8th Mar 2018

Buy the Right TV: A Buyer’s Guide for the Modern Television


Have you ever bought something new only to find out you didn’t really need it? A super fancy washing machine. That high-tech refrigerator.

This kind of purchase happens far too often, especially when it comes to electronics or appliances. The latest models have all the bells and whistles, and the salespeople are anxious to show off these items. But the truth is, most Australians don’t need those ‘extras;’ these new features that usually have a high price tag attached. No one wants to pay too much for what they’ll never use or don’t really need.

The terminology is mind-boggling, too. Buying a TV? You’ll see words like OLED, LCD, or QLED. These acronyms don’t explain much. Which one do you really need?!

For your next big purchase, go in prepared. Be an educated consumer who doesn’t fall for gimmicks or tricks. In the shop, or even online, don’t let the TV jargon confuse you into buying the wrong item. If you’re planning on buying a new television set in the near future, this guide will be your best mate.

Defining the TV Terms

By and large the most overwhelming thing about buying a new TV is wading through the electronic jargon out there. The terms are many, and most are comprised of only a few letters. What do these indistinguishable acronyms mean? And are the differences really that significant?

The first thing to know is this. There are two basic TV technologies to choose from, LED and OLED. These are the two key terms to remember, but there are lots of other definitions to cover as well.

  • LED

LCD refers to a display, LED are the lights behind it.

There are different setups of LED TVs. In many, lights are arranged along the screen’s edges. Configurations vary (lights on all four edges, just along the bottom, etc), but the advantage here is that manufacturers can make these sets thinner and more affordable.

Some models are full-array LEDs. This means that the lights are located all along the entire back of the screen, covering the entire area.  Full-array LEDs tend to be bulkier sets, but they tend to be the best option for solid LCD picture quality. Full-array backlighting allows for better contrast and shadow detail, because these TVs have more accurate local dimming, in which specific areas of the lights are dimmed as necessary for the picture.

*How long do LED TVs last?

The most popularly-sold TVs these days are LEDs and many consumers wonder how long these TVs will last. Theoretically, LED TVs should last between 60,000 and 100,000 hours, but this is only an estimate. Many TVs outlast their stated ‘life span,’ so long as they encounter no major technical issues. You can even help your TV last even longer with a few simple tweaks.


Don’t get confused. These terms actually don’t mean much of anything. The additional letters at the front are meant to impress, but these are also simply TVs using LED technology.

  • LCD

What about an LCD TV? LCD is not a different type of TV altogether. Actually, an LD TV is an LED tv. The term LCD refers to a panel that controls where light is displayed on your screen. It stands for liquid crystal display (LCD). The display is illuminated from behind by LEDs (light emitting diodes) affixed to the rear of the screen. Today LCDs are commonplace. LCD, and LED/LCD are all referring to the same kind of display.

  • OLED

Here is the other major option for TVs in 2018: OLED. OLED TVs don’t use backlights, as most other models do. Instead, with OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes) each pixel is capable of emitting its own light and shutting on and off independently. Once the set is connected to electricity, the pixels generate their own light. They don’t need an external source for illumination. This helps to create something called “perfect black levels.” OLED TVs have fantastic picture quality. With the ability for individual pixels to shut down, this creates a true shade of black, and results in amazing contrast on-screen.

OLEDs also tend to be the thinnest flat screen models on the market, which adds a nice, sleek element to the set. However, this awesome picture quality and minimalistic size, it should be noted, tends to be accompanied by a significantly higher price tag.

LED TV vs OLED TV - both are great. Which is right for you?

  • HD / FULL HD / 4K UHD

Now that you know that the major divide lies between LED and OLED TVS, we can dive into some additional terms.

You’ve probably seen the term HD floating about. HD (high-definition) refers to resolution and how many pixels are on a device’s screen. The more pixels, the clearer and better the picture. An HD TV will likely suit most consumers just fine, but for those wanting the highest resolution, there is 4K UHD. A 4K TV, as you might imagine, has roughly 4x the number of pixels as a standard HD TV. While the current standard for HD is 1080p or about 2 million pixels. 4K rings in around 8 million pixels per image. Of TVs available today, 4K is generally the option the greatest number of pixels---and thus excellent quality.

  • HDR

What about HDR? What’s that?!

HDR stands for high dynamic range. It’s not about the number of pixels, but actually about better pixels. The technology of HDR enables increased color and contrast, and thus results in a more naturalistic picture.

  • 4K & HDR Together

You’re probably thinking, “I need a TV with 4K AND HDR!” It sounds like the best of the best, right? Actually, this might not be the wisest move when buying a TV in 2018. To make the most of that technology, you would need to be watching content that has been filmed in those formats. This is currently not widely available. In fact, no Australian TV channels yet have it. And if you’re watching older television programmes, 4K TVs can actually make these low resolution images look even worse. It might be worth holding off an a 4K/HDR combo for now. It bears noting, however, that 4K is widely believed to eventually become the standard for the modern TV.

What Size TV Should I Get?

Hopefully by now you have a slightly better idea of what TV might be right for you. The next consideration might be size. There are certainly some massive TVs out there. It’s easy to walk into the shop and be impressed---or even overwhelmed---by the gigantic screens lining the walls. Don’t get swept away by size, however. Most consumers find they don’t need the largest models available.

To figure out the right size for your TV, you need to consider not only the dimensions of your home, but most importantly, your viewing distance. Experts suggest measuring the distance from your couch or seating area to where the TV will be placed and divide this by two. This result is usually the ideal TV size (in cm) based on the diagonal measurement across the screen.

Take measurements before going TV shopping to ensure you pick the optimal screen size.

Tips for Shopping for a TV

Now that you’re armed with knowledge, let’s head to the shops! Checking out the TVs in person is important. While you can certainly buy online, you’ll make the most informed purchase if you can interact with the TV directly.

Say you’ve found a TV you like in your ideal size. There are a few things to look at more closely.

Ask the salesperson to turn off the TV’s demo or shop mode so you can get the best idea of how a TV’s picture will actually look. The videos that are on-screen when you walk into the shop are often chosen very carefully, designed to make each TV look its most impressive. See if the TV really lives up to the hype: have a glance through some of the basic channels, and try it out in both SD and HD modes. Be sure to surf through a range of channels and programs if possible. You could even bring along your own USB with your favourite shows on it. Plug it in and have a look. Observe how sport differs from news channels.

Are you a fan of older TV shows? You might notice reruns of these shows looking blocky or pixelated on-screen. This is important to know if you plan to watch this type of program frequently. Some cheaper 4K sets might have this display problem, so it wouldn’t be quite so worth the investment for your viewing habits.

Some additional things to consider:

  • How’s the contrast? Examine light areas of the screen within dark scenes
  • Does skin tone look natural? You want your picture to be realistic
  • How does the TV work with movement? Watch snippets of a football game to see how the TV handles action.

Experiment with the TV’s remote control. Spend some time with it to determine how user-friendly it may be. A perplexing remote will frustrate you when you get home with it; try and select one that feels at least somewhat intuitive. If you find the perfect TV but it has a less-than-stellar remote, you can always go for a quality universal remote instead.

Other Aspects to Look At

It’s important not only to pick a television that offers a solid clear picture and works well, but one that suits your lifestyle. A great question to ask yourself is what will you be plugging in? What will you be using the TV for? It’s essential to know how you intend to connect other devices, so you can be sure you’re choosing a model with the right number of HDMI ports, etc. Also consider how you will mount or display the TV, as this decision could impact the location of these entryways.

How important is the brand?

Do you feel a particular affinity for a certain electronics brand? Most of us don’t, but we may have an idea of what brands have a good reputation. Should you listen to or ignore this information? Experts suggest a balance of both. Saving money can be beneficial, but a no-name brand may not offer the quality that a more dependable brand would, or it may not have the associated warranties or service capabilities. Between most recognisable brands, there are subtle differences in quality. Generally, don’t be driven solely by the brand of a TV, but it’s worth a bit of your consideration.

What Doesn’t Matter When Buying a TV

As you set out to pick your new TV, you should focus on the aspects discussed above, mainly LED vs OLED. Other factors might seem relevant, but often they make no real difference.

  • The refresh rate or Hz

Some TV manufacturers are advertising lightning-fast refresh rates. Do these matter? This number refers to how many times a display is refreshed, the idea being that the quicker the refresh, the smoother the picture. This isn’t something you should worry about too much. Instead of looking at specs, look at the picture on the screen itself to judge this.

  • Plasma TVs

Although there are still some plasma TV sets floating around, these are no longer being commercially produced. Ignore the fancy name and opt for an LED TV instead.

  • Don’t over-emphasise pixels

More pixels equals higher resolution, and this generally equates to a better image, but this isn’t always the case. Consider the other aspects of the TV set including contrast and colour accuracy. More pixels does not always mean an improved picture.

  • 3D capability

For a short time, 3D was the hot new thing on the home television, but as of 2018, that fad has passed. You won’t see TVs being made with this feature because it never really quite caught on, though many 2016 models have the capability. Focus on a 2D picture and you’ll be just fine.

Got the Wrong TV? Getting a Refund or Replacement

Maybe you didn’t read our guide before going out and buying a new TV. Are you stuck with your television forever? Maybe not. There are some important things to know as a consumer.

If you were misled about the capabilities of a TV (you were told a TV could do something but it can’t), you should be entitled to a replacement or a refund. Have you got a faulty product or one in need of repair? Even if the manufacturer’s warranty has expired, Australian Consumer Law guarantees that the shop is responsible for providing said replacement or repairs, provided that it is within a reasonable amount of time. Reasonable means more than a year or two. It is widely believed that TVs should reasonably last 8 years, so if you’ve got a defective set that needs attention, don’t hesitate to take it back to its home shop. Read this article for more details on consumer rights in Australia.

When Should I Buy a New TV?

Anytime is a great time to purchase a new television for your home. If your current set is giving you trouble, and it’s older than 8 years or so, you may want to consider upgrading. Commercial experts also suggest that the period leading up to Christmas, as well as just after the start of the year, can be a great time in which to shop for a new TV. And with this guide by your side, you’re ready to shop smart.

Ready to go get your new TV? Happy shopping!

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