TVs can be hard to buy. Whether you read my Exquisite guide to the best TVs or not, you probably won’t find all of the best models at your local Walmart, Best Buy, or Costco. And when you’re browsing retail websites, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by marketing language like HDR, or “local dimming.” That’s why I’ve put together some tips, tricks, and terms to help you shop smarter when buying a new TV. Think of this as a checklist to consider before heading to the store (or Amazon) to buy your next big screen.
Be sure to check out our guide to the best soundbars and our tips on upgrading your home audio to complete your home theater.
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Updated May 2023: We’ve updated this guide to reflect modern TV market information and pricing.
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What size TV should I buy?
Bigger screens are always better, right? When it comes to TVs, sure, but that doesn’t mean you should always go for the largest size. The prices of the larger models can get out of hand, and you should always make sure you have room for all the images on your screen.
less than 55 inches
Some high-end OLED TVs have smaller sizes so they can double as computer monitors, but most TVs under 55 inches aren’t standard these days. Many manufacturers still make models below this size, but you probably won’t get the latest and greatest performance.
This is the smallest standard size for modern televisions. It’s ideal for the average room in a house or apartment, but if you have a larger space, you may want to upsize. Keep in mind that TVs this size and larger often come with feet on both ends of the screen; If you’re not going to mount it on the wall, be sure to measure the width of your TV’s base to make sure it can hold your new TV.
This is a good option for larger living rooms or for spaces where you’ll have a lot of eyes looking at you at once. If you have the extra money and space, it’s worth upgrading for those who love to see even closer detail in movies and TV shows.
75 inches and up
I only recommend TVs this size and larger for people who have huge rooms and are looking for a truly cinematic experience. Buyer beware: prices for TVs this size can get exorbitant (in the tens thousands for high-end models). The cheaper ones (under $1,000) may not look very good due to limitations in panel lighting and processing. Prepare to have a professional or a group of friends help you move and assemble a screen this size.
What screen resolution do you need?
Resolution means the number of pixels on your screen. Modern televisions come in 1080p “Full HD” (1920 x 1080 pixels), 4K “UHD” (3840 x 2160) and 8K “8K UHD” (7680 x 4320) resolution variants. The first and second are somewhat rare, but for opposite reasons: Full HD screens are now obsolete technology, reserved only for the smallest and cheapest offerings; 8K resolution is mostly available on very large and expensive TVs.