There are tons of TVs to choose from in 2019. As the technology has advanced (and boy oh boy, has it advanced in recent years!), the many different models have become confusing and the lines between them are blurring.
With HD models, there are different variants of HD, and the same goes for 4K and the approaching arrival of 8K as a mainstream technology. On top of that, each brand has a different design methodology and allegiance for the smart OS. The result is a confusing market that might end up with you spending a whole lot of dough on a new screen.
At the end of the day, you want a TV that fits you and your lifestyle, one that allows you to easily watch your content with a clear picture that delivers crispness and vibrancy.
We’ll be diving into specifics like 4K, refresh rates, number of ports and smarts. But if you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick summary:
- 4K makes sense now more than ever. Sure, there isn’t a lot of 4K content readily available yet, but you’re future-proofing yourself with these models. Plus, the price has come down considerably since these first arrived.
- Plenty of ports is always a good thing. Chances are you have a cable box, a streaming box and maybe a DVD player or gaming console. And you’ll want to have plenty of HDMI ports so that you can plug them all in.
- Opt for a smart TV. Most of the TVs you’re looking at will have a smart functionality built in. This means you can stream from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and many other providers right out of the box with no third-party box. However, do a little research and pick a smart OS that works for you. TCL’s Roku TV provides a ton of channels, but Amazon’s Fire TVs are great if you’re invested in that ecosystem.
With those basics out of the way, you can scroll down to see our top models, or keep reading our deep dive into these points.
It’s been a few years since 4K models started hitting the market, and that is a good thing. As these TVs have become more common, the price has come down, and availability is plentiful. Samsung, Vizio, Sony, LG, Amazon and TCL, just to name a few, all offer 4K models. Another name you might see is UHD (ultra high definition), and this is just another term for 4K. With either of these, you get four times as many pixels as on a traditional 1080p HD panel.
The result is an image that’s much sharper and crisper, and you’ll probably notice it as soon as you watch just a few frames. You’ll see the biggest difference when watching 4K content, but there isn’t a whole lot of it available currently. Cable companies aren’t broadcasting every channel in ultra high definition yet, and a lot of the content is found on streaming services or YouTube. Many Netflix or Amazon Prime originals go up to 4K, and your 4K TV can take advantage of these.
Even so, there is a gap between HD and 4K content. To help solve this, TV brands offer 4K upscaling through proprietary algorithms and software built into the panels. This allows the TV itself to make HD content look better, and most models will allow you to customize this to your liking.
Alongside 4K, you’ll likely see the term HDR, which stands for high dynamic range. This is not the same thing as 4K, but essentially a technology that can work alongside it. HDR delivers a better image that lets more light and color into the frame. It’s not just software that goes on top of all content. You’ll need an HDR panel and HDR content for this to come through. Simply put, if you want more colors, HDR is a good feature to get and has the same advantage as 4K as far as future-proofing.
When you start shopping for a TV, you’ll see specs of 60Hz, 120Hz or even 240Hz. These numbers are the refresh rate of the TV – essentially, how many times per second the panel will refresh itself. This is crucial for fast-paced action movies with car chases, watching sports, and of course gaming. But for all kinds of viewing, the higher the refresh rate, the better the panel, as it affects what you’re seeing by reducing motion blur.
A good rule of thumb is to get 120Hz or above. You’re setting yourself up for the future and you’ll enjoy the content a bit more.
The number of ports on the back or side of your TV ultimately decides the number of external devices you can have plugged in. And sure, you can get a switch down the line to turn one port into two or three, but it’s a native experience. Think about it this way: If you subscribe to cable, you’ll need to plug in a cable box, so that’s one HDMI port down. You might also have a streaming box, a game console and a DVD player. Just like that, you have four devices that require four HDMI ports.