TV Buying Guide

If you are in the market to buy a TV,  Black Friday sales–which may start on Thanksgiving evening–can be a good opportunity to get a great deal. If you haven’t found the leaked ads by doing a web search for “black friday ads,” you’ll receive the ads in your home newspaper a day or two before the sales begin. I’ve seen this year’s ads, and like every year, there are some excellent TVs for deeply discounted prices. You may be tempted to buy the TV with the lowest price, but if you do a little homework, you might find a great TV that you will be happier with for years, and pay hundreds of dollars less than you’d pay for it on sale during the rest of the year. Some TVs will be discounted more than $1,000.

If the TV is at a deep discount, you won’t have time to check it out on Black Friday. Instead, you’ll need to know beforehand which model in the ad is your target, then get in line early, and head straight for the stack of TV boxes–or get the coupon from sales people while waiting in line. But you can do a little homework first. It doesn’t take long to research the models that will be on sale but it is essential for you to be confident in your purchase. Before you do your research, there are some TV features and terms you’ll need to know so you understand what you find.

Connections. Most HDTVs will have at least three HDMI inputs to connect to Blu-ray players, media players and more. They will be listed in the model’s “specs” (specifications) under Video connections. If you are still watching an old VCR, you’ll need a “Composite” video connection. There are two desirable HDMI connection features that may be included on higher end models. The Audio Return Channel HDMI connection connects the TV to your AV receiver. When used with a compatible AV receiver, the TV can both receive the audio and video from the receiver, and send the audio to the receiver to play over home theater speakers. Another connection to look for is an “MHL” capable HDMI input. This will connect to MHL equipped smartphones, a Roku stick, and other devices and will power the attached device while displaying its screen on the TV.

Voice and gesture controls and motion sensor remotes. TVs are beginning to be equipped with cameras and microphones that enable you to control the TV with only your voice or by waving your hand.. From adjusting the volume to launching Netflix, you never have to touch the remote control. A motion sensor remote acts like a computer mouse to navigate around menus and web browsers on the TV.

Should you get…

LED LCD TV or Plasma TV? – The quick answer is to buy an LCD TV if it will be placed in a brightly lit room with lots of windows, and buy a Plasma if you like fast-action sports or if people will be sitting far off center of the TV screen. Learn more in my article on LCD vs Plasma.

a Smart TV or Dumb TV? – A Smart TV connects to the Internet and can stream from services like Netflix and Hulu Plus. It may have apps to watch other videos, view photos, make Skype calls, surf the web, and/or play games. Be sure a Smart TV has built-in WiFi so you don’t have to get adapters, or connect it directly to your router. While Smart TVs are convenient, there are a number of media players and other devices that can make any ol’ Dumb TV (not Internet enabled) “Smart.”

UHD (Ultra High Definition) aka “4K” TV ?- If you want to be first on your block to have the clearest, most detailed TV of the future, this TV is it. It has four times the TV display resolution (number of pixels) which creates better picture quality. But there are presently few ways to watch 4K movies. In the next year, there should be more streaming movies that can be rented or bought from online. In the meantime, the TV can “upscale” a 1080p HDTV video to look better on the 4K screen.

Barb Gonzalez ~ The Simple Tech Guru

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