Selecting the Best Flat Panel TV
If you work in the audio/video business and are at any kind of social event with old friends or new acquaintances, there is a good chance you will get asked the same question, “so what is the best TV to get?”
With the introduction of 4K in 2013, the question got a whole lot simpler: the answer is a 4K model from Sony!
4K landed in North Carolina first at Audio Advice in Feb. 2013. It is truly stunning, offering a far better picture than anything we have seen in the past. Sony now has 9 4K models from 85″ to 49″ in sizes. While the 4K sets do sell for a little more than a non 4K model, the difference in picture, even on HD or Bluray is staggering. If you are in the market for a great new TV, these should be on your list. Learn more on our 4k page.
What about a Smart TV?
In the race to see who can dazzle you with the most features, all the TV brands are adding “smart” content. This purely means they have added applications that allow you access to streaming content. The bottom line is we think an Apple TV or Roku is a better interface and in almost all cases offer more content choices. Those companies specialize in streaming content, whereas a TV manufacturer should be all about giving you the best picture possible. One feature that is pretty neat on a “smart” tv is the addition of an integrated camera so you can do Skype with distant friends and relatives. Get more details in our blog on smart TV.
To 3D or Not 3D??
The next big question is, “what about 3D?” For most mainstream vendors, the jump from their non-3D model to the 3D in the same size is typically a $100-$300 price differential- which translates into about 10% in most cases. The jury is still out on the potential future success of 3D TV, but all of the better performing sets from the major brands include 3D already. Our advice is if you are on a budget, forgo 3D, but if you are out to buy a great TV set, it’s going to come with 3D by default.
What if something goes wrong?
As far as TV brands, there are many mainstream brands that offer a warranty and service should you have problems with your set. There are other brands that may sell for less, but have zero service support after 30-90 days. Audio Advice only supports brands that support us, which for flat panel are: Sony and Samsung. These are brands with service back up and support for the US market.
How your TV is set up will probably make more of a difference than the brand you choose!
Now, what about the experience of enjoying your new TV? First of all, most flat panel sales are made in big box retail chain stores. In these stores the lighting is typically bright fluorescents. Most TV manufacturers have taken to sending the sets out from the factory in what we in the industry call “torch mode”. This means just about everything you can adjust that effects the picture has been turned up to overcome the harsh lighting environment they know the sets will be displayed in. The first thing you need to do when you get your new set is to adjust these settings. It makes a huge difference, which is actually greater than any difference you would find between good quality brands if all settings were equal. If you purchase your TV from an A/V specialty dealer, like Audio Advice, they will typically do this for you.
Don’t Forget the Sound!
The next, and probably most important part is the audio. In the race to see who can make the thinnest TV, the thing that had to be sacrificed was the TV speakers. In the old days of TV sets that were 20-30″ deep there was plenty of room for a decent sized speaker enclosure. Today there is not. You will just flat not be able to understand the dialog on most current flat panels if you just use the internal speakers. There are several inexpensive “speaker bars” you can purchase that greatly enhance the audio. A full surround system with dedicated speakers will make an even bigger difference in the overall experience. As a matter of fact, if you are considering upgrading your entire entertainment system, you would be far better off allocating a good percent of your TV budget to the audio since the sets themselves have all gotten to be so good.
Most TV sets now come with all kinds of apps for accessing Internet content such as Netflix, Blockbuster and YouTube. In the race to see who can have the most content to talk about, most TV mfgs have spent more time adding all kinds of content rather than engineering time to design a great interface for these apps. We feel the $99 Apple TV or Roku is the best choice for an interface to streaming content. Both Apple and Roku are well known for their great user interfaces. Our advice is to not get caught up in the content your future TV would provide, but just add something like an Apple TV or Roku to it.
We’ve also done some testing on streaming devices you can read about in our blog on streamers.
We are here to help you through the TV selection process. Just be sure to not forget the audio. The best picture in the world is no good if you cannot understand what the people on the screen are saying!