HDR is still a developing technology, and it's easy to be confused by it. HDR 10 is an open platform that uses bit color values. Dolby Vision is a closed standard used by Dolby, which supports bit color and determines ranges in the signal it provides to a display on the fly, based on the display itself and the needs of the scene. Televisions that support Dolby Vision will note so on their packaging. We'll see how they are adopted in the future. Whether one standard is better than the other is difficult to determine at this point; HDR 10 uses more concrete values and is easier to technically evaluate, but Dolby Vision is designed to specifically fit the needs and limits of whatever television you use.
No matter which you use, HDR-capable televisions can produce a better picture than TVs that don't support the wider color gamuts or increased range of luminance information. This doesn't necessarily mean the prices for the current models will drop quickly, though. New TVs don't usually hit shelves until spring, so you're looking at a solid three or four months where you know what new TVs are coming out. If you can find deep discounts for the previous year's models in January, and you know they're good performers based on our reviews, you should go for them. Keep an eye out for sales around big sports events like the Super Bowl, or when football season is just starting.
You might be able to find price cuts of a few hundred dollars or more. Like all sales, pay attention to which models are on sale; different tiers and series of TVs can have wildly different performance. Huge price slashes on Black Friday often promote budget or midrange televisions with seemingly big discounts, but their pictures might not be nearly as good as higher-end models. Check the model numbers against the reviews for a good sense of whether the discount you see is worthwhile. It could be a steal, or it could be a disappointment.
Performance among budget TVs varies wildly, and trends toward the mediocre. You'll find a few very good deals, like the TCL P-series that manages to combine excellent picture quality with a low price. You'll also find a sea of cheap TVs that don't measure up. Don't count on big names to be reliably high-quality in their budget lines, either. While companies like LG, Samsung, and Sony can make some incredible flagship TVs, their inexpensive models generally aren't any better than baseline models from more budget-centric brands like Element, Hisense, and TCL—and they're usually a bit more expensive.
As always, our reviews and the picture quality tests we perform can help you find a screen that doesn't trade quality for price. Plasma TVs were the only flat-panel models available when they were first introduced more than a decade ago. They're now a dead category, and you won't see a major television manufacturer offering a new plasma television any time soon. LCD panels themselves aren't lit, so they need to be illuminated. There are further differences in the various designs. LED TVs can be either edge-lit or backlit.
Edge-lit TVs light up their screens with arrays of LEDs along the edges of the panels, allowing the set to be thin and light. Backlit TVs use a large array of LEDs directly behind the panel, making the screen a little thicker, but allowing it to more evenly illuminate the panel and, for high-end screens, adjust individual LEDs to enhance black levels in scenes. Very good edge-lighting systems can produce excellent pictures, though, and TV manufacturers are making backlit LED arrays smaller and thinner, so the distinction means less than it used to. No matter the technology, an LED TV's thinness and brightness will be roughly proportional to its price range.
OLED organic light-emitting diode displays are a rare and very expensive technology for TVs, and despite their name are drastically different from LED-backlit televisions. In fact, they're closer to plasma screens in how they work. Each diode generates both color and light, like in plasma screens, but they can be much smaller and thinner than even LED-lit panels, and can produce some of the best black levels possible.
A big TV that's too close can be just as uncomfortable to watch as a small one that's too far away, so don't assume that the biggest screen available is the best choice.
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There are a few different rules of thumb regarding TV screen size based on your distance from it. Generally, the distance of your couch to your TV should be between 1. So if your couch is six feet away from your screen, you can comfortably watch a TV between 42 and 60 inches. If your couch is five feet away, a to inch screen should work well. Most televisions have flat screens. Curved screens were a more prominent fad a few years ago, when several TV manufacturers Samsung in particular pushed curved televisions as premium products. Some manufacturers claimed that curved TVs offered some form of visual benefit.
This doesn't reflect in our testing. Performance-wise, there is no reason to opt for a curved television screen. Whereas a smaller curved gaming monitor can provide a more immersive viewing experience for a single viewer, a curved TV can make it harder for large groups to get consistent picture quality. Those looking at the screen from an off-center angle may experience distortion. Design-wise, curved screens might look visually striking, but they certainly don't justify an increase in price over a similar flat TV.
One of the biggest problems with narrowing your choices to a single TV is the sheer number of specs. To make your job a little easier, two of the biggies, refresh rate and contrast ratio, are safe to ignore.
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Refresh or response rate, the speed at which your TV's panel refreshes its image, is expressed in hertz 60Hz, Hz, Hz, Hz, or Hz. The theory is that a faster refresh rate results in a smoother image. But in reality, there are several reasons this simply isn't true, and it's not worth paying more for a set with a faster response rate. In many cases, 60Hz will do just fine for films and Hz will be plenty for video games and sports though you should probably turn off those higher refresh rate modes when watching most shows and movies, or else you'll get that jarring soap opera effect.
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Contrast ratio, meanwhile, is the difference between the darkest black and the brightest white a panel can display. In theory, the highest contrast ratio possible is desirable since dark blacks and bright whites contribute to a high-quality picture. There isn't a standardized way for manufacturers to measure this spec, though, so Samsung's numbers aren't directly comparable with, say, Panasonic's or Sharp's numbers. And, as you might imagine, vendors are vying to come up with the highest ratios, so they can charge more.
Ignore any claims of contrast ratios in the millions or infinity; with the exception of LG's OLEDs which are the only TVs we've tested to actually produce an "infinite" contrast ratio with a perfect 0 black level , the best TVs tend to have just five-digit contrast ratios. Almost all TVs now offer web apps and built-in Wi-Fi.
Many also integrate social network services like Facebook and Twitter, and many manufacturers offer entire downloadable app ecosystems with other programs and games you can use on your TV. These apps are also available in most Blu-ray players, all major video game systems, and even on inexpensive media streaming devices, so they're not vital. But a friendly interface and the services you want to use available directly on your TV adds some convenience, and doesn't require you to buy any additional devices.
Your ideal TV should provide enough video connections not only for now, but for the foreseeable future as well. The most important input is HDMI, which supports all major forms of digital video sources including Blu-ray players, game consoles, set-top boxes, cameras, camcorders, phones, tablets, and PCs through a single cable. It's the best way to send p video from your devices to your screen with one cable, and will be the main way you connect your main sources of entertainment to your TV.
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It's the latest standard that supports 4K video at 60 frames per second; older HDMI ports can only handle 4K up to 30 frames per second, at best. As for cables, unless you have a huge home theater system and plan to run cables between devices at distances longer than 25 feet and that's being generous , brands and prices don't matter. We've compared the performance of high-end cables and inexpensive ones, and found that they all carry digital signals similarly. More expensive cables might have a better build quality, but you won't see any performance advantages from them.
Don't shop for HDMI cables at retail stores, and ignore and clerks who warn you of "dirty electricity" or "viruses" that can come with cheap cables both claims I've witnessed. Hop online and find the least expensive cable at the size you need and snap it up. Once it's all hooked up, you might want to get it calibrated.
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We can guide you through some of the adjustments yourself, and some TVs have a built-in calibration wizard you can access in the menu. If you have a high-end TV and want the absolute best picture possible, you can spend a few hundred dollars to have your screen professionally calibrated, but for most viewers, it's an unnecessary expense. And, of course, don't forget to turn off motion smoothing the effect that makes everything look like a soap opera. TVs have built-in speakers that function well enough in the sense that you can understand dialogue, but beyond that they're typically pretty underwhelming.
With few exceptions, you can improve your movie and gaming experience greatly by getting an add-on speaker system, like a soundbar or a dedicated multi-channel home theater system. If space is at a premium or your budget is limited, a soundbar is your best bet. Soundbars are long, thin, self-contained speakers that sit under or over your TV. Small and simple to set up, they're less expensive than multi-speaker systems. Soundbars generally don't separate the channels enough to accurately place sound effects, but they've become quite good at producing a large sound field around you.
Here are some of our favorite soundbars. As a rule, TVs aren't rugged and you shouldn't use them outside. They aren't built to handle extreme temperatures or any significant amount of moisture or dirt. If you want a TV to put on your porch or deck, you need a specialized one designed for that location. Companies like SunBriteTV make rugged TVs that can function in a much wider range of temperatures than most consumer TVs, and are protected against the elements. They're built to be left out in the rain and snow, with a heavy chassis and shielded connection bays.
That extra protection will cost you, though; most rugged TVs cost at least twice as much as comparable indoor TVs. For more buying advice, see our TV Product Guide for the latest reviews. Accurate, wide color gamut. All-in-one projection system. Harman Kardon speakers with included wireless subwoofer.
Cons: Expensive. Not particularly bright. Lackluster smart interface. Pros: Perfect black levels and excellent contrast. Wide color reach. Powerful smart TV platform with Google Assistant. Colors are slightly cool out of the box. Limited selection of streaming services. Pros: Very wide, accurate color. No TV we've ever tested offers this much picture quality for this little cash, and its Roku TV operating system is our hands-down favorite. The TCL 6 series wins the value race. When it comes to genuinely cheap televisions, nothing outperforms the Vizio E. This super-affordable TV is the least-expensive with full-array local dimming, and the cheapest we recommend for decent home-theater picture quality.
Just looking for a TV with "good enough" picture quality? Choose the p-resolution 3 series in 43 inches and smaller, or the 4K resolution 4 series at 49 inches and up. For more choices, check out our constantly updated lists of the best TVs. Those models listed above are US-only, but the advice that follows is universal. With a few exceptions, new TVs come out in spring, so we don't expect to review the first TVs until April or so. For a taste of what's to come, check out our CES roundup.
Once the new TVs hit store shelves they'll be at their highest prices of the year and won't come down substantially until the fall of , around Black Friday and later. The good news is that prices on TVs are generally pretty low right now. Here's my advice. If you buy a TV now, you probably won't be missing much.
In other words, you're perfectly safe getting a TV now, and until later in , the price will be much cheaper than on a model. If you want the latest and greatest, or you're afraid of buyer's remorse, wait for a TV. Everything I just said will get less relevant as TVs disappear from store shelves. So if you're the kind of person who might regret missing out in the latest TV technology or incremental improvement in image quality -- generally available on the mid- to high-end sets, as opposed to the basic ones -- by all means wait for a new TV.
If you want the best price on a TV, wait until November or later.
If you're the kind of person who wants the best deal and the newest TV, you'll have to wait. Here's why. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the US, is best known for crazy doorbuster pricing on no-name televisions, but the fact is that just about every television gets a Black Friday price cut. And prices usually remain low through the holiday season and into the new year. High-end sets can see reductions of 20 to 40 percent compared to pricing during the spring, when they're first released, and even cheaper sets, which don't have as much room for discounts, often see a healthy cut too.
Unless you have money to burn, it's best to wait. As a rule of thumb, the main purpose of a TV's specification sheet is to bombard you with confusing terms and numbers in an attempt to get you to "step up" and buy the more expensive version. Rather than rely on the spec sheet to provide hints on which TV will perform better than another, our advice is to simply ignore it.
The sheet can help when trying to differentiate a TV based on features, such as whether it has HDR, smart TV capability or a fancy remote, but it's useless at best and outright misleading at worst when used as a tool for divining picture quality. Further reading: TV marketing terms and what they mean.
I recommend a size of at least 40 inches for a bedroom TV and at least 55 inches for a living room or main TV -- and 65 inches or larger is best.
In fact, more than any other "feature," stepping up in TV screen size is the best use of your money. One of the most common post-TV-purchase complaints I've heard is from people who didn't go big enough. And I almost never hear people complain that their TV is too large. If you want to fit an existing entertainment center, make sure you have at least an inch on the sides and top of the TV cavity to allow for ventilation.
Or just junk that old furniture and get a bigger TV. Further reading: How big a TV should I buy? That sounds like a big improvement, but in reality it's very difficult to tell the difference in sharpness between a 4K TV and a good old-fashioned HDTV. On the other hand, 4K TVs are easy for manufacturers to produce, so they're basically standard now.
Just about every TV 55 inches or larger has 4K resolution, and many smaller sets are 4K, too. Aside from the smallest sizes, p and lower-resolution models are quickly becoming resigned to the bargain bin. HDR delivers better contrast and color, so unlike 4K, chances are you'll actually be able to see an improvement compared with normal HDTV. How big of an improvement if any depends on the TV, however, and just like with 4K, you'll need to be watching actual HDR content. Bottom line? If you're shopping for a medium-size or larger TV, you'll probably end up with a 4K one anyway, and chances are it'll do HDR, too.
I consider the best picture quality for the money a sort of holy grail in the quest for a new TV. It's still consistently the No.
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If you don't place as high a priority on PQ, you'll get the best value by simply sorting a list of TVs by price along with the screen size you want, choosing the cheapest from a brand you trust and calling it a day. Or at least skip to the next section of this guide.
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After more than 15 years reviewing HDTVs, I feel comfortable conveying some generalizations I've observed about picture quality:. In sum, picture quality is more complex than just counting pixels or reading a spec sheet, and your best bet is to read reviews, such as those at CNET. Hopefully you can also get the chance to see a good TV in person along with someone who can explain why it's good. Further reading: Best TVs for picture quality, regardless of price.
A TV with 8K resolution has twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of 4K, for a whopping 7,x4, and 33,, total pixels. Not only is that 4 times the total pixel count of 4K, that's an incredible 16 times more pixels than p. The first TVs with 8K resolution are already available today. Moreover, from what we've seen they don't provide much, if any, picture quality improvement compared to 4K TVs. In the future 8K TVs will surely get cheaper and more mainstream, but it will be years before they're worth considering for all but the richest TV buyers. Further reading: 8K TV: What you need to know.
The biggest new trend in gadgets, including TVs, is the ability to be controlled by voice commands. TV remotes with built-in mics and "push to talk" functionality, for example to search for TV shows and movies, are nothing new. What's new is integration between the TVs and the two big players in voice today, Google and Amazon.
TVs from Sony and LG have Google Assistant built-in, so you can use their voice remotes to not only search, but order pizza, play trivia games and music, and control lights and other Smart Home devices. Samsung TVs have Bixby built-in. Even cooler is the ability to control certain functions on the TVs with an Alexa or Google Home speaker, without touching the remote. Samsung is also adding Alexa and Google Home speaker control in Just count the number of devices you'll want to connect, and make sure your TV has at least that many HDMI ports or one or two extra if you'll be expanding.
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USB inputs are nice for displaying photos, but hardly necessary. And of course you'll need an antenna input standard on nearly every TV if you're cutting the cord and want free over-the-air TV. The latest HDMI 2.