It’s holiday season. There are discounts everywhere. You want to buy a TV. That’s great. TVs are great. Beats staring at a wall any day. But there are some things to keep in mind before buying one. Here’s what I could think of. 

Quality is important

I have absurdly high standards for image quality. I know most people don’t and that’s fine. What baffles me is just how low some people’s standards are. This is a thing you are going to stare at for several hours a day. What you are going to watch a lot of content on. And it’s not something you change often; TVs tend to stick around for years. So it makes sense to spend a bit more and get something that’s good, especially if it’s your primary television in the living room. It doesn’t matter what you are going to watch on it. Everything looks better on a good TV. Conversely, everything looks worse on a shitty TV.

Choose a better brand

I can’t stress this enough. Don’t buy from shitty brands. Micromax TVs? They can’t even make decent phones and you trust them to make a decent TV? And I don’t even know what VU stands for but it’s definitely not quality as I’m yet to see a VU TV that wasn’t complete piece of trash. There is a reason they are cheap.

On the other hand, I have good faith in LG, Samsung, and Sony. I personally have an LG TV and it’s great. LG, for example, makes it’s own IPS panels. They also make the displays on the iPhones. They know what they are doing. Samsung and Sony are generally more expensive but also very good. You can’t really go wrong with either of them. They cost more but are way more consistent with their quality, which means you don’t necessarily have to purchase their top of the line model to be sure to get a good product. Even their baseline Full HD LED backlit IPS panels (more on the jargon later) will be better than anything Micromax or VU can come up with.

Don’t bother with 4K

4K is great. It has four times the resolution of Full HD. It makes everything look clearer and sharper. It’s also entirely pointless on televisions right now. There currently is next to no content in India for 4K televisions. 4K is only as amazing as it can be if you are feeding the 4K TV with 4K content. If you watch Full HD (or God forbid, standard definition cable TV) then it doesn’t look great. You can literally see your money being wasted. It’s like buying a 4 litre water bottle when you only get 1 litre of water every day. There is no need to spend on 4K right now. The only somewhat decent 4K content is on YouTube, and that’s mostly tech videos, not movies or TV shows as such. By the time that content is easily available to watch on your TV in India, you’d be due for another TV upgrade (so not any time soon, basically). 4K TVs are also very expensive (the good ones anyway). You could get a much better Full HD TV at the price of a basic 4K TV, or a Full HD OLED TV at the price of an absurdly expensive 4K LCD.

Avoid curved TVs

Here’s the deal with curved TVs. The idea behind a curved panel is that curving it around you fills up your peripheral vision better, making the viewing experience more immersive. What it doesn’t take into account is that you don’t sit two feet away from your television, which is when that would make sense. When you sit at the usual ten feet or so, the curve makes no difference at all. And that’s if you sit right in front of it. If you sit at the side, it actually reduces your viewing angle, the further you are away from the central sweet spot. So basically you just bought a worse TV. By paying more money. Good job.

(Curved monitors are epic, by the way, because you sit close to your computer screen, unlike your TV.)

3D TVs

I don’t think they even make them anymore. Do they even make them anymore? Any way, not worth spending extra on.

Smart TVs are unnecessary

A Smart TV is one which usually comes with a bunch of apps such as YouTube or Netflix pre-installed. Many of these apps, such as Netflix don’t work in India. You don’t really need any of these. If someone tells you need a Smart TV they are wrong. You can get all of that functionality with a simple Chromecast that plugs into any TV and costs 2500 rupees. Or you could also get an Apple TV if you have iOS/OS X devices (although those also work with Chromecast). Smart TVs are unavoidable at high-end, and that’s okay. But don’t go around stretching your budget unnecessarily just for that YouTube app.

Basics on checking a TV in a store

If you are going to an actual store to buy a TV instead of online then you should carry your own video files that you are familiar with on a USB drive. Don’t bother with entire movies, where you’d have to skip ahead for ages to reach the point you have to see. Put some trailers that you have watched and have a good idea what they look like (or at least what they are supposed to look like). It’s also a good idea to carry different formats so that way you also know which formats the TV supports. You also should change the display settings before checking. Most stores jack up the contrast, saturation, and sharpness on their televisions so they look good on the show floor, especially from a distance but that’s not how we set up our televisions at home. Reset the video settings or switch to the standard or default video profile to get a general idea of the panel quality. While checking for video quality check for color accuracy, black levels, backlight bleeding around the edges in dark scenes, motion blur around the edges, or any other kind of funny business. It’s best to disable any of the noise reduction or motion smoothness settings before checking. Also ensure your video files are high quality and not some shitty YouTube video. As for sound, just check for voice clarity. TV speakers suck anyway but as long as you can hear the vocals at reasonable volumes (which is majority of what you’ll be hearing on a TV) you are good to go (it’s important to take the ambient noise in stores into account for this). You could consider purchasing a soundbar for better audio quality, or a surround sound system if you will be watching movies or playing games a lot. Other things to check out is the available ports and their location (make sure they don’t get blocked if you wall mount), on-screen menus, remote design, wall mounting options, and stand design (a lot of the TVs in stores are wall mounted).

IPS, LED, OLED, etc.

So there are some terms TV people like to throw around. Here are the basics. There are three basic types of display panels that you can have on a TV: LCD, plasma and OLED.

LCD is the most common, to the point where people now call TVs themselves LCD. These you will find on a majority of the TVs out there. LCD is a good technology and a good LCD can look astonishingly awesome. The two basic types of LCD are TN and IPS. TN is the older technology and these days only found on very cheap TVs. TN panels usually have poorer colors and viewing angles. Most TVs have IPS displays these days that look great, some better than others. No one advertises TN panels. If it’s an LCD and doesn’t say IPS, then it’s mostly a TN panel. If it’s IPS they will make sure to put it on a box in big enough letters for Curiosity to read.

Some companies also throw the word LED around. It’s important to note LED is not the same as OLED. OLED is a different panel type; LED is a type of backlight system for LCD TVs. LCDs either have CCFL backlight or LED backlight. CCFL is older tech and less common these days except on cheaper TVs. LEDs are faster, which means your TV screen lights up at 100% brightness as soon as it switches on instead of slowly increasing in brightness as with CCFL backlight and LEDs also have better color temperature and are more even. Having an LED backlight is a good thing but don’t think you’re getting an OLED panel. It’s still LCD, just with LED backlight.

Plasmas used to be popular before the cheaper LCDs came along and took over the market. Plasmas are still around but usually found on select high end models. They have better image quality but suffer from image retention issue, so if a image is on screen for too long it tends to get burnt into the screen, making them unsuitable for applications where a static image is displayed constantly on the screen. For home use they are great but expensive and also quite rare these days.

OLED is a type of panel where each pixel produces its own light, and doesn’t need a backlight as with LCD or plasmas. They also have a much wider color gamut, absolute black levels, wider viewing angles, and can be a lot thinner (as they don’t need space consuming backlight assembly). OLEDs look absolutely fantastic. You don’t even need to jack up the color and contrast with these things to make them look better. Most of them look terrific out of the box. But OLEDs on TVs are relatively new and are shit expensive right now. It’s obviously the one to have if you have the money, but we are talking about a lot of money here, usually in six figures or more.

HD, Full HD, 4K are resolutions. HD is usually 1366×768 resolution, usually found on cheaper TVs. Full HD is 1920×1080, the more standard resolution you see these days. 4K (often called by the more correct term UHD or Ultra HD) is four times of that at 3840×2160. Resolution is independent of panel size and quality. Higher resolution panels obviously look better but as mentioned before, it’s best to stick to Full HD for now.

 

Okay, that’s pretty much all I could think of for now. If I think of anything else I’ll add here.