TVs are often calibrated by experts for optimal color, brightness and clarity. Inexpensive TVs are just taken out of the box and put on display. You’ll also notice that the most expensive TVs are displayed in dark corners of the store, which make them appear brighter. I often ask for the display TV remote so I can do a quick calibration to see how much improvement can be made.

• Salespeople are biased. If you ask a Ford dealer what type of car you should buy, they’ll recommend a Ford. The same goes for electronics retailers. When choosing a TV, trust your eyes, online reviews and recommendations from others more than the salesperson whose only experience has been with the demo unit on the sales floor.

• Carefully unpack the TV. TVs are fragile and also intricately packed. I sometimes take pictures as I unpack, because if I have to return or exchange it, I’ve found customer service is more agreeable if it is carefully repackaged.

• TVs can be safely mounted on a wall. Hanging a TV on the wall is a simple process if you have a couple of helpers, a good stud finder and drill. TV mounts can be purchased anywhere that sells electronics or hardware. Prices vary, so shop around.

Finally, make sure the TV is 4K and offers high dynamic range. These are standard features that won’t cost extra. 4K ensures the sharpest picture, and HDR ensures better color and more details in the contrast.