Choosing the right TV will be your most challenging purchase. Don’t do your research in a big box store! There are so many options out there, and most big box store employees will fill your head with bad information.
Volumes have been written about TVs and the many differences that comprise them. It would be impossible for me to go through each item thoroughly, but I will give a brief description of the most important. You can have an art piece that can match cabinetry when the TV is not on. We can even take a picture of the fireplace before we hang the TV and when it’s off it will blend in like its not there (ie. mimic the drywall texture or brick). Following this guide will give you a strong base, so you can make an educated and confident decision. Have more questions? Feel free to contact us!
Ok. Let’s get started.
Contrast ratio and refresh rate
Ready for some simple math? Here is how you do it:
That is max HEIGHT of your future TV. Note: this is HEIGHT not picture size. Now you just look into the TV spec sheet to see how tall it actually is.
Let’s see an example:
Dave sits 10 feet away from the TV. 10 feet = 120 inches. 120/4= 30 inches. Dave found out that he can buy a TV up to 30 inches tall. He does research and finds out that a TV 30 inches high has a picture size of 50″.
Now Dave calls So Cal Home Theater and tells them he wants an awesome 50″ TV. They deliver a brand new Samsung LED panel and install it in his living room. Dave celebrates by having all his buddies over for the Charger game. Dave has never been happier.
Are you serious about 3D TV? The size equation goes out the window. When you watch 3D, the guys at THX recommend that the screen dominate your field of vision. That means at 10′ you should have an 82″ screen. I know that’s not possible in most homes, so the rule of thumb: get the biggest stinkin’ TV you can get.
What comprises good picture quality? There are a lot of factors such as black levels, color accuracy, and contrast ratio but the one that really sets a TV apart is its processor. You want to know how well the TV can handle various types of pictures sent to it from different devices. A great TV can handle dark movies on Blu-ray, live action sports on cable, your favorite DVDs in your library, and the most detailed images with crisp accuracy.
A low quality TV won’t perform well in all categories. They can freeze, make the picture look blurred, cause jagged edges, or miss details on dark scenes- only to name a few. A great test for any TV is a live sporting event. Watch how it handles the edges of the players’ jerseys, the lines on the field, panning across the crowd, or the numbers on the players’ back. On a low quality set, you will see a lot of jittery edges and blurred details.
How do I choose a set that will perform well under all circumstances? The best way is to read reviews by the pros- NOT CONSUMERS. Try magazines and websites like CNET and Home Theater Magazine. Consumer Reports does an adequate job as well, but they don’t have the expertise that others do. A good review performs a battery of tests and provides an honest review. Home Theater Magazine and CNET have been my go-to sources for years.
DO NOT TRY TO JUDGE PICTURE QUALITY AT A BIG BOX STORE!!
The engineers at TV Company A know they will be competing against TV Company B on the showroom floor. They know we are going to look at the picture and say things like, “Wow, look how bright the picture and colors look compared to the other TVs.” For that reason, they crank up the brightness and colors to the max to make them pop on the showroom floor. The picture you see at the store is not the picture you will see at home.
Big box stores have a variety of TV’s from low quality to mid quality (they don’t get true high quality sets). They know what will show the TV’s weakness so they protect it by only showing certain types of images. Computer animation is a big box store favorite because it will look great on any set of any quality. They would never show a live sporting event or they would never sell a low quality set again. Everything they show is processed to look great on all their displays.
If you would like some one-on-one advice, please feel free to call. We carry almost every TV on the market, even exclusive high-end models that are only available to custom installers. Even if you make your purchases elsewhere, we can still point you in the right direction.
How it works simplified:
How it works simplified:
An LED TV and an LCD TV are identical except for how they are lit. An LED (Light Emitting Diode) is a tiny diode that emits light when energized. An LED TV is made up of several layers with the front layer being the actual LCD. The picture on the LCD can't be seen until a light is shined through it. A typical LCD panel uses 2-3 fluorescent bulbs in the back where as an LED TV can use hundreds or even thousands of LEDs to light the screen. LED TVs come in two forms: edge lit and back lit (also known as local dimming). It's important to understand the difference between the two since they offer completely different pros and cons.
Edge-lit TVs have the LEDs placed around the TV in the edges as the name suggests. Back-lit, or local dimming, TVs have the LEDs placed in the back- also as the name suggests.
Each pixel on an LED TV screen is an actual LED that lights different colors. EXTREMLEY FALSE!! It drives me nuts when I hear people (especially salesmen) say this. The picture is made by using LEDs to light an LCD screen.
1080 refers to the lines of resolution. Lines of resolution and processing these lines of resolution can be a little confusing, so we will keep it simple. A 1080p TV has more TRUE lines of resolution than a 1080i TV which makes for a finer, more detailed image. Obviously, a 1080p TV has more lines of resolution than a 720p TV.
When you are deciding if you should buy a 1080p TV, the first thing you need to know is how big your TV will be. At less than 45″ the human eye won’t see the difference between 1080p, 1080i or 720p, so don’t waste money on a 1080p TV UNLESS it has another feature you want such as streaming Netflix. Now days, 1080p has become the standard so getting a nice TV without 1080p would be like buying a nice car without air conditioning.
Pure and simple, 4K means a clearer picture. It's more pixels (8,294,400 to be exact) on the screen at once that creates images that are crisper and capable of showing more details than standard HD.
4K resolution, at least the way most TVs define it, is 3840 x 2160 or 2160p. To put that in perspective, a full HD 1080p image is only a 1920x1080 resolution. 4K screens have about 8 million pixels, which is around four times what your current 1080p set can display. Think of your TV like a grid, with rows and columns. A full HD 1080p image is 1080 rows high and 1920 columns wide. A 4K image approximately doubles the numbers in both directions, yielding approximately four times as many pixels total. To put it another way, you could fit every pixel from your 1080p set onto one quarter of a 4K screen
Is there really a big difference between 1080p and 4K? YES! You won’t believe how good your Blu-ray movies will look on a 4K TV. The picture is so clear, you’ll feel like you’re looking through a window. Unfortunately, cable TV and satellite don’t have all 4K content, but I’m sure it’s coming soon.
Streaming is one of the most popular ways to interact with media. A TV, Blu-ray player, or receiver with streaming capabilities can directly access movies, music, YouTube, videos, local weather and much more directly from the internet. There are a few ways to do it, and it will depend on the equipment you buy as to which method you use.
1. Run a network (cat5) cable from your router directly to the streaming device. This will provide the fastest and most reliable connection. This method works for any device with network abilities.
2. Buy a wireless (also called Wi-Fi) adapter module. This is often called a Wi-Fi gaming adapter. It is a wireless module that connects to your device using a standard ethernet cable providing a connection to your Wi-Fi network. This is only for older devices that do not have wi-fi built in.
3. New devices (TV, Blu-ray, receiver, etc) have built-in Wi-Fi. That means they have the capability to use a wireless network that you already have set-up. With any wireless method, you will need to have your network key if you are using a secure network. If you don’t know your key, you will most likely have to reconfigure your network which sounds harder than it is.
Some of the more popular media streams you can get are Netflix, Spotify, Pandora, Hulu, Amazon and YouTube. If you haven’t tried any of these, you don’t know what you’re missing!
Contrast Ratio: The contrast ratio should tell you how the brightest whites compares to the darkest darks. The greater the contrast ratio, the brighter the bright will be and the darker the darks will be. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong. TV manufacturers know that when we look at two TVs with two different numbers, we will buy the bigger number. For that reason, manufacturers have employed various means to cheat the system and produce elaborated numbers. It’s usually best to ignore the numbers, or if you really want them, find a third party review that ran their own tests. I like CNET and Home Theater Magazine. They give honest reviews and perform a battery of tests.
Refresh Rate: The refresh rate determines how many times a picture refreshes (or puts up a new image) in a second. For example, a 120hz TV refreshes the image 120 times per second. This is a really important feature for LED and LCD TVs. It’s meant to minimize jutter, and to make a smoother picture. It works very well. The reason behind it is pretty technical and has to do with the number of frames per second that are sent to your TV from a cable box or DVD player matching up with the number of times the TV refreshes in a second. Don’t worry about that too much. It’s just important to know that 120hz does the job. Some will argue that refresh rates are getting too high and are making the picture look too soft. When you start getting into 240hz and 600hz, it’s going into the “bigger numbers sell more TVs” type of thinking.
Inputs: The more the better, but it’s important to have a variety. 3 HDMI inputs in the rear with one on the side should be a minimum. Make sure you have at least one component video input and a composite video input. PC inputs are a plus especially if you have media on your PC that you want to show or if you want to use it to play video games from your PC. The side inputs are very handy for connecting temporary devices like video cameras or karaoke machines.
Outputs: The only output you might need is a digital audio out. If you use your TV to stream media and you have a surround sound system, you will need to output the audio to your receiver. All new HDTVs have a digital tuner built-in. If you connect a compatible antennae to your TV, you can get free digital and HD channels over-the-air. Once again, you will need to get the audio to your receiver through the digital audio out. If you need a long (over 20′) digital audio cable, you should try to get a TV with a digital coaxial out instead of an optical audio out.