LED TV Buying Guide – How to select the Best LED TV?

June 18, 2012

in LED TV Buying Guide

If you are reading this, the chances are that you want to know what the best LED TV is. There is no simple answer to that and it largely depends on what you want from your TV and of course your budget. Here are some guidelines you can use to decide when purchasing a TV.

  1. LCD, LED or Plasma?
    • First, Plasma is a completely different technology from LCD and LED is kind of a sub-category of LCD TVs.
    • Plasma TVs generally outrank LCD TVs in several departments
      • General picture quality of both 2D and 3D content is usually better with Plasma TV
      • Plasma TVs have better uniformity of illumination over the entire screen – LED TVs sometimes lack this and some not so good models have higher brightness along the edges compared to the center (especially, edge-lit LED TVs)
      • Better color accuracy
      • Deep black levels – LED TVs with local/micro-dimming can produce deep blacks similar to Plasma TVs. Only a few LED TVs including those from Sony, Samsung, Another high-end Samsung and Panasonic have this feature. These TVs definitely have some of the highest ratings.
      • Refresh rate/flicker – No motion blur; fast-moving objects look sharper; less ghosting/double-imaging with 3D content on Plasma TV compared to LED TVs
      • Better depth of 3D
      • Broader viewing angles
      • Cheaper prices
    • LED TVs outrank Plasma TVs in the following departments
      • Energy consumption is better with LED TVs (modern Plasma TVs are much better than older models and they usually consume about $15-30 more electricity every year compared to a similar sized LED TV)
      • LED TVs are brighter. So if your TV room gets tons of sun/light an LED TV is more suited than a plasma TV. If you must go with a Plasma TV, make sure you have plenty of curtains to darken the room!
      • Plasma TVs are also generally heavier and thicker than modern ultra thin LED TVs
      • Smaller sizes (e.g. less than 42″) are rare/non-existent
    • Above observations are surely generalized and of course it all depends on the model
    • If you would rather go for better picture
  2. 3D or not?
    • This really depends on what you’re looking for, the price difference may not be as big as you think it would be. With a good deal price, you can get a 3D 46 inch LED TV for less than $1,000 these days. The price difference between a 3D and non-3D model may be as little as $100. Check out this highly recommended non-3D Sony LED TV and its 3D version. The prices are nearly identical. So, even if you won’t be watching a lot of 3D, consider going for a 3D model
  3. Less than 30″, less than 40″, less than 50″ or over 60″?
    • This depends on where you want to keep the TV and how much room there is. The minimum viewing distances for different sized TVs are given below
      • 32″ TV – 4 feet
      • 40″ TV – 5 feet
      • 50″ TV – 6′ 3″
      • 60″ TV – 7′ 5″
      • 70″ TV – 8′ 9″
    • So if you don’t have that minimum 7 and a half feet, don’t even think about getting a 60″ TV
  4. Refresh rate
    • LCD TVs are available from 60Hz, 120Hz, 240Hz and starting recently 480Hz models. With lower refresh rates, you may notice a slight flicker with fast-moving pictures. The higher (faster) the screen refresh rate, the less you will notice this. However, the average non-videophile user will not notice a difference between 120Hz and anything higher. So there’s no harm saving some dollars by ‘settling’ for a 120Hz model in most cases
  5. Resolution – 720p vs 1080p
    • Almost all newer LED TV models come with 1080p Full HD resolution while you will find 720p in some of the older models. Again, it is the opinion of experts that most of us will not see the difference between 720p and 1080p. Thankfully, 720p HDTVs are not manufactured anymore, so we can just buy a 1080p without having to choose between the two :)
  6. Full array vs edge-lit LED lighting
    • Full array – as the name implies, the entire back-wall has LED lighting. This gives better lighting and better dimming, however the screen ends up being thicker.
    • Edge-lit – only the 4 edges, namely the top, bottom, left and right sides have LED lights. Lighting and dimming are not as good as those of full-array backlighting, however, the screens can be made extremely thin! Also, uniformity suffers (makes sense because lighting is only on the 4 sides!)
  7. Micro-dimming available or not?
    • Like we mentioned earlier, one of the MOST IMPORTANT factors determining picture quality is the contrast ratio. That is, the difference between the whitest whites and blackest blacks. Plasma TVs generally are able to produce much deeper blacks than LED TVs. Only LED TVs with a local dimming mechanism are able to produce blacks as deep as those of Plasma TVs. This is why we always recommend LED TVs with micro-dimming over LED TVs without a dimming mechanism!
  8. Energy consumption
    • LED LCD TVs have (as the name suggests) LED bulbs as the lighting source. In contrast, non-LED LCD TVs have fluorescent lighting. LED backlit TVs are more energy efficient compared to non-LED LCD TVs, and again, if you’re a light user, the saving may be negligible. However, going for an LED TV, even  if it costs a couple extra $100 is advisable because it is healthier for the environment (green)
  9. Internet ready smart TV with built-in Wi-Fi and apps?
    • Again, largely a personal preference. If your DVD/Blu ray player is already Wi Fi ready/SMART and/or you’re using your Xbox 360/Roku set-top box to access internet content, you may be able to bypass this and settle for a dumb TV. Then again, all new TVs are SMART and you really don’t have an option here!
  10. Customer reviews
    • Exceptional tech specs on paper don’t always transfer to exceptional picture quality on TV. That’s so much more than resolution, refresh rates, contrast ratios, edge-lit LED and micro-dimming go in to producing that final image
    • This is where reviews from actual users come in handy. Some of them like “I opened the box at 2.30pm and by 3.45pm, I had completely set it up and I’m really happy about everything. This is my first HDTV and both image and audio quality are 100 times better than what was on my old 36″ CRT monster” are useless. However, if you look hard enough, there are very good detailed reviews from experienced near-videophile reviewers. These reviews will tell you everything you need to know about a particular TV.
    • In addition, these reviews are usually available by the dozen! So you can make an intelligent, statistically believable decision about a TV of interest. You don’t have this statistical advantage when you’re relying on a review by an individual. Who knows if that individual got a above average or below average sample? Unfortunately, not every individual unit is identical, even though they’re supposed to be so. If you closely read customer reviews, some people say that one or two pixels on their TVs were dead on arrival and they got those exchanged for ones without dead pixels. This kind of complaints are made against almost all TV models suggesting that not every individual unit is identically robust. Do these faults come up during manufacturing or transporting or setting up? We don’t know, but what we do know is that some do well right out of the box, while others have minor problems like one or two dead pixels!

Is there an IDEAL LED TV?

This Sony KDL-55W900A is the closest to ideal because it has got

  • a refresh rate of 240Hz
  • 1080p resolution
  • 3D compatibility
  • Micro-dimming
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Smart Apps
  • $13 electricity for a whole year
  • And best of all, AWESOME REVIEWS from real customers – if you find a TV with reviews as good as this, close to 5 stars, let us know and we’ll post it here :)

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