Buying a New TV? Here’s How to Cut Through the Jargon


He recommended against spending a lot of money for a top-of-the-line television now. A lower-price model will serve you well for several years and can save you money for an upgrade for when technology improves.

What resolution should you get?

One of the buzzwords you will hear is “4K,” which is the successor to 1080p, the high-definition resolution found on modern television sets. The term 4K, also called Ultra HD, offers sharper clarity. In the same space that a 1080p television has a pixel, a 4K model can hold four.

4K comes standard with most new models, though Mr. Heinonen cautioned that programming in that format is not uniformly available. Streaming 4K content is available from Netflix, Amazon, Vudu and others, there are select broadcasts on DirecTV and none from network broadcasters, he said.

The advantages of 4K also may not be fully on display, depending on what you watch, Dr. Richard Spaide, an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, said in an email. “Differences in the resolution would be more apparent with relatively static pictures,” he wrote. “Scenes with a lot of motion, such as explosions in an action movie, don’t necessarily benefit much from increased resolution.”

What else you should know

H.D.R. (high dynamic range) is the most modern advancement and generally found in 4K televisions released last year. This software enhances the contrast and color profile. In bright colors, you will see brighter highlights; in dark colors, you will see more details.

Mr. Heinonen called H.D.R. “a bit of a trap” because models can say they offer this feature but not display much benefit from it. While 4K content with high dynamic range can be noticeably better compared with 1080p content, 4K content without high dynamic range can have a negligible difference in picture quality.

Devindra Hardawar, a senior editor at the technology news website Engadget, wrote in an email that O.L.E.D. (organic light-emitting diodes) is “the next big thing” but that it remains expensive. (A model with a 55-inch screen can cost up to $2,500 and a 65-inch model around $3,500.) O.L.E.D. televisions are “impressively thin” and provide better contrast ratios than LED/LCD televisions and richer colors, he wrote.

Look for information about a model’s contrast ratio — how light the whites and how dark the blacks appear. The greater the contrast, the better the visual pop.

A feature related to contrast is dimming, which has two types: “local dimming” and “full-array local dimming.” With local dimming, dark sections of the screen remain dark and the light sections are brighter. Mr. Heinonen recommended full-array because it can dim comparatively smaller sections of the screen.

What size screen should you get?

Go big or go home.

David Katzmaier, a writer for the technology news website CNET, recommended at least 40 inches for a bedroom television and at least 55 inches for a main one.

More than any other feature, “stepping up in TV screen size is the best use of your money,” he wrote, adding, “One of the most common post-TV-purchase complaints I’ve heard is from people who didn’t go big enough.”

Should you buy a TV with a curved screen?

No. They were promoted by manufacturers as a gimmick and have been discontinued after selling poorly, Mr. Heinonen said.

How about a 3-D TV?

See answer above.

How should you shop for a TV?

Do your homework, read plenty of reviews and do not believe your eyes when you are in a store looking at models.

Some stores have halogen lamps that can distort the way television images appear, giving them an artificial brightness and vividness. Some televisions display content specifically tailored to show off that particular model, Mr. Heinonen said.

“The retail experience has no relationship to the home experience,” he said.

Do you really need a TV?

With the abundance of hand-held consumer electronics such as smartphones and tablets that can play videos, does it make sense to buy a television?

Mr. Hardawar noted that shows such as “The Young Pope” and “Game of Thrones” are looking more like films and a large screen is the best way to take in their grandeur, adding that watching television has increasingly become a communal experience.

“If you’re fine watching Netflix in bed, then you can probably rely on your laptop or tablet,” he wrote. “But there’s no such thing as a movie party around a laptop.”

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