Home theater TV buying guide 2021- What to consider

A TV is a great home theater or media room addition. However, with the different Tv brands, sizes, technology, and so on, choosing the right one for your needs can be challenging. With that said, I am going to walk you through how you can choose the perfect TV for your space.

Here is what to consider before buying a TV;

  • Your budget.
  • Tv size.
  • TV technology and image quality.
  • Screen resolution.
  • Connectivity and port selection.
  • Smart features.
  • Audio upgrade.
  • Warranty.

But before we get into the details of each of these considerations, let us look at some of the general tips and guidelines.

TV buying guidelines and tips

  1. Watch various videos on the TV going through various channels, shows, and look at the differences between the footage. As you do this, ensure the Tv has enough details in the darker and shadowy scenes.
  2. Turn off the demo mode, check different picture modes, and ensure that the TV has true blacks.
  3. Buy your Tv from a reputable and trusted brand and authorized dealer. This includes lesser-known brands that are in most cases cheaper.
  4. Make sure that the TV does not have trailing elements behind fast-moving objects. It should have smooth panning.
  5. The skin tones should be spot on, natural, and as accurate as possible.
  6. Buy a Tv with a 4k resolution if possible. TV resolution is changing fast and you do not want to get left behind as we move towards ultra HD technology.
  7. A bigger Tv is not always better but get for a TV that is at least 43 inches (diagonally).
  8. Invest in a TV with a refresh rate of 60 or 120 Hz for smoother videos.
  9. Upgrade your sound experience by either buying a soundbar or dedicated home theater speakers. TVs nowadays are too slim to accommodate quality speakers.

1.      Budget

We cannot ignore the fact that the quality and size of the TVs we buy are mainly dictated by the amount of money we got to spend.

With that in mind, it is worth noting that over recent years the prices of most TVs have been going down but spending more almost always guarantees better quality.

If you are careful enough and know what you are looking for before shopping, you can always get your money’s worth no matter the budget. It is essential to get the right balance between the cost of the TV and the quality to make sure that you are getting the most out of what you spend.

2.      Choosing the right TV size

The size of any TV is measured diagonally from corner to corner but the actual dimensions for each TV may vary from one to the other.

However, below are some of the common TV size dimensions;

SizeHeight (inches)Width (inches)
32 inches15.727.9
40 inches19.634.9
43 inches21.137.5
50 inches24.543.6
55 inches2747.9
60 inches29.452.3
65 inches31.956.7
70 inches34.361
75 inches36.865.4
80 inches39.269.7
85 inches41.774.1

As I mentioned earlier, bigger is not always better but is more expensive. For a home theater, the TV should be at least 43 inches for the best viewing experience but I would recommend getting a 55-inch TV for larger rooms.

There are also TV that are as large as 85 inches but getting one of these will cost an arm and a leg.

I would actually recommend getting a projector for a display bigger than 55 inches as it will give you more value for your buck.

What’s more, when choosing the right TV size, it is essential to consider the positioning of the TV and the size of the room.

TV placement and room size

Choose a TV size that fits your entertainment space perfectly. This may depend on how you plan to place your TV, whether you are going to mount it or use a TV stand, the furniture in your space, and the resolution (determines viewing distance).

To get the best out of your TV, it is recommended that the viewing distance (distance between your sitting position and the TV) be twice as long the size of the TV. For example, if you plan on getting a 55-inch TV, the viewing distance should be at least 110 inches (9.2 ft).

However, this will only be great for a 1080p screen resolution and the viewing distance for a 4k display will differ. The recommended viewing distance for a 4k Tv is 1 to 1.5 times as long as the size of the TV. For example, for a 60 inches 4k TV, the distance between where you sit and the screen should between 60 and 90 inches.

You do not want to be too close or too far from the screen. Too close and your eyes will be shifting constantly from one end of the TV to the other and too far and you miss some of the subtle details in your footage.

Below is a table with estimates that you can use as your viewing distance.

Note: Viewing distance is subjective and when choosing the right screen size and you can always tweak things to what best fits you. It all comes down to personal preference.

How far you should sit from your TV;

Size1080p display viewing distance4K display viewing distance
32”64” (5.3 ft)27.9” to 41.9” (2.3 to 3.5 ft)
40”80” (6.7 ft)34.9” to 52.4” (2.9 to 4.4 ft)
43”86” (7.2)37.5” to 56.3” (3.1 to 4.7 ft)
50”100” (8.3 ft)43.6” to 65.4” (3.6 to 5.5 ft)
55”110” (9.2 ft)47.9” to 71.9” (4 to 6 ft)
60”120” (10 ft)52.3” to 78.5” (52.3 to 6.5 ft)
65”130” (10.8 ft)56.7” to 85” (4.7 to 7.1 ft)
70”140” (11.7 ft)61” to 91.5” (5.1 to 7.6 ft)
75”150” (12.5 ft)65.4” to 98” (5.5 to 8.2 ft)
80”160” (13.3 ft)69.7” to 104.6” (5.8 to 8.7 ft)
85”170” (14.2 ft)74.1” to 111.2” (6.2 to 9.3 ft)

3.      TV technology

There are several TV technologies from CRT which is one of the earliest TV technologies that is not used much these days to OLED, LED technologies, and so on.

CRT TV technology

CRT TV stands for Cathode Ray Tube and is one of the oldest TV technologies and is still popular in some parts of the world like Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.

These TVs use a large vacuum tube (the cathode ray tube) to display images which is the reason they are so heavy.

Some argue that CRT TVs have a better image than some of today’s TV technologies but this will depend on your personal preference.

Finding a new CRT TV is difficult but if you are really up to it, you can find a used one on eBay but you can also find a few unused ones for cheap on Amazon although I would not recommend it.

DLP TV Technology (rear projection TV)

DLP stands for Digital Light Processing Television and is a TV technology that uses 1 or 3 DMDs (Digital Micromirror Devices). DMDs are electronic chips that are used to produce high contrast and vivid images on the screen.

These chips are made up of millions of tiny tilted mirrors that are laid side by side to produce the TV pixels.

This TV was developed in the 1980s by Texas Instruments and was widely used in most of the movie theaters then.

You can still use a DLP Tv in your home theater but you should be aware that you can only reach a 1080p resolution (1920 by 1080 pixels) which is still great. However, because the production of these TVs was discontinued in 2012, it is difficult to get your hands on one.

Plasma TV technology

Plasma TVs have been around since the early 2000s although production was discontinued in 2014. However, you can still find yourself one of these TVs.

These TVs are somehow similar to CRT TVs in that they use lit phosphors to produce images. The phosphors are filled with superheated gas which lights when hit by an electric current.

They have better range, color depth and can even produce better black levels than some of the newer TV technologies. However, they only reach a 1080p resolution, are prone to screen burns, and are not the best for rooms with a lot of ambient light due to screen glare.

LCD TV Technology

LCD TVs stands for Liquid Crystal Display Televisions are the most common TVs on the market today.

These TVs work by turning pixels on and off depending on the refresh rate and can reach refresh rates of up to 480 Hertz but most of them will have refresh rates of between 60 and 120 Hertz.

They also need to be backlit to produce an image on the screen and depending on the type of backlighting, the type of display can vary.

Earlier LCD TVs used cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) for lighting to produce an image on the screen. CCFLs were then replaced by full-array LED backlighting and LED edge lighting.

LCD TVs can reach a 4K resolution but most will have a 1080p resolution but you can have problems with dead pixels on the display.

LED TV Technology

LED TVs are a type of LCD TV.

These TVs use LCD panels but are lit by LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) to produce an image on the screen. To simplify this, an LED Tv is actually an “LED-lit LCD Tv.

LED TVs are usually made up of 2 polarizing sheets of material made of liquid crystal solution which align (the crystals) when an electric current passes through the liquid to allow light to pass or not pass through. So, the crystals either let light through or block it similar to a camera’s shutter.

LED TVs also have a feature known as “local dimming” where the LED light source is placed behind the LCD panels and can be dimmed or illuminated depending on the image. Local dimming helps to improve the contrast and black levels to closely match the quality of plasma TVs.

OLED and QLED TV technologies

QLED or Quantum LED TV is an LED-LCD variation that uses quantum dots (microscopic molecules) films in between the LCD panels.

These TVs depend on LED backlighting to produce an image. Quantum dots on films produce their own colored light when hit by the light from the LEDs which then passes the LCD layer to produce an image on the screen. These displays are also known as transmissive displays.

OLED TVs or Organic Light Emitting Diode is a different beast on the other hand that uses organic compounds to produce images. These TVs have no relation to LCDs at all and each pixel is individually lit to create an image. These displays are also known as emissive displays.

However, just like with LCD TV, OLED TVs can also suffer from dead pixels.

Here are some of the main differences between QLED and OLED TVs;

Price

When compared to QLED displays of the same size, OLED displays are more expensive.

Brightness

QLED TVs can get brighter than OLED TVs and are better for well-lit rooms. However, OLED displays can also get pretty bright but not as bright as QLED displays.

Black levels and contrast

As far as the black Levels and contrast are concerned OLED TVs are significantly better than QLED displays. This is because each pixel can individually turn on and off for an almost infinite contrast something that even the best QLED with the best full-array local dimming cannot achieve.

4.      Screen resolution

1080p HD or 4K Ultra HD

A 1080p TV has 1920 by 1080 pixels and has a total number of 2,073,600 pixels. On the other hand, a 4K TV has 3840 by 2160 pixels for a total of 8,294,400 which is 4 times the number of pixels found on a 1080p display.

I would recommend getting a 4K TV but this will only matter if you watch mostly 4K content and sit close enough to the screen to get the full immersive UHD experience. However, more and more content is available in 4K, and to take advantage of this, you will need a 4K display.

Also, when compared to 1080p TVs, 4K TVs are significantly more expensive but we are seeing prices drop as more displays continue to flood the market.

What about 8K TVs?

Although I would not worry much about 8K displays, it is also worth mentioning as we get used to 4K TVs and because technology is fast-evolving.

8K TVs have 7680 by 4320 pixels which is a total of 33,177,600. Impressive, right? This may be impressive but you should not lose sleep over it, for now. One reason for this is that very little content is available in 8K resolution and the second reason is that because this is a fairly new technology, these displays are very expensive.

However, if you want to stay ahead of everyone else and have access to 8K content, this may be a worthy but expensive investment.  

What is HDR?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range is an enhanced image format found on most 4K TVs but not all. These formats make the image on your display brighter and as clear as possible by improving the contrast.

To get the full feel of an HDR viewing experience, even your sources and streaming device (the TV may already have streaming services) should be HDR compatible. This will add more drama and color to the image other than just the high details found on a 4K display.

There are different types of HDR formats such as HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and so on. HDR10 is the most popular followed by Dolby Vision.

5.      Refresh rate

The refresh rate is the measure of how fast a TV display can redraw an image per second and is measured in Hertz (Hz). When it comes to the refreshing rate, you can either go for a TV with either 60 Hz or 120 Hz for better motion, especially if you watch a lot of fast-paced content such as sports.

But if you want less motion blur, you should also consider the TV’s response time. A 60 Hz or 120 Hz with the same response time will produce almost identical amounts of motion blur.

You should also be aware of fake refresh rates when it comes to higher refresh rates. A manufacturer may just slap in the 120 Hz tag to inflate the price. That is why you should compare different displays before making a purchase.

6.      TV Connectivity and port selection

Bluetooth

Some TVs will have in-built Bluetooth for wireless connections. This will be great when you want to add another Bluetooth-enabled device like a soundbar, headphones, speakers, and so on.

To know if the TV you are about to buy has Bluetooth you can check the online manual. If you are buying it from your local dealer, check the sound connection options and if your TV has the Bluetooth speaker connection then it supports Bluetooth.

However, you can always use a Bluetooth adapter to pair your devices to a TV with no Bluetooth.

In-built Wi-Fi

A TV with in-built Wi-Fi will also be a great addition for wireless connections but you can always get a wireless adapter for your TV with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

TVs with built-in Wi-Fi will have a Wi-Fi Alliance logo at the bottom of the display or on the TV box. You can also check the network connections under the general settings menu.

Input and output ports

  • HDMIFor digital video and audio. This is the most important port for a high-quality image and sound. HDMI will also be great if you want to connect your computer to the TV. I would recommend getting a TV with at least one or two HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) ports. Also, getting a TV with HDMI 2.1 will give you the upper hand.
  • S-Video– For an analog video feed transmission. This port is made up of a black circle with 4 to 5 holes. Can be used for previous generation gaming consoles and media players and some computers but can only deliver a maximum resolution of 480i.
  • Component– For analog video. These ports are color-coded red, blue, and green and can be used to connect to a DVR, some media players, and some of the previous generation gaming consoles. These ports were mainly used before HDMI became so popular. Can deliver a maximum resolution of 1080p.
  • Composite– For analog video from DVRs, previous-generation gaming consoles, and media players. This is a circular yellow port that can deliver a maximum resolution of 480i.
  • Coaxial digital– For digital Audio. This is a single circular port with a hole in the middle.
  • Optical Digital– For digital audio. Optical ports are usually covered with a small flap that is used to send audio signals through light.
  • RCA stereo– For an analog audio transmission from previous generation gaming consoles and media players, receivers, and soundbars. These are 2 red and white ports for audio input (in) and output (out).
  • DVI– For connecting to your PC for both digital and analog transmissions. DVI ports are characterized by a whitish D shape with different amounts of holes for the insertion of DVI cables. Can deliver a maximum resolution of 1080p.
  • VGA- For connecting to a computer for an analog resolution. This port does not support an audio transmission and can only deliver a maximum resolution of 720p.
  • Antenna in/RN in/Cable in– For Over-The-Air TV (OTA TV). This port can be used to receive TV broadcasts from local TV stations. Can deliver a maximum resolution of 1080p.
  • Ethernet/LAN– For an internet connection. Delivers faster internet speeds than Wi-Fi.
  • USB port– Used from time to time to connect to some devices such as your phone, a flash drive, a streaming device, and even a TV antenna.

7.      Smart TV Features

If you are going to get a smart TV then here are some of the features that you should look for;

  • Streaming services such as Hulu, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Spotify, and so on.
  • A fast user interface which will allow the TV to respond faster to the various commands and functions.
  • An app store with a variety of apps and games that can be regularly updated.
  • Wireless connectivity of course.
  • Smartphone connectivity.
  • Keyboard connection through a USB port or Bluetooth to make typing easier than relying on your remote.
  • Voice control assistants such as Alexa or Google assistant as a replacement/alternative to the remote control.

8.      Audio upgrades

Most TVs today are too slime to have great built-in speakers and even the most expensive best quality TVs have bad audio.

You can either invest in a soundbar, dedicated speakers, or wireless headphones. If you want surround sound, speakers may be the best option for you but we also seeing more soundbars and headphones that come with surround and 3D sound.

9.      Warranty

It is worth buying a Tv with an extended warranty for piece of mind as this will save you a lot of money when the TV breaks in between the warranty period. You can check the pamphlet to know what your manufacturer covers.

However, this may not matter as much as most of the TV may never malfunction. But for more expensive TVs this may be worth considering as security.

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