Buying a new TV is an important decision. Your TV will be your loyal companion for hours of Netflix binge-watching, Sunday Night Football, cooking shows, and more. It will be there when you’re nursing your cold, and it will be there to cheer you up after a long day of work. That’s why you want to be sure to get the perfect TV that has everything you need.
With Christmas time upon us, and holiday and year-end deals approaching, it’s a good time to consider these five major features when making your decision to pick up a new television.
When shopping for a new TV there’s no question more exciting than, “What size screen should I get?” The simple answer is, “Bigger is better.” The more constructive answer is, “It depends on your space.” What should determine the ideal screen size is the distance you sit from your TV. You’ll find a few screen size calculators online, but we like Consumer Reports’ formula best: take the distance (in inches) between your television and your couch, divide it by 1.6, and you get your screen size. Now, you should use any results as a guideline, not a concrete rule. After all, if the formula determines you should have a 110” TV, you may not actually want a behemoth like that swallowing your living room whole.
2. Smart TV
Smart TVs—sets that have web features and allow you to stream content directly from your television—are something that will cross your path when you’re shopping. Is it something you need? That’s a bit of a trick question. You may not actually have a choice, because many TVs have it as a standard feature. Instead, you should consider whether a Smart TV will satisfy your viewing needs. Aside from the fact that most Smart TVs feature clumsy and slow menus, the streaming options tend to be limited to Netflix. Maybe Amazon Instant Video. If you like to stream the latest Game of Thrones episode on HBO Go, or catch up on The Good Wife on Hulu, then a Smart TV just won’t cut it. You’ll need to get a media streamer like Apple TV or Roku. So when you’re shopping, be aware that you may wind up getting stuck with a feature you’ll never use and have to make an additional purchase.
3. HDMI Ports
They’re not the most glamorous feature, but HDMI ports are very important to consider when you’re looking at a new TV. Specifically, the more ports a TV has, the better. If you’re someone who has an Apple TV, a PlayStation 4, and a soundbar, two HDMI ports won’t be enough. So, before you go window shopping, count how many devices you’ll need to be hooking up to your television, and make sure you get a TV that has enough. Or, if you don’t feel like counting, four HDMI ports is generally a good number to aim for to ensure all of your TV add-on needs will be covered.
There’s a lot of hype around 4K TVs—the latest high-quality sets that have significantly more pixels than Full HD 1080p televisions. It’s not hard to see why. “More pixels” sounds pretty great, right? Well, yes, but whether you should buy a 4K TV because of that isn’t so clear cut. On the one hand, experts say that, unless you’re sitting two feet away, you probably won’t even really see a difference in image quality between 4K and HD 1080p. What’s more, 4K hasn’t been very widely adopted yet by streaming services or networks. On the other hand, 4K televisions are considered to be the future, and they have become much more reasonably priced. That makes them very enticing for those of you who are looking to have a television that will be future-ready. So when you’re out there looking to buy your new set, it’s important to have a good idea of what matters most to you, so you can know whether or not you should be looking at 4K TVs.
One key question to ask yourself while shopping for a new television is whether you care about sound quality. If the answer is “Yes,” then we have some bad news: no TV will make the cut. As PC World notes, “the trend of thinner television is antithetical to producing wholesome sound.” Some companies—like Sony, according to PC World—do prioritize sound in their models more, but if you’re someone who wants Top Gun to shake your living room with Mach 1 power, then you shouldn’t worry too much about the sound features of any TV you’re looking to buy. You’ll just have to expect to buy a soundbar or sound system.