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Posted: 12:00 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013

TV buying guide

Shopping for a new television? Get the right technology for your needs, and the best deal for your wallet with this guide.



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By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


There are so many choices out there confronting the TV buyer. Everything from TV type like LCD, LED, and Plasma to an insane amount of features on new smart TVs. It's enough to have your head spinning like Linda Blair in The Exorcist with all the decisions to make! With that in mind, I hope this TV buying guide helps you simplify the shopping process and get more TV for your money. I'll also share my favorite sites for comparison shopping in a bit...

LCD vs. LED vs. Plasma

When you go to buy a TV now, how you make choices has changed dramatically. It used to be there were many different formats for TVs. Today it's really LCD, LED, and a very small share of the market to Plasma TVs.

In my opinion, Plasma has the best picture of any of them, but it only works in a dark room, one that does not get a lot of daylight. LED, which is the most popular today, gives a much crisper picture than LCD at a modest additional premium in cost. I like looking for deals on TVs at NewEgg.com.

Smart TV or Not?

Whatever you choose to buy, you will have to consider the question of a smart TV vs. a dumb one. Smart TVs have built-in apps that will allow you to access online content like Netflix, Hulu Plus, or Amazon Prime much more easily than you would access traditional broadcast content.

I've found that with the smart TVs, people are much more likely to reduce or discontinue their pay TV package. Roku is a great way to take a "dumb" or non-smart traditional TV and make it into a smart TV for $100 or less.

I have both a Roku on a dumb TV at home and several smart TVs. Roku offers a much better interface than I've seen on any smart TV. It's a very simple device. If it breaks or the TV breaks, you only have to replace one or the other at a lower cost.

But here's why I recommend you buy a smart TV: With the simple use of a single remote, it seems that people are more likely to cut the cord on traditional pay TV or reduce the package they have. Then they get the bulk of their content from Netflix, Hulu Plus, or Amazon Prime a la carte for $8 a month.

Brands

I find that people often way overpay for flatscreens because they think they are hurting themselves if they buy a brand they don't know much about. But the reality is you hurt yourself more if you pay more for a TV since as prices drop screen size gets larger and capability gets better. So you're best off going down on brand and up on screen size, or down on brand, keep the same screen size, and keep more money in your pocket.

In our house, we have a Dynex TV (which is a Best Buy private label), a Magnavox TV, a Westinghouse TV, and a Vizio. Not a premium brand among them!

Screen Size

Most people regret the screen size they got because later they always wish they'd gotten a larger screen. In our bedroom, we went from a 42" screen to a 65" screen when we moved. It's so much more pleasant watching on the 65". But if you have a very small room and you're not going to be far from TV, then it's a disadvantage to have too of a big screen, not an advantage.

HD Antennaes

With all the talk of where TV is going in the future, it's easy to forget that it's also extra cheap where it's been in the past. Don't overlook the original option: using an old-fashion pair of rabbit ear antennae to pick up local channels over the air for free!

The process is actually really simple. Go to AntennaWeb.org, click the 'choose an antenna' button and enter your street address. They'll tell you what channels will be available to you and what kind of antenna would be best for you.

Then you simply need to buy the antenna and a converter box to get the digital signal. Both are routinely available at any major electronics store. Just follow AntennaWeb's recommendations about the best equipment for your home.

Showrooming

Showrooming is a term for using your smartphone while out at a store to comparison shop right then and there for whatever it is you're thinking of buying. It's a booming trend in the world of retailing and one that can save you big bucks. Here are some sites you might want to comparison shop at while you're out and about:

 


General info



   Should you buy an extended warranty?



   Clark's favorite website for online electronics deals



   An introduction to "showrooming"