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How to buy a TV

How to buy a TV

TV guide

A television set is a big-ticket item that can cost thousands of dollars, and is likely to be the centrepiece of your living room. You're probably going to look at your TV everyday, so it's important that you get it right. But don't fret, we're here to help you with the tech jargon and the acronyms. Here are five tips on how to buy a TV in 2022.

Get the largest size you can

There's a whole bunch of information on the optimal screen size for the size of the room, and how far you're seated from the TV. But I say, ignore all that, and just get the biggest screen you can afford. Of course, make sure it fits on your existing TV stand (or get a new stand if you have to). IMAX screens are huge, after all, so why not do the same and get the largest TV you can afford? Your eyes will adapt.

The 77-inch LG G2 OLED TV. Credit: LG

OLED for best picture quality

OLED, QLED, and mini-LED are some of the common display technologies used by TVs today. OLED TVs are self-emissive, which means each individual pixel gives out its own light. The others (QLED, mini-LED etc) require some form of backlighting. A mini-LED TV, for example, may have hundreds or thousands of tiny LEDs to illuminate the screen.

What this means: Only OLED TVs can produce a truly dark image since the pixels can be turned off completely. This leads to near-infinite picture contrast, so colours ‘pop' and images look vibrant. So if picture quality is your key criteria, go for an OLED. However, OLED TVs aren't as bright as other TVs like mini-LED. Upping the brightness can cause the OLED pixels to suffer wear and tear, leading to ghostly afterimages (aka image retention). OLED TVs have ways to mitigate this issue, and tests have shown that it's not a problem for most users. If you're still unconvinced, get a mini-LED or QLED TV instead. In addition, the best mini-LED or QLED TVs can produce eye-searing, super-bright images, which is helpful if you're watching in a very bright room.

Samsung QN95B Neo QLED 4K TV
A mini-LED like the Samsung QN95B Neo QLED can produce very bright images, making it suitable for a well-lit room. Credit: Samsung

Not all HDR TVs are equal

Televisions that support HDR (High Dynamic Range) can display more life-like pictures, thanks to their wide colour gamut, higher brightness, and better contrast. But while many 4K TVs can support HDR formats like HDR10 and Dolby Vision, not all are capable of producing the impactful highlights that makes HDR look, well like HDR. Generally, you'll want an OLED, or at least an LCD with lots of local dimming zones e.g a mini-LED. A good HDR TV won't be cheap — they start in the four-digit figure range for a 55-inch model. You can also look out for TVs with the Ultra HD Premium logo as they are certified to give you a great HDR experience.

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Gaming Den

Get the right ports

Most TVs come with a number of ports (HDMI, USB, and optical), but the key ones are HDMI as they are used to connect everything from your media streamer to game console to soundbar. But here's the problem — there are different versions of HDMI, and the latest HDMI 2.1 standard is even more confusing. Basically, you need to go through a TV's specs with a fine-tooth comb (or read a review) to find out if a TV's HDMI ports satisfy your needs. For example, you may want support for 4K 120Hz if you have the latest Xbox Series X|S or PlayStation game console. Other gaming features to look out for in the specs include ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) and VRR (variable refresh rate). In addition, if you have a newish soundbar, you'll want an eARC HDMI port, not the older ARC HDMI port.

Sony A90K
The Sony A90K only has two HDMI 2.1 ports (including eARC), so you'll have to choose two out of three from your soundbar, Xbox Series X|S and a PlayStation 5. Credit: Sony

Timing is everything

Unless you need a TV urgently, it's best to buy a TV in the latter months of the year. TV vendors usually launch their latest models in the first half of the year e.g. April/May period. This is when the price of a new TV is at its peak. Six months down the road, the price will have dipped by a fair bit. In my experience, the best time to buy a TV is from November onwards, especially during the Black Friday period. That's when retailers are likely to offer the biggest discounts and promotions. Alternatively, you can also opt for a model from the previous year, which can be heavily discounted — if you can still find one.

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