TV Buying Guide: All You Need To Know On How To Choose and Buy A TV
Buying a new TV is never easy. Ideal TV size? 4K or Full HD? HDR? OLED or QLED? Contrast ratio? All of these confusing jargon and alien sounding technologies almost make it feel like you’re buying a spaceship.
To make matters worse, the TV salesperson always uses cheem terms and special features to get you to buy a more expensive TV. In this guide, we aim to provide easy-to-understand information and advice to help you choose and buy a new TV. Here’s an overview:
- TV Types Explained
- Some Important Jargon Demystified
- Three Timeless Rules To Follow
- Other Things To Consider When Choosing Your TV
- Digital TV Concerns
It won’t tell you exactly which TV to buy because we all have varying needs and budgets, but this should provide you with the basic knowledge you’ll require to make a more informed decision.
TV Types Explained
Projection sets aside, there are essentially two types of TVs in the market: LED-backlit LCD (LED LCD), and OLED. The former being Light Emitting Diode Liquid backlit Crystal Display and the latter being Organic LED.
Unless you’re the high SES type with a bazillion dollars, you’ll probably be looking at a LED LCD TV first. Until the beguiling picture quality of an OLED TV lures you, that is.
1. LCD vs. LED LCD
While traditional (now obsolete) LCD TVs use cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) as a backlight, LED LCD TVs utilise LEDs instead.
So why LED?
- LEDs are smaller than CCFLs so your TV screen can be thinner
- They’re more energy efficient than CCFLs (yay to lower electricity bills)
- They last longer
- Most importantly, you’ll get higher colour accuracy and can probably solve arguments like this:
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a traditional LCD TV today, so any LCD TV on the market now are really just LED LCD TVs.
FYI, the way that LED backlights are arranged can have a dramatic effect on picture quality, but that’s a whole other article for another time.
2. LED vs. OLED
We’ve established that most LCDs today use an LED backlight, where each LED illuminates a small cluster of pixels in order to form an image. An OLED, on the other hand, is even smaller than an LED and can be used as individual pixels on a TV screen. This also means OLEDs can be lit up and shut off independently in order to create images, unlike LEDs.
One huge advantage of being able to do this is that an OLED screen simply shuts off pixels to achieve “absolute black” and what most TV salespeople would call “a stunning level of contrast”. All the better to enjoy the inky-blackness of a thriller like John Wick.
In contrast, a LED LCD achieves “black” by blocking most of the LED backlight. The problem with this is some of the light may still shine through. This might be noticeable, especially in a dark room.
Naturally, OLED TVs are more expensive and targeted at high-end TV shoppers. And we probably have to wait for a few more years before the technology becomes a little more affordable for the masses.
To give you an idea of what kind of prices to expect for an OLED TV, look no further than the LG OLED C8PTA 55 inch TV that is retailing on Qoo10 (up to 2.0% cashback) for $4323.
And what can you expect with such a price tag?
- The C8 is 4K ready and High Dynamic Range (HDR) compatible (we’ll talk more about these two terms in a bit).
- LG’s WebOS is easy to use, and their proprietary Magic Remote allows you to point and click at the screen when you wish to watch Toggle or switch to free-to-air channels.
The TV also comes with LG’s ThinQ AI, where you can use voice commands to switch off the TV or increase the volume.
If you’re wondering whether you need a jacket when visiting Seoul next week, simply ask “What’s the weather like in Seoul next week?” and you’ll get the weather forecast.
3. OLED vs. QLED
For those looking at Samsung, you will notice that they have a line of TVs called QLED, which should not be confused for OLED.
Samsung’s QLED stands for Quantum Dot LED, which is essentially a LED LCD with a quantum dot film. This technology gives QLED TVs the potential to match the “absolute black” levels and contrast of an OLED but with better colour and brightness, and most importantly, at a much lower price.
Arguably, it’s hard to wholeheartedly accept this claim because a side by side comparison with representative models (made in the same year), will reveal that OLED still has an edge over QLED in terms of overall picture quality.
But if you compare it against a conventional LED LCD, the QLED does deliver better colour and brightness.
Have a look at the Samsung QLED Q7F 4K 55 inch TV, which costs $3883 on Lazada (up to 2.0% cashback for new customers) to understand what we mean:
- Compared to an OLED TV’s hefty price tag, Samsung’s Q7F is slightly more affordable but it’s still pricier than a LED LCD TV.
- Aesthetically, Samsung always makes some of the best looking televisions, and the Q7F is no exception.
- The TV screen is framed by an almost invisible silver edge and sits on a beautifully designed stand that allows you to conceal a single thin, white fibre-optic cable (which functions as both the power and the optical cable).
- The overall visual effect is pleasing and very satisfying for those who fuss over wire management.
4. About Smart TVs
Most TVs today are Smart TVs with easy access to Netflix, Youtube, and other online apps. And even if it doesn’t come with inbuilt apps, all you need is a media streamer like Apple TV or a Xiaomi Mi Box to make your TV “smart”. By the way, all the TVs mentioned so far are Smart TVs. So be extremely wary if the TV salesperson makes a big deal out of this feature.
In addition, Smart TVs aren’t really all that expensive anymore.
Take for example our ShopBack Smarter Way Community‘s recommendation of the budget-friendly line of TVs from TCL. A TCL A950U 4K 55 inch TV could be purchased on T-Mall (up to 10% Cash Rewards) for just $702.31.
That’s a pretty good deal considering that you’re getting a 4K Smart TV for less than $1000. It also comes with three HDMI ports, two USB ports, and in-built Harman Kardon stereo speakers. And that’s pretty decent.
Some Important TV Jargon Demystified
There is a growing amount of 4K content that is being made available on platforms like YouTube and Netflix. So if you’re looking for a TV that is future proof, you’re going to want one that is 4K ready and HDR compatible.
1. What is 4K Resolution?
Without going too much into the terminology and science behind 4K, here’s a very simple way to look at the various screen resolution sizes and what they mean: 720p is High Definition (HD), 1080p is Full HD, whereas 4K is Ultra HD.
To put that into perspective, 4K has four times as many pixels as 1080p. This means that 4K has four times the resolution offered by Full HD.
The higher resolution is great because your picture quality will be super sharp, but it does present a problem with colour rendition. By squeezing a higher resolution into a smaller space, individual pixels get less light and thus, lesser colour is reproduced in the resulting image.
2. What about HDR?
TVs with High Dynamic Range (HDR) deliver more colours, more contrast levels, and a perceivable increase in brightness. In short, HDR renders pictures that are more life-like.
Tech-savvy readers will also know that within HDR, there are formats like HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Various manufacturers and companies also produce content in varying HDR formats. As to which is arguably the best, again, that’s a whole other article for another time.
For now, at least, it’s relatively safe to say that if you buy a middle to high-end 4K TV with HDR compatibility, it should be good for anything that might be introduced in the near future.
Of course, that’s not to say that getting a 4K HDR TV will automatically make watching re-runs of Friends a life-changing cinematic experience. You’ll still need 4K HDR content – like Marvel’s Luke Cage on Netflix – in order to truly experience the promised picture resolution and quality.
Otherwise, it’s a
moot moo point.
Three Timeless Rules To Follow When Shopping For a TV
1. Buy As Big As Your Budget Allows
For the average Singaporean living in an HDB flat, you’ll usually sit about 9 feet (2.75m) away from your living room TV. Based on THX’s recommendation for an “immersive cinematic experience” a screen size measuring 90″ diagonally is just right for that viewing distance.
What this means is that the 55″ or 65″ TV that you’re looking at is actually well within the optimal size of TV you should be getting for your home. But obviously, you can’t (or can you…) have a TV so large that it dominates your entire living room. Like this 370″ 4K Smart TV behemoth for example:
Simply put, there really isn’t a hard and fast rule when it comes to screen size, especially if you’ve got deep pockets. But if you’re limited by a budget, it’s always worth looking at stepping up your screen size instead of say, a fancy feature like HDR or a smart remote. Afterall, we haven’t heard of anyone complaining about how big their TV is before…
2. When To Buy a TV?
When it comes to buying a TV, it always ALWAYS pays to be patient.
- March to May is usually when consumer electronic stores like Best Denki and Courts have clearance sales to move last year’s products. You can also expect road shows to introduce upcoming products. This is also the period when IT Show (15 – 18 Mar 18) and PC Show (31 May – 3 Jun 18) is usually held and where you could get more deals and discounts.
- June to July, the middle of the year, is when new products of the year start to appear in the above-mentioned stores.
- We’re somewhere past the middle of the year now, so if you buy a new 2017 TV now (at least those with 4K and HDR support) you probably won’t be missing much. However, if you want the best and the latest (shoutout to the FOMO squad) then just get a new 2018 TV.
- End of the year sales can give you a fat discount on your TV price.
And if you have been keeping tabs on 2018 models, you would have noticed that prices across the board are starting to drop slightly as we draw closer to the end of the year. A good example would be a 2018 model like the LG UK7500PTA 49 inch TV.
It was retailing for $1699 during a Courts LG Roadshow (Apr 18). The exact same TV was selling for $1499 during the recent LG Red Fair (15 Jun – 15 Aug 18). That’s an appreciable drop of $200 over a span of about four months.
That’s money that you could probably put towards an LG SJ2 Soundbar and wireless subwoofer system, which costs $225 on Lazada (up to 2.0% cashback for new customers) and would really complete your home entertainment setup.
- Lastly, if you want the best and the latest, BUT want a good deal, then wait till November for the electronic sales bonanza that is Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Pro tip: also check out ShopFest for special offers and coupon codes that will help you save even more during the end of year sales season. FYI, there’s also SITEX 2018 (22 – 25 Nov 18) and COMEX 2018 (6 – 9 Sep 18) for good deals on TVs, home theatre systems, media players, and game consoles.
3. Best Place To Buy A TV
It used to be that the only place you could buy a TV was at a consumer electronics store like Best Denki, Courts, or Harvey Norman. Today, we have options like Goh Ah Bee, Gain City, Mega Discount Store, Mustafa, and PariSilk. There are also large-scale exhibitions and conventions like IT Show and PC Show.
Too lazy or don’t have the time to physically head down to these places? We also have online options like eBay, Lazada, Qoo10, and T-Mall just to name a few. It’s great that almost anything could be bought online, and there are always discounts and cashback available if you know where to look. However, we always recommend seeing the TV in person to evaluate the picture quality and what it actually looks like.
Specifications can always be fudged, but your eyes will never fail you. Once you’re sure of the model you want, you can make your purchase online with confidence.
Other Things To Consider When Choosing Your TV
Apart from the above, here are some other things to also consider when choosing your TV:
Look For At Least Four (Or As Many As You Need) HDMI Ports
If you look behind your TV, you should find at least four High-Definition Media Interface (HDMI) ports minimum. Now, you might be wondering. Why four?
- One port for a video game console system
- A second port for a media player (eg. Blu-Ray DVD Player)
- One port for a cable (Singtel or Starhub TV) set-top box, or a media streamer (Apple TV or Xiaomi Mi Box)
- And lastly, one port for any HDMI speakers that come with your home entertainment centre
Our advice: the number of HDMI ports should at least equal the number of devices you have.
Plan To Buy An Accompanying Sound System
The problem with thin TVs is that there is lesser room for quality speakers.
How to fix this? Simple. Buy an inexpensive soundbar or invest in a home theatre system. This way you can enjoy the same theatre-like auditory experience in the comfort of your home.
Curved TVs Are A Fashion Statement
A curved screen is supposedly a more natural shape that takes advantage of our eyes’ peripheral vision. This allows for a wider viewing angle and a more immersive experience. But there is a caveat: you HAVE to be seated directly opposite the centre of the screen to experience this.
We also noticed that curved TVs are always more expensive than flatscreens. Aesthetically, they look slightly awkward when hanging from your living room wall. In fact, you’ll notice that curved TVs aren’t as common anymore because manufacturers like LG stopped producing them. If you want one, you’ll need to look to Samsung. So if you do choose a curved TV, it’s really a matter of personal preference.
Digital TV Concerns
One of the reasons why you’re here is probably because you’re looking to upgrade to a Digital TV. And that’s because analogue signals will stop broadcasting on 31 December 2018. To know more about this Digital TV and all you might need for this change, check here.
The biggest advantage of Digital TV is that it delivers higher-resolution pictures that are sharper and clearer. This is in contrast with the fuzzy images commonly associated with analogue TV.
Here’s a bit of good news for those currently in the market for a new TV. It’s highly likely that the TV you’re planning to buy already comes with a built-in DVB-T2 digital tuner. This means that all you really need is an indoor UHF antenna in order to receive digital channels!
Now that you have all the info you need, what TV would you buy? Share with us in the comments!
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