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Outdoor TV Buying Guide
How To Choose A TV For Your Backyard Or Patio
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with several months of warm weather, you’ve probably considered enhancing your outdoor living space with an outdoor television. Whether you enjoy live sports & concerts or cozying up to watch the latest blockbuster, there’s something about watching outdoor events & scenes in your backyard that makes you feel closer to the action. Installing an outdoor TV will keep you, your friends, & your family entertained once the sun goes down & offers a more permanent solution than an outdoor projector. Explore our outdoor TV buying guide to determine the best tv for your outdoor space.
What kind of outdoor TV Do I Need?
Choosing the best TV for your outdoor area is not as easy as you might think — there are many factors to consider. How exposed to the elements will the TV be? How much direct sunlight falls on the TV screen? Could you get by with a regular TV designed to be used indoors? How will you hear the TV?
Even the companies who only make outdoor tvs have different types of models depending on the environment they will be placed into.
What to consider when buying an outdoor television
Outdoor TV Water Resistance & IP Ratings
The first thing you should understand is that true weatherproof outdoor televisions are designed to resist or be impervious to the elements and will cost more than a typical TV designed for indoor use. They have to be water and dust resistant and able to resist insects, pollen, moisture, extreme temperatures, and in some cases, wind-driven rain. Think about your outdoor patio furniture and how it starts to look pretty used after being exposed to the elements for a few seasons. Now, imagine the fragile electronic components within a TV and the damage that insects and weather could do to them. Luckily, we have an international standard used to rate an electronics ability to withstand dust and moisture — called an IP Rating. You might need one IP rating for a television that will be on a screened porch and another for one that would be totally exposed to rain, sunlight, and dust.
Exposure to Sunlight
If you were to use a television designed for the indoors in full sun, you would barely be able to see the picture. The best outdoor TVs have the ability to produce far more light output than indoor televisions to counteract the bright sun. Just like there’s a rating for braving the elements, there is also a rating for brightness — called Nits.
Sunlight has another side effect though. If you have ever left your smartphone out in the sun for a while, you probably discovered it went into lockdown due to getting too hot. Full sun can cook components pretty fast, which is also taken into account by the true outdoor TV designs.
Getting The Best Sound For Your Outdoor TV
Next, let's talk about the sound for your TV. Many outdoor TVs do not actually include speakers in the TV. If you’re planning to host movie nights or outdoor parties, you will want to upgrade the sound so that your outdoor viewing experience is comparable to your indoor media room setup. Think about how much you have to turn up the volume on your indoor tv when listening from the built-in television speakers versus a soundbar or stereo. Now, imagine that the tv is out in the open and competing with outdoor sounds. Unless it's in a somewhat enclosed area like a screened porch and you are sitting reasonably close, you will want a soundbar or other powered speakers. You’ll also want whatever is providing you with great sound to be just as impervious to the elements as your TV. External speakers will not only sound better, but they can also be part of a zoned audio system. Whether you’re having a pool party during a sports event, or a few friends over to enjoy a streaming concert, you can play the TV’s volume on speakers all around your home and yard. To learn more about outdoor speaker options check out our article and video on outdoor speaker options.
Can You Use An Indoor TV Outside?
Some people look at the prices of outdoor TVs and think they can buy several inexpensive regular tvs for the price of one outdoor TV. This may be true, and there are a couple of use cases where this may work out for a few years. But in many situations, you end up with a television that is not bright enough for the outdoors and will fail you more quickly. You have to take into account not just the cost of the television, but also the hassle and cost of disposing of it and reinstalling a new one if you did not get a television designed for the outdoors.
Smart Outdoor TVs & Outdoor Networking
The final thing to consider when buying an outdoor television is your home networking. If you have a great WiFi network with strong outdoor coverage, then products like the Samsung Terrace Smart Outdoor TV might be a good option if you are retrofitting the television and plan to use the built-in television applications such as YouTubeTV, Netflix, Hulu, etc. Having a strong network & built-in apps means you won’t need to run a separate cable or other feed to the television for watching content. Depending on your outdoor audio setup, a stable wifi connection will also be critical for controlling the volume & other streaming audio.
Next, let’s look at some use cases to determine the best fit for your outdoor living space.
TVs for Covered Screen Porch
Covered screen porches are where we see most outdoor TVs placed. One advantage of a screen porch is the screen will keep most insects out of the TV. However, screens do not keep out pollen. If you have a position on your screen porch where the TV will be protected from rain and it is always in the shade, you might be able to get by with a regular TV.
Bear in mind the minute you plug in your indoor TV outside, your warranty is null and void. You need to also consider temperature extremes. Most indoor TVs have an operating range of around 32-104 degrees. Exposing your TV to temperatures outside of these ranges will shorten its lifespan.
If you can live with these factors and position your TV in a spot that is covered, you can get by with a bright LED indoor Television. We do recommend you find a way to cover it up during pollen season and during hurricanes or other times of high wind and rain that could impact it.
A safer bet is a TV that is designed for much wider temperature extremes, has higher brightness, and is resistant to moisture and dust. Long term, this will be your least expensive option for a true outdoor TV.
The Samsung Terrace Outdoor QLED 4K UHD HDR Smart TV is designed for shady areas and is currently available in sizes of 55”, 65”, and 75”. It has one of the very highest brightness ratings on the market with the ability to deliver up to 2,000 nits. With an IP rating of IP55, it prevents most dust from getting in and can be hit with the spray from a low-pressure hose (think Super Soaker gone wild) for a short time and have no issues. Samsung also offers a good waterproof soundbar to go along with their Terrace series.
Sunbrite is another brand in this category with their Veranda series for shade. The Sunbrite Veranda Series 4K HDR UHD outdoor TV for full-shade outdoor spaces offers sizes of 43”, 55”, 65”, and 75”. They are similar to the Samsung Terrace in environmental resistance, although they do not give a specific IP rating. They are not as bright as the Samsung models but cost a little less for the same size. Sunbrite also offers weatherproof soundbars.
Seura is one of the older brands in outdoor TV’s and has a lot of experience in building outdoor TV’s. They offer the same sizes as Sunbrite in their Shade series. These have an even higher IP rating than the Samsung at IP56, which means they can withstand a high-pressure hose. Their operating range extends from -24F to 140F. Their brightness is 700 nits, which while less than the Samsung 2,000 nits, is still brighter than most standard televisions that you might consider putting outside. They sell for a bit less than the Samsung models as well.
TVs For An Outdoor Covered Patio
A covered area without bug screens might be an area where you can position the TV to be fully out of the sun or have some ambient sunlight falling on it. You’ll be without screens here, so your risk of failure goes up with a regular TV. Depending on your situation, you may also have more exposure to wind-driven rain as well.
Covered outdoor areas usually have only one wall which limits the amount of shade available during all times of the day. This is an important factor.
We still see some people use indoor TVs in this type of situation, although your risk of damage does go up.
The way Samsung designed their base-level Terrace TV to get a really high brightness also makes it susceptible to overheating with direct sun exposure. If your covered outdoor area is fully shaded, the base level Terrace is still a wonderful choice, but be sure full sun does not directly hit the television.
The same models from Sunbrite and Seura that work for covered porches will work well in a shaded situation here as well. However, if you have some sun spilling in or just partial shade, let's look at the next scenerio we see.
TVs For A Partially Covered Patio
We see many environments where there is a pergola providing some shade, but no protection from the rain. When you are positioning a TV here, you can not use a regular indoor TV and will need a fully protected weatherproof outdoor television.
The base-level Samsung Terrace drops off the recommended list here as it cannot withstand direct sunlight, but Samsung makes a more expensive Full Sun Terrace that can withstand direct exposure. However, to enable it to handle the direct sunlight, it uses fewer nits at around 1,500, and will automatically decrease the brightness as the unit gets hotter. Both Sunbrite and Seura also have models designed just for direct sunlight situations, although both are less bright than Samsung.
The Sunbrite Signature 2 series is designed for partial sun applications and delivers 700 nits. These are available in the same 43”, 55”, 65”, and 75” sizes.
With Seura, if you only had partial sun, you should be fine with their Shade series here as well. They too can deliver 700 nits and are fully weather resistant.
TVs For Full Sun & Weather Exposure
Perhaps you have an outdoor fireplace with no cover around. Or you may have a wall where you want to put an outdoor TV where there is no shade or cover. Some people even custom mount an outdoor TV on a pole-mounted into their hardscape area.
These conditions require a serious TV that can overcome the bright sun and can take baking in the sun for hours. A regular indoor TV would only last until the first rain or bright sunny day!
The good news is that Sunbrite, Seura, and Samsung all have models that can withstand the heat! For Samsung, you would need to use the more expensive Terrace Full Sun that can withstand the extra heat.
Sunbrite has its Pro 2 series with sizes of 49”, 55”, and 65”. These can withstand full sun and can deliver 1,000 nits. Their anti-glare screen not only reduces glare but protects the TV from stray beach balls and frisbees. These models will cost more than the other series but are ideal for this situation.
Seura moves up to their Ultra Bright series with a 55”, 65” and 86”. The Ultra Bright units cost more than other outdoor TVs but are terrific outdoor televisions really designed to withstand the elements. They have an adaptive technology that adjusts the picture according to the lighting conditions giving you the best picture both in full sun and the dead of night. The 55” and 65” deliver 1000 nits, while the 86” can do 800 nits. These models are incredibly well designed and will complement your beautiful outdoor area.
In this exposed outdoor situation, you want to either use the waterproof soundbars that are available from all three manufacturers or a fully integrated outdoor audio system so you can hear the audio. Also, remember that all of the outdoor televisions come with waterproof remotes which means you can leave the remotes on the porch or outdoors versus indoor television remotes which you will need to bring in and out of the house regularly since they are not designed for the elements.
Two last things to consider for outdoor televisions. Most regular television mounts are not treated to handle the outdoor elements. So you will want to use an outdoor television mount so it does not rust over time.
Designing Your System
The best TV for your outdoor entertainment will come down to the environment you plan to place it in, and in some cases, your tolerance for risk. There are two cases where the Samsung Terrace is generally the better solution today. The first is on a covered screen porch where the television does get direct sunlight. In this case, the Samsung Terrace is the brightest picture by far. The second case is where you have good WiFi and want to use the television apps for your viewing vs. trying to run a cable or other feed from inside the house. Samsung has all of the major built-in apps whereas the other manufacturers rely on using a cable, Roku, AppleTV, or other source connected to the television.
Remember that these models will change over time, but the concepts remain the same. We’ve done many outdoor systems at Audio Advice and pretty much know which is the best solution depending on your situation. Whether you’re trying to install an outdoor entertainment system for a modest-sized patio or designing a sprawling outdoor living space for a pool or backyard, our team at Audio Advice is happy to help! We can take your outdoor entertaining plans and help you come up with the best design to meet both your needs and budget.
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