Table of contents
Buy A Smart TV Guide 2023
If you want to buy a Smart TV, you will quickly find yourself in a minefield of jargon and a whirlwind of marketing speech. HDR, UHD, OLED, 4k – what does it all mean? It can get really confusing!
That’s why, our team at AirBeamTV has prepared this handy guide into buying a Smart TV. We want you to be able to pierce through inaccessible terms and make the best choice for yourself.
‘But why is it important to get yourself informed? Can’t I just go to the store and get myself a Smart TV?’
You can expect to own a Smart TV for at least a couple of years. You should also expect to spend a chunk of money on it. That’s why it pays to do some solid research beforehand. That way you’ll be able to make an informed choice. You want something that fits your needs, is reliable and easy to use. In the end, it will translate into your own comfort and relaxation – that’s what we buy Smart TVs for, after all!
What is a Smart TV
Calling a Smart TV ‘smart’ is not really something many of us have given second thought towards. It’s, after all, just a TV with some extra functions, right? But what is it that actually makes it smart?
Example of smartphones
Remember the times when phones were just for phoning? We kind of do, but it’s pretty blurry! Then came the days of those sturdy brick-like phones like the cult Nokia 3310 that had Snake and those annoying (but so nostalgic!) ringtones.
Now, phones are like little computers in our pockets. And that’s exactly what makes them ‘smart’. In the same way, a TV can be smart when it stops just being a way to watch your favourite programs and begins to employ apps, Internet connection, games and all the extra functions your heart desires!
Apps & Streaming
Another important feature that makes TVs smart is the interconnectivity between various devices. While HDMI, introduced for consumer electronics in 2004, is now a standard, a Smart TV offers way more. First of all, you can access your favourite apps such as YouTube as well as streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Max or Disney Plus.
Second of all, Smart TVs can be on the receiving end of screen mirroring and screen casting – a wireless form of connection.
With screen mirroring, for example, you can easily display your device’s screen onto your Smart TV. All you need is your iPhone, iPad or Mac, a Smart TV and an app that will facilitate all of that. Just as the screen mirroring apps developed by AirBeamTV.
Should I buy a new, used or refurbished Smart TV?
Whenever buying something that will serve you for at least several years, there’s always a question of getting new vs. used vs. refurbished.
In the Smart TV market, there are many options besides going to the store and getting the latest model. Let’s explore them.
It’s the age old thing – buy the best you can afford. But is the best always new? Sometimes a low price tag on a new TV means shoddy quality or limited functionalities. And some brands are just unreliable and prone to malfunctions. At other times, a good used unit can serve you well for years!
When buying a Smart TV, you should start by defining your budget range. It will help you determine what you can afford and where to look for it.
Best Smart TV Brands
When in market for Smart TVs, the brand should be your guiding light. Behind a solid manufacturer there often stands a proven history of quality and responsiveness. Pick brands you know are good, you had positive experiences with or were recommended to you by people you trust. Here are some excellent TV brands:
Don’t be afraid of getting expert’s opinion from the Internet (well, you’re here, so you’ve kind of already taken that step!) – we’re talking about a several hundred-to-several thousand dollar purchase. But do make sure you’re using as reputable sources as you can find while doing your research.
Product comparisons from tech magazines are a good place to start. Don’t shy away from looking up reviews left by users – they’re often as unbiased as it gets!
Tips and tricks for buying a refurbished Smart TV
Getting anything other than new means having to go extra mile. But that additional time spent researching your options can translate to big savings.
First, let’s briefly go through what ‘refurbished’ actually entails. It basically means the Smart TV has been repaired after a fault. Those devices then find their way onto the second hand market and to official resellers, sold at a cheaper price point that their new counterparts.
Reputable sellers of refurbished Smart TVs will often offer warranty on their products. This is quite important, since you won’t have technical support from the original manufacturer. Then, in case something breaks again, you’ll have somewhere to refer to.
An advantage of getting a refurbished TV is that you may find a very recent model at a much lower price. Look out for them through reputable sellers.
Tips and tricks for buying a used Smart TV
When buying a used TV, try to examine it in person before purchase if possible. This is to give you an opportunity to see if there are any damages, whether all the ports are in order and well… if it actually works. There’s always some risk involved, even with the most reputable merchants.
This is especially important since warranty is, in most cases, not a given when buying a used Smart TV. A huge chunk of such purchases are based on a verbal – thus not binding – contract. So, before you hand over the money and take your TV home, you have to be sure what condition it’s in.
Do you really need the biggest Smart TV there is?
The bigger the better, right? Well, not really. When buying a Smart TV, it might be enticing to go for the largest one money can buy. But that’s not always the best choice.
Before buying a Smart TV, ask yourself – ‘what are my needs?’ Then go further to – ‘how many people will be using it?’ and ‘what will they use it for?’
Sometimes all you need is a medium-sized or even small screen, especially if you don’t have that much area in your house, or if you won’t use it that much. But other times, you might want to go for a massive cinema-like TV. No shame in indulging yourself!
Another, more important question is – ‘what are the best Smart TV dimensions I can accommodate in my house?’ Smart TVs come in all shapes and sizes. Well, maybe not all shapes – they’re all strictly rectangular! But there’s some calculating to be done to determine the most fitting length to width ratio of a screen.
First, measure the cabinet or the wall you wish to place your Smart TV on. Keep in mind the aesthetics – a massive unit will look weird on a tiny piece of furniture!
Next, check the distance between the screen and your couch or bed. This is important not just for comfortable viewing, but also for keeping your eyesight healthy. A general rule of thumb is that you should sit between 1,5 – 2,5 metres from a 40 inch TV. The bigger the TV screen, the further you should sit.
OLED, LED, QLED – what does it all mean?
When buying a Smart TV, you will surely stumble upon these. OLED, LED and QLED refer to the image producing technology TV manufacturers use. We will briefly go through each of them to give you some overview, but without getting into jargon!
That being said, we recommend you to go to your local electronics store and check it out for yourself! We can only do so much in an article and an eye test is often the most valuable!
What is LED?
LED (light-emitting diode) Smart TVs have an LCD (liquid crystal display) screen that’s lit up with a sheet of LEDs.
Because of the huge number of components, such as LCD filtering sheets, LED units tend to be quite large. They are, in fact, the least expensive Smart TV option on this list, while still producing very good display quality. They also can get really bright – perfect for rooms with a lot of light, if you enjoy daytime television.
Sadly, there are some disadvantages to LED TVs. Namely, the viewing experience is quite tricky and uneven. You’re best off looking at your unit straight ahead – if you sit at an angle, you will lose some of the contrast. That’s because an LCD screen actually blocks off and filters the light emitted by the LEDs behind it to produce the images you can see.
What is more, LED TVs tend to produce halos around bright objects on dark backgrounds. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, a Star Wars-head or into astronomy, you’ll be better off with other options on this list.
What is OLED?
OLED (organic light-emitting diode) is a pretty new and quite revolutionary technology when it comes to Smart TVs. Contrary to LEDs, OLED Smart TVs produce their own light. These units don’t need any extra filtering layers and because of that, they are extremely thin and can achieve good brightness levels.
Another massive advantage of OLED technology is the crisp, full-of-contrast image it’s capable of producing. Just have a look at any nature documentary displayed on such a screen – we can almost guarantee an instant ‘WOW’ effect! Viewing angles are also very wide – up to 170 degrees – as there’s nothing obstructing the screen, like in case of LED TVs, covered in LCD sheets.
On the downside, OLED Smart TVs are very expensive. Although the manufacturing process is easier and more environmentally friendly than in case of LED TVs, the technology requires a lot of research and is still quite fresh. That always racks up the price tag.
What is QLED?
QLED Smart TVs are a step forward from LEDs. The new thing? A film sheet of quantum dots that, when lit up by LED backlights, is capable of producing a far more detailed image than its older Q-less counterparts.
QLED TVs share the many pros and cons of LED TVs. They are, however, the ‘new’ thing, so you can expect more new technologies and updates being poured in that direction.
While QLEDs are more expensive than LEDs, they can get cheaper than OLEDs. That provides a somewhat middle ground for people looking to enjoy quality viewing with a little more money in their wallets.
8k, 4k, 1080p – which one should I go for?
Now, here’s more confusing TV talk that we will make clear for you! When looking through Smart TVs to buy, you will surely notice these numbers – 8k, 4k and 1080p. They refer to image resolution, which means the number of pixels that are there on the screen.
1080p vs. 4k Smart TV
A 1080p Smart TV (often advertised as Full HD, or FHD) has… you guessed it – 1080 pixels vertically and 1920 horizontally. 4k (referred to as Ultra HD, or UHD), on the other hand, has 2160 pixels vertically and 3840 horizontally. Confusing, right? It’s the wrong way around and it’s not even 4k… But is sure does sound a lot cooler than ‘a bit above 2k’.
4k Smart TVs are pretty much a standard right now. They are widely available and there’s a lot of content you can watch on them. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with getting a good 1080p TV – it will still be a solid unit, and at a much cheaper price.
Some producers use Super UHD or SUHD to refer to their more sophisticated 4k Smart TVs. They offer a bit of an improvement when it comes to the displayed colours. But because of the ‘Super’ in front, they cost more than a typical 4k unit – consider if it’s worth it!
What About 8k Smart TVs?
8k Smart TVs are the latest and supposedly best units available. They offer four times the resolution of an Ultra HD 4k TV. But… do you really need it?
If you scour the Internet for opinions on this topic, the overall consensus is that getting a 8k TV is currently a waste of money. These units are extremely expensive and don’t provide enough of a quality improvement to justify the price. Moreover, there’s not really any content right now that can take advantage of 8k technology.
In the world of TVs, it doesn’t quite pay off to be an early adopter. If you really want to buy an 8k Smart TV, you’re much better off waiting for some time until they become more widespread, cheaper and there’s actual stuff to watch on it.
Smart TV Sound Quality
Ever had that problem where you watch cable TV and you can barely hear the movie? But when the ad segment rolls in, the speakers suddenly explode with loud noise?
That’s because the sound quality of in-built Smart TV speakers is, relatively speaking, bad. The screens keep getting bigger, but also thinner and you can only fit so much in a frame that’s a couple centimetres thick. And while the display quality keeps getting better, the TV sound suffers – and you kind of need both for an amazing viewing experience.
You can solve that by getting yourself a soundbar to accompany your Smart TV. Whats’s a soundbar? It’s a rather flat and wide loudspeaker tailor-made to work with devices such as Smart TVs. It enhances the poor sound quality of built-in speakers.
You can also get a soundbars with detachable ends. Place them around your seating area to create a surround effect!
You can easily get a soundbar separately. But in case you’re looking to buy a Smart TV and care about what falls on your ears, plenty of retailers offer Smart TV and soundbar bundles.
In order to keep people interested (by which we mean, keep them buying new Smart TVs!), producers periodically create and promote novelties. They’re meant to stop us in our tracks and entice to spend more money in a never-ending search for the perfect viewing experience.
HDR in Smart TVs means a higher range of colours and brightness, resulting in a more vivid and deep image on the screen. To put it simply, dark tones are darker, bright ones – brighter. The way it works is that HDR provides its metadata to your Smart TV, which enables it to improve the contrast and display more vibrant images.
HDR is absolutely non-essential, but then again, it’s quite worth the hype, as the quality it produces can be breathtaking.
There are two main iterations of HDR – HDR10 and Dolby Vision. HDR10 is the less expensive version. That’s because it sends the metadata to the entire piece of content.
Dolby Vision, on the other hand, applies metadata on each frame separately. That results in an even brighter, more contrasted screen. However, while being the more pricey option, it also suffers from a similar problem to 8k Smart TVs – there’s not that much content adapted to it yet!
What to consider before getting a Smart TV with HDR?
First of all, for HDR to come into use, you need HDR-adapted content. Before your purchase, make sure there’s enough of it available among your favourite movies or TV series. The amount High Dynamic Range content is continuously on the rise, but it’s still not that common – keep that in mind!
Second of all, and especially if you’re on a budget, sometimes it’s better to invest your money into a better HDR-less unit than getting a worse model with HDR. The first usually beats the second!
High-octane chase scenes or intense battles are a staple of filmmaking. They bring excitement and keep you at the edge of your seat. But they can often be a mess of blurred events that, in the end, make little sense. Same with sports – you want to see every detail of the winning goal, but sometimes even the slo-mo replay gets sludgy.
That’s where refresh rate comes into play. It refers to the speed, at which your Smart TV can produce a new image. If you’re a gamer, it’s a similar thing to FPS – Frames Per Second. Expressed in Hertz, a good refresh rate is supposed to make the viewing experience smoother, so that you can see every little detail that went into that winning goal.
What to keep in mind when it comes to refresh rate
We said ‘supposed to’, because in order for you to enjoy the full benefits of a Smart TV with good refresh rate, the content needs to have been made with a corresponding number of FPS. So, even if your TV has a refresh rate of over 60 Hz, that won’t make much difference if you’re watching something that wasn’t filmed with such requirement in mind.
Best Time To Buy A Smart TV
What’s the best time to buy a Smart TV? One when retailers lower the prices, of course! Black Friday immediately comes to mind, but there are many other occasions throughout each year when you can save a lot on your Smart TV.
Christmas is a great time to get a new Smart TV. So is Cyber Monday. And if you’re from the US, the pre-Super Bowl period is a breeding ground for all kinds of TV discounts.
The point we’re trying to make is that when you’re looking to buy a Smart TV, sometimes waiting for a bit can translate to big time savings!
Go out there!
We’ve already briefly mentioned this point, but it’s important enough to repeat ourselves. If you can go to your local electronics store and have a look at all of the Smart TVs yourself, do it!
It’s a bit like buying clothes online. You’ll only know if it fits you when it arrives. Same with TVs, except we’re talking way more money. This article is a good starting point for you to learn a bit about what to look out for when you’re in market for a new Smart TV.
Knowing all that you know right now, you’ll be able to look at different units in the store with an informed eye. You’ll be able to look past the jargon-y model names and see what functionalities actually matter to you. Most importantly, you’ll have the opportunity to look at how different screens behave with your own eyes and determine which one looks the best to you.
At the end of the day, we want you to pick a Smart TV that will fit your needs and make you happy in the long run.