The current offer of televisions is impressive and it is easier than ever to tap into the tricks of marketing. As a true center of the digital home, users who decide to renovate it face a difficult dilemma that we try to clarify in the following lines. Here we offer some useful tips to those who ask which television to buy?
Don’t buy anything other than 4K UHD
At this point there is no debate. It is very difficult to find panels above 40 inches that maintain Full HD resolution. Also, the average price for a 4K TV dropped by about 40%, so today a 4K TV costs around $600 – $1,000.
Yes, it is true that people consider 8K when DTT (digital terrestrial television) is still far from Full HD and there are not many services capable of taking advantage of 4K, but it is also true that over the next few years the situation will change rapidly and it is good be prepared.
For a couple of generations, televisions have included excellent quality image processors that are capable of scaling content from 1080p without excessive loss of quality, so the transition is getting smoother. Unless you have a very good reason to do so, we don’t recommend anything below 4K.
Beware of HDR, not all are the same
Technology HDR (High Dynamic Range) is fantastic. To oversimplify, there are three standards that dominate the market: HDR10, HDR10 +, and Dolby Vision.
Obviously, HDR makes little sense if we are only going to watch DTT but it makes a difference in how much we enjoy high definition content and, increasingly, video games. The HDR10, is supported by the majority of the industry, but with none of the three you will be wrong. If they meet those standards it is because they have a quality panel and an excellent level of brightness.
When choosing a TV to buy, size matters (and a lot)
The tips here come down to buying the largest television you can afford, within reason. And how much is reasonable? On the Internet you will see a multitude of studies and, in reality, each manufacturer establishes its criteria.
In our opinion, the viewing angle of a TV is not the only factor to consider. The quality of the panel and the type of content that we want to watch is also important. Watching DTT at two and a half meters is torture, but everything changes when we are enjoying a 4K movie, for example.
A practical rule of thumb is to multiply the diagonal of the TV you plan to buy by 1.6. This provides a viewing angle of about 30º, ideal for mixed use. Below we provide a list of optimal TV viewing distances by screen size:
|Screen Size||recommended TV viewing distances (metres)|
|26″||1.0 m – 1.7 m|
|32″||1.2 m – 2.0 m|
|37″||1.4 m – 2.4 m|
|40″||1.5 m – 2.5 m|
|42″||1.6 m – 2.7 m|
|46″||1.7 m – 2.9 m|
|50″||1.9 m – 3.2 m|
|52″||2.0 m – 3.3 m|
|55″||2.1 m – 3.5 m|
|58″||2.2 m – 3.7 m|
|65″||2.5 m – 4.1 m|
|70″||2.7 m – 4.5 m|
Beyond numbers, each user has unique preferences. The size of the TV also depends on the dimensions of our living room, and personal tastes. If we are fans of movies or video games, we may not mind sitting closer to enjoy the detail, while if the use is more familiar, multiplying diagonal by 1.6 or even 1.8 may be a good reference.
OLED or LED, the eternal dilemma
At this point, the recommendation remains the same: if the main use of TV is to watch DTT content, there is little point in investing in a very expensive OLED display. At this point in 2020 you can find the latest generation LEDs at knockdown prices and with excellent quality. It is much more worth investing in the best LED or QLED that you can afford rather than a low-end OLED.
If budget is not a problem and enjoying movies, series or video games in top quality is one of your priorities, do not hesitate: OLED is the best option right now. MicroLED is not yet a reality in stores and QLED is nothing more than an evolution of the LED system.
DTT will change (yes, again)
The arrival of 5G will cause collateral damage in thousands of homes, which will have to buy a new TV panel or a receiver designed for the DVB-T2 (Digital Video Broadcasting — 2nd generation terrestrial) technology. The reason is simple: The 700 MHz band will be used for 5G, which will guarantee better coverage in remote areas and DTT will move to the 470-694 MHz bands.
All televisions manufactured from March will have to have a DVB-T2 tuner, but not all those sold now have it. Normally almost all the mid and high range carry it but beware of unconventional Asian brands, because there might be some surprises.
HDMI 2.1 is better
The standard for transmitting digital audio and video will receive a major update in 2020. It will multiply transmission capacity (up to 48 GB/s), expand support to new resolutions and refresh rates, and allow the use of metadata. It may not seem relevant at the moment, but the next generation of consoles and new generation media players are likely to be able to take advantage of these new options.
HDMI 2.1 increases the available bandwidth to 48 GB/s, enough for resolutions up to 10K with a very high bit rate. To achieve this, it has been necessary to develop a new cable called “HDMI 48G” which, of course, is backward compatible with all current standards.
In addition, this version adds support for 60Hz rates in 8K and 120Hz in 4K, Dynamic HDR for all compatible resolutions and VVR (variable refresh rate), a technology capable of adjusting the refresh rate according to the connected device. In practice this means reducing latency and eliminating image artifacts, especially when we connect a PC or a console to the television.
Our advice comes down to making sure that our new TV incorporates it. Almost all the new models of 2019 should carry it and practically all of the 2020 ones, so it is a point to consider.
When buying a TV, don’t trust what you see in the store
Choosing a “hot” television is a lousy idea. In shopping malls you will find them on top of each other (often not at eye level) and configured in a “demo mode” characterized by exaggerating brightness and contrast to cajole the buyer.
It is likely that if you take a walk through a store you will not detect great differences between the models, which are normally reproducing content provided by the brand. Our advice is that you take a USB with a piece of video that you know perfectly and that contains action, grays and fast transitions and dedicate all the time you want to browse the configuration menus.
The latest model is not always the best option
The technological cycles in televisions are not as fast as in other sectors, such as smartphones or computing. Normally it can take 3-4 years for a relevant jump to occur.
Therefore, it is not far fetched to buy in 2020 a high-end model that went on sale in 2018. In fact, at the panel and technology level it is likely to outperform any mid-range that has just hit the market for a similar price.
Still, it is wise to be cautious. Behind many “irresistible” offers are outdated or leftover stock models that may not be highly recommended. Nor do we advise you to buy display televisions, it is difficult to know the number of hours they have been running. That may cause problems in the medium term.
When is the best time to buy a TV?
Most manufacturers usually release new models during the winter and spring. Traditionally, the CES in Las Vegas is where the new models are presented, which progressively replaces the old models during the first months of the year.
A good trick is to wait about six months from the launch of the model that we like. Once the first stock is sold, brands often lower prices to meet objectives and make room for what is to come. On the other hand, special offers are the perfect time to buy the television we decided to have. However, be careful with impulse buying on those dates, it is not a good idea to decide with the price as the only criterion.
Finally, the pricing behavior is not the same for all models. In the low range the discounts are small (they are already cheap in themselves) and usually occur on certain days. For the mid-range, it is worth waiting for Black Friday, after a new model is announced. As for the high-end models, prices usually tend to drop less but progressively, with optimal pricing just before the end of the year.