Choosing a TV Based on Store Demos
Many of us have relied too heavily on in-store demos at one point. It is commonly believed that seeing is believing, so why not base your buying decision on a demonstration? While the theory is solid, the reality is quite different.
One thing to consider is that some TVs have manufacturer-specific demos on each device, while others just show a basic feed on each screen. It’s not always obvious that this stream even reaches 1080p, let alone 4K or HDR. It’s hard to make a fair assessment without knowing what the TV is really capable of when you feed it a high-quality source, like a UHD Blu-ray.
Then there are the settings on the TV. Most have a demo mode designed for use in stores, and these tend to crank everything up to 11. You’ll see oversaturated colors, the maximum possible brightness, and maybe even artificial sharpness of the lens. ‘picture.
This is done to make certain models stand out in the living room, but it’s not an accurate representation of how you’ll use the TV in the long run.
That doubles for anyone looking to buy a TV to play with. Much of the image processing used in the store introduces significant latency when used with a console or PC. In reality, you want to see what a TV looks like with all the bells and whistles turned off.
Even the in-store demos themselves can be misleading. If you’ve ever seen an ad for an “ultra-high definition HDR” television, you’ll be familiar with some of the tips that manufacturers use. They always create the illusion that their product is pushing some serious pixels, even if you are watching the ad on your current screen.
Store demos can be helpful, but not for judging picture or sound quality. Lighting conditions in a store rarely match those in your living room or theater.
Viewing angles, however, are unaffected by a retail environment. If you buy a TV that the whole family or groups of friends can watch with you, check in the store that everyone can see the screen, no matter where they are.
You can also judge if you like the overall design of the TV. Are the glasses thin enough? Does the stand oscillate too much? Can you install a sound bar under the screen or will you need a wall mount? These things are much harder to judge when looking at a product on Amazon.
Then there is the way you interact with the TV. How responsive is its operating system? Does the remote feel comfortable in your hand? How fast does the TV start up from standby mode? Keep in mind that some models may also have software updates that will make them better than store models, which are rarely (if ever) updated.
Listening to a salesperson
Most large chain stores train their staff to sell, rather than providing unbiased advice to consumers. Their main goal is to earn money. This means that they will often point you to the more expensive options, even if you don’t necessarily need them.
Speaking of past experience, store staff are not always the best informed about the products they are selling. Working long hours for little pay is a job, not a passion. This is why the retail industry has one of the highest turnover rates of any industry.
As such, thorough training of every new staff member is just not a priority. Plus, if you work in a department that sells 50-100 different models, you can’t expect to be an expert on all of them.
Store staff often offer specific products because that is what their manager told them to do. If they are working on commission, they also have every interest in referring you to a more expensive model than you need.
Brand representatives probably have a much better understanding of products than retail staff. Of course, why would a representative of a specific brand give you unbiased advice if a competitor’s product is the best buy? You should always take their recommendations with a big pinch of salt.
It is worth adding that specialty retailers (usually independent stores) train their staff to match customers with a product that fits their needs and budget. However, you still need to be a smart customer.
For a truly unbiased opinion, consult independent sources, such as journalists, critics, and experts in the field.
Believe that spending more will improve image quality
The best budget TVs don’t sacrifice picture quality. In fact, picture quality is all that budget TVs have going for them. That’s why TCL and Hisense have both gained so much market share by selling no-frills sets at affordable prices.
You could spend double the price of something like the TCL 6 Series ($ 650 for a 55-inch) and somehow end up with poorer image quality. How is it possible? You pay for features, not for a better image.
Manufacturers like TCL have cornered the market budget by reducing their products to the bare minimum required to impress. In the case of the 6 series, this is a good quality 4K panel that offers a bright image with Mini-LED local dimming to improve black reproduction.
What you won’t get is a 8K resolution, a next-generation image processor, excellent motion management, 120Hz refresh rate or HDMI 2.1 ports.
If you want better scaling, the latest HDMI specification for next-gen gaming, and a high refresh rate that delivers smoother movement, you’ll either have to spend more or sacrifice picture quality for it. get. It’s virtually impossible to find a midrange TV that can do it all.
Picture quality is determined by the type of panel, contrast ratio, overall brightness, and other factors, including whether the TV has backlighting or uses local dimming.
There are many other features built into a TV that do not directly affect the picture quality. To improve picture quality beyond even a good budget, you’ll either have to spend a lot more on a higher end model or sacrifice to fit your budget.
The good news is, if you just want a TV with a great picture so you can stream a few shows and movies, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on features you won’t be using.
Forget about budget for a sound bar or better
As TVs get thinner and bezels shrink, manufacturers have less room for built-in speakers. In fact, most TVs don’t even use speakers that face the viewer directly. Instead, manufacturers orient the speakers downward and then “bounce” the sound back towards the viewer.
This results in poor sound reproduction, especially with regard to bass response. Your next television may seem worse than the one you are replacing, even if it is a flagship model. If sound is important to you, you’ll definitely want to budget for a sound bar or surround sound.
Sound bars are an ideal option for those who lack the space or budget for proper surround sound. You can find a soundbar to suit almost any budget, and any soundbar is better than no soundbar at all.
If you have a little more to spend, you can invest in a receiver, satellite speakers, and a subwoofer for true surround sound.
If you’re looking at soundbars, keep an eye out for ARC or eARC. ARC stands for Audio Return Channel, and it greatly simplifies connecting a soundbar to your TV. You can use an HDMI cable to connect your soundbar to your TV. The TV then outputs the correct source to the soundbar, whether it’s a Blu-ray player, game console, or cable box.
EARC is the next generation of ARC, and it offers better lip sync compensation and higher bandwidth to support technologies such as Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD. You can still connect your soundbar via a dedicated cable, but using ARC means you have one less cable to worry about. Some soundbars even have additional HDMI ports if you need them.
If you’re spending big on a TV, remember that even the best picture quality in the world won’t excuse tiny, uninspiring sound.
Avoid smart TVs
The last time you bought a TV, you might have decided you didn’t want a “smart” model. Maybe the software on TVs back then was slow or frustrating to use. Or maybe you just aren’t crazy about how your viewing habits might be shared with third parties.
Unfortunately, almost all TVs are now smart models. If you want the latest features and technological advancements, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and buy a smart set. You might be able to find a few older models that don’t have these features, but why would you want to buy an already outdated TV?
You can always skip the smart features, if you prefer. It can be as easy as never connecting your new TV to the internet, but we don’t recommend it. Most TV manufacturers now offer updates via the web. These often add new features, fix bugs and, in the case of some older TCL models– unlock the HDMI 2.1 functionality which was still present.
You can also grab a Chromecast, Apple TV, or Roku to use for streaming. While TV interfaces have come a long way over the past decade, streaming boxes are generally even better.
If you’re absolutely determined to get a “dumb” TV, your only options are a projector or a Large Format Gaming Screen (BFGD). Projectors are expensive, often require a lot of space, and are highly dependent on the lighting in a room.
BFGDs are just as expensive as flagship TVs from LG and Samsung. However, they do not have a tuner for terrestrial viewing and, in the case of the ASUS PG65UQ, they have audible fans inside.
Delaying an upgrade indefinitely due to FOMO
Do you need a TV or do you want a TV? If you want a TV and can afford one, get the right one for you at a price that fits your budget.
Hobbyists and shopper tend to wait for the next big step before parting with their money. Unfortunately, it can become an obsessive case of FOMO, where you never buy anything because you worry about missing out on what might be available next year.
Display technology seems to be evolving at a much faster rate than it was in the days of big CRTs and early flat panel LCDs. This might lead some to think that technologies like MicroLED and QNED – none of which will be commercially viable for years to come – are within easy reach.
Even when these technologies finally make it to consumer TVs, they will be incredibly expensive.
It’s also easy to think that these technologies will leave in the dust what is currently on the market. While this may be true to some extent, if you’re happy with your new TV in 2020, why let the promise of a better model next year rain down your runway? The arrival of new technologies does not degrade your existing technology; it just changes your perception.
There are also a lot of risks associated with being an early user, like paying a huge premium for technology that might not be very good.
Just a few years ago, OLED assemblies were almost twice as expensive as they are today. They were also quite prone to burn-in (permanent image retention). Now they are much cheaper and more resilient to burn (although the problem still exists).
It is better to buy mature technology that is reaching its peak of overall performance, rather than nascent technology that still has a long way to go.
Find your perfect TV
Now that you know what to avoid, it’s time to buy your new TV! Again, we recommend that you check independent sources, like EVALUATIONS (“Notations” pronounced in a confused way). This site examines most of the economy, mid-size, and flagship models coming to the North American market. They also consider those in European (and even more distant) markets, where manufacturers offer slightly different models.
It can be helpful to identify what’s most important to you, especially if you’re concerned about budget. If you don’t play new generation video games or watch director’s cuts in a black theater hall, you can save a lot of money by going cheap and cheerful.