Big Screen TV Buying Guide

Updated: March 20th, 2020.

Let’s face it- you’re gonna be indoors much more often in 2020. That’s why more consumers than ever before are shopping for new big screen TVs. But they have no clue where to start!

This straightforward TV buying guide will steer you towards making the best decision possible. Let’s get started.

Choose the right TV size

Finding the best TV size for your room depends on mostly two factors: (1) The resolution of your screen, and (2) How far you’ll sit from the screen.

The screen resolution matters because you never want to sit so close that you’re able to see individual pixels. The better the screen the closer you can sit. For these calculations, we’re assuming you’ll have a 4K TV or better (which is what we recommend).

How to calculate the best TV size for your room:

  • Measure (in inches) the distance from your seating to the TV
  • Divide by 1.5

Recommended TV Size by Viewing Distance
Adjust according to your taste and depending on the room.

Viewing Distance4K TV size
13 feet100 Inch TV
12 feet96 inch TV
11 feet88 inch TV
10 feet80 inch TV
9 feet72 inch TV
8 feet64 inch TV
7 feet56 inch TV

If you fall between the two, lean towards the purpose of the room. If it’s a dedicated media room for TV and Video Games you’ll want to round up. If it’s a room for more casual social interactions where the TV shouldn’t be the focal point, round down. And when in doubt- BIGGER IS BETTER.

4K vs. 8K Resolution

We highly recommend buying a TV with 4K resolution because it offers the biggest bang for your buck. HD and Full HD screens are outdated and 8K screens are overpriced (more on that later).

ResolutionLines of ResolutionPixels
HD720p921,600
Full HD1080p2,100,000
4K UHD2160p8,000,000
8K UHD4320p33,000,000

Resolution refers to the number of individual pixels on a screen. More pixels means more lifelike images. If the numbers seem confusing it’s because they are… let’s clear some things up:

  • HD = High definition, UHD = Ultra High Definition
  • Lines of resolution refers to how many rows of pixels are on the screen (vertical measurement).
  • The names 4K and 8K refer to how many columns of resolution are on the screen (horizontal measurement).`
  • This change in naming convention has led some to retrospectively refer to Full HD screens as 2K (they’re the same thing).

Anything below 4K (1080p, WUXGA, 2K) isn’t worth considering unless you have a specific reason to go low. These technologies are cheaper but outdated.

If you’re considering 8K, accept that you’re overpaying. It’s cutting edge technology but also overpriced and there isn’t a lot of 8K content available. Unless you’re dead set on 8K, hold off for at least 2-3 years and upgrade when the price falls and more content is available in 8K. It will be cheaper to buy a 4K TV now AND replace it with an 8K TV when the prices fall than it would be to buy an 8K TV now with comparable specs (and then you’ll have 2 TVs).

60Hz vs. 120Hz vs. 240 Hz
Refresh Rate

We recommend buying a 120Hz TV.

The refresh rate is how many times per second your TV flashes a photo on your screen to create a moving image. The higher the refresh rate the smoother the video on your screen.

But bigger isn’t always better: most TV and Movie content is delivered at 60Hz and below so having a 120Hz device isn’t often helpful. Gamers, however, will definitely want a 120Hz TV (or better).

Refresh Rate and Resolution are similar in that you want to buy a TV that supports the current generation of content support. Just as 4K is “this generation” and 8K is “next generation, 120Hz is worth buying now and 240Hz can be considered a few years down the line (if at all).

Get a TV that’s HDR Compatible

HDR stands for “High Dynamic Range” and we highly recommend buying a TV that supports it. The feature allows brighter highlights and more contrast in your TV picture, providing a deeper and richer color experience.

The one downside is that not all content is created with HDR support. Similar to Refresh Rate and Resolution, you won’t always get to enjoy your TV’s maximum capability, but it’s worth the investment today and future proofs tomorrow.

OLED vs. QLED vs. LCD

We highly recommend OLED TV screens but acknowledge that they are typically much more expensive. QLED and LED-LCD screens are acceptable. We discourage LCD screens (unless you’ve got a specific reason to buy them).

OLED stands for “Organic Light-Emitting Diode” and describes a screen technology that puts an organic film of pixels between semiconductors. The result is astounding:

  • Unlimited contrast: OLED screens can turn individual pixels on and off, meaning the purest of blacks and the whitest of whites can be displayed within the same image (starry night sky). The result is a gorgeous picture unrivaled by other screen tech.
  • Super Slim: OLED screens are the thickness of wallpaper
  • Faster refresh rate: .001ms

QLED stands for “quantum-dot light emitting diode” and they’re an OLED alternative. Pixels are LED backlit rather than individually powered resulting in brighter whites but less convincing blacks and shadows. The refresh rate is also slower and ultimately we prefer OLED screens.

LED-LCD Screens are a combination of LED (light-emitting diode) and LCD (liquid crystal display) technology. They have back-lighting that illuminates all pixels equally, making it difficult to accurately display pictures with high contrast (very dark spots and very bright spots). Whereas LCD screens have 1 big backlight, LED screens are lit by groupings of LED lights, and the technology is combined to produce LED-LCD screens. These are old technologies with limited viewing angle, but they still produce a fine picture and are incredibly affordable.

HDMI Ports

Don’t forget to check how many HDMI ports your new TV will have! You’ll need these for connecting your Cable TV box, Game Consoles, and other devices.

We recommend a minimum of 3 HDMI ports (4+ is better) and make sure they are HDMI 2.1 ports or better.

Plan to spend at least $500

If you’re intentionally looking for the cheapest 4K TV you can find than it’s possible a sub-$500 will be your only option. That’s fine- just understand you won’t be getting a truly quality TV.

If you can afford to wait, save up a couple hundred bucks and get something AT LEAST $500+ (assuming it checks more boxes). The technologies described above work synergistically and you’ll be much more impressed and excited by the picture quality it delivers.

Don’t trust Amazon ratings

While retail stores facilitate overpaying, shopping online for TVs can have the opposite (yet equally devastating) effect- finding a “good deal” and regretting it.

Online shoppers are largely driven by price and reviews, overlooking important features (or lack thereof) simply because of the great ratings and reviews.

How old is that TV?

Amazon does not clearly distinguish between old and new TV models. If you’re not careful, you could end up paying full price for a TV that is several years old (and overpaying). While you can also find bargains by shopping these ways, you’d ought to be doing so intentionally, not accidentally.

Take your time, read this article, understand what you need, and match your needs to the TV that fits your budget.

Avoid warranties

TV warranties are usually 10% to 20% of the TV price and are typically not a good idea. The manufacturer warrantee (automatically included) often lasts 1-year and the retailer warrantee often lets them off of the hook for common problems such as dead pixels and screen cracks. And good luck trying to get the delivery people to accept blame!

Although we generally dissuade consumers from purchasing expensive warranties that they’re unlikely to use, they can sometimes be worth it. This rings especially true if you’re buying an expensive TV set and want peace of mind- just make sure to read the fine print of both the manufacturer and retailer warrantee.

If you’re being offered a protection plan that covers dead pixels when the TV manufacturer’s warrantee does not, this may be something to consider: dead pixels will drive you nuts and having them repaired (rather than an in-home warrantee visit) means shipping the unit back to the manufacturer.

Skip the Retail Store

Because Coronavirus? Yes, that’s part of it, but the old method of walking into a retail store with dozens of TVs lined up side-by-side was always a dangerous way of buying TVs.

But why? It seems logical to compare TV quality in person! And it is- but this method is flawed for several reasons.

When your TV lands in its final destination (aka your house) your TV isn’t going to end up in a huge warehouse with bright lights, sitting side-by-side with dozens of other TVs.

Not only will this overcomplicate and confuse your purchase decision, but it can also trick your eyes into spending more money: minor differences are noticeable when you have the sets side-by-side, but many of these “upgrades” won’t even be noticeable (or seem to exist) once the TV is sitting in your home or business.

Buy a Soundbar

Big Screen TVs are getting thinner and thinner which has consequentially meant the onboard sound for these TVs has gotten worse and worse.

We would highly suggest buying a Soundbar for your TV so that your audio does justice to your video. Poor audio coming from the TV will cripple your experience and full multi-speaker surround sound can be overkill.

We highly recommend Sonos Soundbars.