The five keys to picture-perfect TV buying
Buying a TV can be thrilling, yet daunting.
To maximize the exhilaration – while minimizing the uncertainty – experts say to pay attention to at least five things.
Size alone shouldn’t be the deciding factor, but it will be a large part of your decision – both literally and figuratively.
“I always tell people to buy the biggest screen that they can afford and that will fit in their room,” says Tim Alessi, the director of product marketing at LG Electronics. “Because I’ve never met anybody yet who has said, ‘Oh darn. I wish I bought a smaller TV.’”
The opposite is often true: Consumers bring a TV home and wish they had gone larger. Alessi notes screens 70 inches and above are a huge growth category in the TV industry right now.
Think about where you want to put your TV and what size will fit. Online, many retailers allow you to filter your search according to criteria like screen size and brand.
But you need room for that big TV in your budget.
Thankfully, TV sales go on throughout the year. For example, Black Friday in November is famed for big discounts on all screens.
But there will be other things to account for in your budget, like accessories and installation, so don’t commit to a dollar figure just yet.
Connectivity and color
Once you’ve narrowed the selection, think about what you want it to do. If you’re upgrading for the first time in years, compare the latest innovations to see which ones match your viewing habits.
“Typically in the U.S., consumers hold onto a television for about five to seven years,” says Rob Brennan, the product technology manager for home entertainment and sound at Sony Electronics. And a lot has changed in a few years, he says.
Ask yourself questions about things like the TV’s smart capability. Do you want a TV that can tell your Roomba to start cleaning?
And as for the all-important decision of LCD versus OLED, here’s a quick cheat sheet from Brennan. For the most part, LCD (which has an LED backlight) works well in bright rooms, while OLED suits dark environments dedicated to TV viewing.
Next, make sure you have any extra equipment you’ll need.
Sound is an especially important consideration. You could use the TV’s sound as is, but you may consider buying a sound bar or audio/video receiver separately to enhance the sound, according to Michael Greco, senior director of global brand management at Sound United.
If you do, remember to read the “What’s in the box” packaging. (I can’t be the only person who ordered a TV without the necessary cables to hook it up.)
“I would always double-check what’s in the box and make sure you have the right cables in the box,” says Greco. “If not, you’ll need to buy them at the time you buy your TV or your audio equipment.”
Finally, make a plan to get that fancy new screen home. Particularly for wall mounting, as opposed to a TV stand, consider springing for professional delivery and installation.
“When you shop for the TV, a lot of retailers will offer either specials or free installation depending on where you are, so I would take advantage of that,” Alessi says.
Ask about installation warranties, too. These can give you peace of mind you won’t get if you hang it yourself.
“If the television were to come off the wall, then the installer typically will guarantee their work,” Brennan says.
If you need the TV on short notice, check how quickly delivery and installation is available.
And once the work of buying is done, rest easy and enjoy those Super Bowl commercials; you likely won’t have to go through this process again for five to seven years.
Courtney Jespersen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @courtneynerd.
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