5 Things to Consider Before Buying a TV

Choose the right screen size and display type for your home

It’s a lot harder to choose the right TV today than it was in the past due to the wide variety of screen resolutions, display types, and other factors. This buying guide will help you cut through the raw numbers and find which TV to buy to fit your space and viewing habits.

Top 5 Things to Consider When Buying a TV

It can be tough to sort through the massive number of TVs on the market, but you can use five crucial factors to help you find the right one.

  • Price
  • Resolution
  • Screen size
  • Display type
  • Smart platforms

How Much Should You Spend on a TV?

The right amount to spend on a TV depends on where you plan on using it and how big it needs to be. The size, resolution, and display type play significant roles in determining a TV's sticker price. You can buy a smaller set with a better picture, a bigger TV with a lower-quality picture, or find the sweet spot in-between in each price category.

TVs priced below $300 are usually good for kids' and guest rooms, a TV under $600 can be a good choice for a primary bedroom or smaller living room, and most people will get by just fine with a budget of around $1,000 for a living room TV.

If you want a better picture combined with a bigger screen, you can expect to pay more than that.

Here’s a general guideline of what to expect at a variety of price points:

Price Range What to expect Size Resolution & Display
 > $300 You won't get the latest display technology. When higher screen resolutions are available, the upscaling usually isn’t very good. Up to 32-inches 720 or 1080 LCD or LED
 $300-600 43-inch class TVs in this range are typically high-end with lots of features. Manufacturers have to cut corners to hit this price point for a 65-inch TV. 40 to 65-inches 1080 or 4K LCD, LED, or QLED
 $600-1,000 Occasionally, you will find smaller OLED TVs at the upper end of this price range. 45 to 75-inches 4K QLED
 $1,000-2,000 OLED is typically limited to 45 and 55-inch class TVs in this price range. 45 to 85-inches 4K or 8K QLED or OLED
 $2,000-5,000 You’ll find TVs with fantastic built-in sound, higher-quality materials, bezel-less designs, and other features at the higher end of this price range. 55 to 85-inch 4K or 8K QLED or OLED
 $5,000+ Beyond this point, manufacturers offer futuristic features like rollable screens, massive 8K displays, and other luxury options. 75 to 85-inch+ 4K or 8K QLED or OLED

What Resolution Should a TV Be?

The correct resolution for a TV depends on the size of the screen and the viewing distance. The exception is that if you want to play games on your Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 in 4K or watch UHD Blu-rays, you should choose a 4K TV regardless of other factors.

You should generally select a TV with a higher resolution if you’re buying a large set and a lower resolution if your screen will be on the smaller side. If you’re buying a budget television for a guest room or child’s room, and it has a screen that’s 30 to 40 inches, then a 720p or 1080p resolution may be satisfactory.

A comparison of TV resolutions.

For a better quality picture, where you can’t make out the individual pixels on the screen, 4K is preferable even for a 40-inch TV. Higher resolution 8K TVs provide diminishing returns, as 4K televisions already allow you to sit a comfortable distance from the screen, and there isn’t much native 8K video content available.

 Resolution What it means 
 720p 720x1280 resolution (HD)
Suitable for TVs under 32-inch
Pixels will be visible if you sit too close
1080p  1080x1920 resolution (Full HD)
Suitable for TVs under 42-inch
Pixels will be visible if you sit too close
4K  2160x3840 resolution (UHD)
Suitable for all size TVs
Necessary for 4K gaming and UHD Blu-rays
8K  4320x7680 resolution (UHD)
Suitable for very large TVs
There is a lack of 8K content

What’s the Right Screen Size For a TV?

Like resolution, the correct screen size for a TV depends on the viewing distance or how far you plan on sitting from the TV. Smaller TVs are better for smaller rooms, while bigger TVs are better suited to large rooms where you can comfortably sit far away from the screen.

Televisions with higher resolution displays allow you to sit closer without experiencing a reduction in picture quality. Higher resolution displays have more individual pixels on the screen, so you can sit a lot closer without being able to make out the individual pixels. It’s the difference between the image on the TV looking like a solid picture versus being able to make out the series of dots of color that create the image.

To avoid seeing the individual pixels on the screen, you need to sit about twice as far away from a 1080p TV as sitting from a 4K TV of the same size. 

The easiest way to figure out the right size TV for your space is to measure the distance between the seating area and where you want to put the TV. If you’re getting a 1080p TV, divide that distance in half. If you’re getting a 4K TV, use the distance measurement without additional calculations. In both cases, the number you end up with is the biggest TV you can comfortably use in that space.

An illustration of visible pixels from sitting too close to a low resolution TV screen.

Prasert Krainukul / Moment / Getty

As an example, let’s say that your couch is seven feet away from the wall, or 84 inches. You could use a 42-inch 1080p TV or an 84-inch 4K TV. If you use a bigger TV, you’ll be able to make out the individual pixels on the screen.

What Display Type Should a TV Have?

The type of display on your TV will depend mainly on your budget. OLED provides the best picture quality, with unparalleled contrast and incredibly deep blacks. QLED displays get close and don’t cost as much, but they’re still only available in TVs that fall on the more expensive end of the spectrum.

A television mounted on a wall.

Wa Nity Canthra / EyeEm / Getty Images

Most TVs have LED LCDs, where the picture is displayed by an LCD screen and lit by LEDs. This setup can provide a high-quality picture, but lower-end displays often have hot spots where the lighting is brighter and can struggle to display dark blacks.

Features like active and local dimming help LED LCD TVs to look better, with higher contrast ratios, and mini-LED backlighting and quantum dot QLED displays also help with those issues.

OLED television displays use organic LEDs that are controlled pixel-by-pixel. That means that each pixel can be shut off independently of the others. This results in extremely high contrast ratios, as one part of the screen can display perfect black while another part of the screen displays a bright, colorful image.

OLED displays are considered the best, and they’re also the most expensive. Though LCD TVs can get brighter, high-end QLED TVs offer a good balance between price and picture quality. 

Should a TV Be Smart or Non-Smart?

For better or worse, most TVs are smart TVs at this point. Every year, it gets harder to find a “dumb” TV, and even budget models come with built-in streaming platforms. If you set your sights on a non-smart TV, your options will be minimal.

Instead of deciding between a smart or non-smart TV, it’s more helpful to focus on which smart TV platform you want.

If you already use Fire TV sticks or a Roku household, look for a TV with the platform you already use. That will make it a lot easier to transition from your old TV to your new one, and you won’t need to plug in any additional hardware.

Some manufacturers have their own in-house smart TV platforms, but you always have the option to plug in your streaming device. Just check how well the TV you’re interested in integrates external streaming devices, as some do better than others.

Who Should Buy a TV?

If you fit into any of these categories, you’ll benefit from owning a TV.

  • Binge-watchers. Whether you have stacks of DVDs and Blu-rays or subscribe to every streaming service under the sun, an appropriately sized HD or UHD TV will give your favorite shows way more room to breathe than your phone or laptop screen.
  • Cinephiles. If you’re a big fan of movies, nothing beats a nice home theater setup, starting with finding a suitable TV.
  • Parents. If you’re a one-TV household, you’re probably tired of the kids arguing over what to watch, and there are a lot of great budget-priced TVs that can take care of that.
  • Gamers. You're missing out if you’ve managed to get your hands on an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, but you’re still gaming on an old 1080p TV. To take full advantage of current-generation game systems, you need a 4K TV.

What Should I Do After I Buy a TV?

If you’re replacing an existing TV, your setup process will consist of just swapping the new TV for the old one. Here’s a quick rundown of some things you should do after you make your purchase:

  • Measure the installation area. If you’re replacing your TV with a bigger one, measure the available space. Even if the new TV is the same size class, it may be thicker, thinner, or have slightly different dimensions to consider.
  • Check the weight limit of your stand or mount. Consider the weight of the new TV compared to your old one. If it’s significantly heavier, you may need to buy a new wall mount or TV stand. 
  • Check your cables. If it’s been a while since you got a new TV, your HDMI cables may be outdated. If you bought a 4K TV and want to connect a current-generation game console, you’ll need cables that support HDMI 2.1 for the best results. 
  • Consider transferring your streaming device. If you’re currently using a streaming device like an Apple TV or Fire Stick, consider removing it from the old TV and connecting it to the new one, even if the new TV has built-in streaming capabilities, for the smoothest transition. 
  • Get your passwords together. If you aren’t going to keep using your old streaming device, have the login information handy for all your streaming services. You’ll need to download all the relevant apps and log in on the new TV. 

More Tips for Buying a TV

When buying a new TV, the general rule is that bigger is better, which goes for both the screen's physical size and the resolution. You’ll rarely regret buying a too big TV unless you go too far. For example, purchasing an 85-inch 4K TV for an 80-square-foot bedroom is overkill, but that will take up too much space in the room.

The main exception to the rule is that 8K is currently overkill. It doesn’t hurt if you have the room in your budget, but you’re unlikely to regret "settling" for a 4K TV. The highest resolution content you’re likely to consume regularly will be 4K video from Blu-rays, game consoles, and streaming services because 8K content isn't widely available yet.

FAQ
  • How do I know if my TV is 4K?

    You can check your current TV's maximum resolution by looking up the model number. You can find this either on a sticker on the back of the set or by checking the Support (or similar) heading in the TV's settings.

  • What is a good refresh rate for a TV?

    "Refresh rate" describes how many times a TV screen updates the images it displays. For example, a set with a refresh rate of 120 Hz changes the screen 120 times per second. This level is good for most watching, since it's higher than the refresh rate of streaming boxes or players you might plug in. 120 Hz is the minimum you should look for if you're watching movies or playing games for the best picture and animation. You will want to be sure you're using at least HDMI 2.1 cables, however, to get the maximum refresh rate.

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