Buying an HDTV, Overly Simplified

As the holiday season approaches once again, many of us will be headed for an electronics store with the intent of purchasing a new TV for our families. Unfortunately, never before has buying a TV been so confusing. Terms like LCD, LED, plasma, quad-color, 120/240 Hz, 3D, etc., can be mind boggling to someone who just wants a TV. So for the sake of everyone’s sanity, I have created an overly simple guide to buying an HDTV.

The first question to ask yourself is what will this TV be used for? In other words, is it going to be your main family TV or will it be a TV for a bedroom or a kids’ room? If the TV is not going to be your main TV, usually the decision becomes much more about value than anything else.

I won’t say too much about the size of the TV you should buy in this article, but do keep in mind that it can be easy to buy a TV that is too large for your room. Ideally you’ll match the size of your TV to how far away most of your family will sit from it. It is easy to find guides on how to size your TV to your sitting area on the Internet.

I have only one piece of technical advice. If you’re going to purchase a main TV, then try to get one with LED LCD technology. Without getting too technical, LED refers to the the type of backlighting used in these TVs. Older non-LED LCD technology uses a type of fluorescent backlight. Simply put, LED backlighting generally is brighter, more consistent, uses less power, and should last longer. However, if the TV you’re going to purchase is a “side” TV, then don’t really worry about LED. Any LCD TV should be fine.

Honestly, besides LED technology, most of the technical specs being hyped up by manufacturers will not provide much of a difference to average consumers. So the overly simple advice I have is to actually see the TV in action. Go to a store that has various models on display so you can see the TV for yourself. Ask to make sure that the TVs are being fed with digital signals (most do anymore) and if the picture quality is good enough for you, then buy based on the best value. Still, make sure the store has a good return policy, as sometimes the way a TV looks in a store is different that what it will look like in your home.

The simple truth is that the price of TVs will continue to come down and many of us will likely purchase another TV in around 5 years or so as technology improves. Because of this, my advice to simply see the TV with your own eyes and make a decision that way is valid for most average consumers. Also, because technology moves so fast, I would not worry too much about 3D technology, as it is still in its infancy.