Design-wise, curved screens might look visually striking, but they certainly don't justify an increase in price over a similar flat TV. One of the biggest problems with narrowing your choices to a single TV is the sheer number of specs. To make your job a little easier, two of the biggies, refresh rate and contrast ratio, are safe to ignore. Refresh or response rate, the speed at which your TV's panel refreshes its image, is expressed in hertz 60Hz, Hz, Hz, Hz, or Hz. The theory is that a faster refresh rate results in a smoother image. But in reality, there are several reasons this simply isn't true, and it's not worth paying more for a set with a faster response rate.
In many cases, 60Hz will do just fine for films and Hz will be plenty for video games and sports though you should probably turn off those higher refresh rate modes when watching most shows and movies, or else you'll get that jarring soap opera effect. Contrast ratio, meanwhile, is the difference between the darkest black and the brightest white a panel can display. In theory, the highest contrast ratio possible is desirable since dark blacks and bright whites contribute to a high-quality picture. There isn't a standardized way for manufacturers to measure this spec, though, so Samsung's numbers aren't directly comparable with, say, Panasonic's or Sharp's numbers.
And, as you might imagine, vendors are vying to come up with the highest ratios, so they can charge more.
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Ignore any claims of contrast ratios in the millions or infinity; with the exception of LG's OLEDs which are the only TVs we've tested to actually produce an "infinite" contrast ratio with a perfect 0 black level , the best TVs tend to have just five-digit contrast ratios. Almost all TVs now offer web apps and built-in Wi-Fi. Many also integrate social network services like Facebook and Twitter, and many manufacturers offer entire downloadable app ecosystems with other programs and games you can use on your TV.
These apps are also available in most Blu-ray players, all major video game systems, and even on inexpensive media streaming devices, so they're not vital. But a friendly interface and the services you want to use available directly on your TV adds some convenience, and doesn't require you to buy any additional devices. Your ideal TV should provide enough video connections not only for now, but for the foreseeable future as well. The most important input is HDMI, which supports all major forms of digital video sources including Blu-ray players, game consoles, set-top boxes, cameras, camcorders, phones, tablets, and PCs through a single cable.
It's the best way to send p video from your devices to your screen with one cable, and will be the main way you connect your main sources of entertainment to your TV. It's the latest standard that supports 4K video at 60 frames per second; older HDMI ports can only handle 4K up to 30 frames per second, at best. As for cables, unless you have a huge home theater system and plan to run cables between devices at distances longer than 25 feet and that's being generous , brands and prices don't matter.
We've compared the performance of high-end cables and inexpensive ones, and found that they all carry digital signals similarly.
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More expensive cables might have a better build quality, but you won't see any performance advantages from them. Don't shop for HDMI cables at retail stores, and ignore and clerks who warn you of "dirty electricity" or "viruses" that can come with cheap cables both claims I've witnessed. Hop online and find the least expensive cable at the size you need and snap it up.
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Once it's all hooked up, you might want to get it calibrated. We can guide you through some of the adjustments yourself, and some TVs have a built-in calibration wizard you can access in the menu. If you have a high-end TV and want the absolute best picture possible, you can spend a few hundred dollars to have your screen professionally calibrated, but for most viewers, it's an unnecessary expense.
And, of course, don't forget to turn off motion smoothing the effect that makes everything look like a soap opera. TVs have built-in speakers that function well enough in the sense that you can understand dialogue, but beyond that they're typically pretty underwhelming. With few exceptions, you can improve your movie and gaming experience greatly by getting an add-on speaker system, like a soundbar or a dedicated multi-channel home theater system. If space is at a premium or your budget is limited, a soundbar is your best bet.
Soundbars are long, thin, self-contained speakers that sit under or over your TV. Small and simple to set up, they're less expensive than multi-speaker systems. Soundbars generally don't separate the channels enough to accurately place sound effects, but they've become quite good at producing a large sound field around you. Here are some of our favorite soundbars. As a rule, TVs aren't rugged and you shouldn't use them outside. They aren't built to handle extreme temperatures or any significant amount of moisture or dirt.
If you want a TV to put on your porch or deck, you need a specialized one designed for that location. Companies like SunBriteTV make rugged TVs that can function in a much wider range of temperatures than most consumer TVs, and are protected against the elements. They're built to be left out in the rain and snow, with a heavy chassis and shielded connection bays. That extra protection will cost you, though; most rugged TVs cost at least twice as much as comparable indoor TVs.
For more buying advice, see our TV Product Guide for the latest reviews.
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Excellent contrast. Inexpensive for its performance.
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Runs Android TV software. Cons: Contrast processing can occasionally be overly aggressive. Somewhat dull remote. Pros: Fantastic picture. Elegant design. Very good 4K upconversion with AI Picture. Low input lag in Game mode. Cons: Incredibly expensive.
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No consumer 8K content to watch on it. Pros: Very bright panel with excellent black levels. Wide, accurate color. Sleek design with One Connect box for cable flexibility. Cons: No Dolby Vision. Lacks analog video inputs. Pros: Perfect black levels and excellent contrast. Wide color reach.
Powerful smart TV platform with Google Assistant. Cons: Expensive.
Colors are slightly cool out of the box. Limited selection of streaming services. Pros: Excellent picture with perfect black levels and strong contrast. Clear stereo audio. Hands-free Google Assistant. Attractive design. It powers the XBR65XF's beautiful inch screen, with lifelike colors and lag-free action that make all your media look great.
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Perfect for mounting on the wall if you want a truly immersive experience , this TV can actually keep up with your gameplay and delivers cinema-quality audio to bring your virtual environments to life. It automatically reduces latency to anywhere between 30ms to 45ms so you don't miss a beat and includes Sony's unique Acoustic Surface technology to pump out simulated stereo sound across the entire surface of the screen. It sounds like the audio is coming directly from the images on the screen, which is a pretty cool effect when you're in the middle of gameplay. And, because Sony also makes the PlayStation, you're sure to have a stable connection between TV and console.
Gaming aside, this TV is also great for all your other favorite media. It also has an Android TV OS powering the smart features, so you'll have access to your favorite streaming services and other Google Play apps. The difference is stunning dark black color and extremely vibrant colors with excellent contrast. Seek out a solution with High Dynamic Range HDR or Dolby Vision; these features allow your television to display a more dynamic range of colors at once. Not a problem—many televisions now offer built-in smart apps such as Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu.