10 Worst Mistakes People Make When Buying a TV

Even with all the other screens in our lives, most of us still enjoy having a TV around so we can watch movies, shows, and sporting events on a sizable screen. In fact, a TV is the centerpiece of many of the rooms we spend the most time in. So when it comes time to replace an aging or broken TV, choosing which one to buy is a big decision. As with most big decisions, a lot can go wrong when you set out to purchase a new television.

Here are some of the biggest mistakes people make when buying a new TV — and how to avoid them.

1. Getting the wrong size

A new Samsung TV

Finding the right screen size for you is a factor to consider | Amazon.com

When it comes to televisions, size matters. Having a giant 70-inch screen parked three feet in front of your sofa is about as comfortable as sitting in the front row of an IMAX theater. It’s equally uncomfortable when you have to squint to read text on a TV screen that’s too small. All of which is to say that you need to find the right screen size to accommodate for the distance between your set and your seat.

As a general rule of thumb, measure how far you’ll be from the TV set in inches, and then divide by 1.5. The result is about how big of a TV screen will be comfortable to watch from that distance. If you’re going with a 4K television, you can buy a bigger TV, because the pixel density makes the image look better at close range.

Another rule of thumb: Bigger is better, within reason, as long as you’re not ignoring other aspects.

2. Paying for features you’ll never use

Couple putting in a new TV

There are plenty of TV features that aren’t worth the money | iStock.com

From motion smoothing to 3D, some TV “features” aren’t worth having in this day and age. Bad motion smoothing tends to make everything you watch look like a soap opera, and the 3D revolution everyone was talking about in 2012 never came. If you can avoid pointless features like these in a new TV set, do it. They’re unnecessary, they cost money, and you’ll never use them.

3. Not future-proofing it

Old TV Set

Make sure the TV you buy now will still be useful years from now | Stuttershock

Although we can’t see into the future, we can make some educated guesses about what it will entail. While 3D never panned out, 4K is looking like the resolution of the future. If you need a new TV now and you plan on keeping it for a good 10 years or so, shelling out the extra cash for a 4K set is probably worth the extra expense. Just be careful, as some cheap 4K TVs aren’t worth it.

4. Getting all the newest features

Teenager girl with remote control laying down

Getting the newest features on your TV isn’t always for the best | iStock.com/manaemedia

While 4K does look like it’s here to stay, some hot new features aren’t worth the bother. High dynamic range (HDR), for instance, is a feature you can find on some newer 4K models. TVs with HDR have significantly brighter screens and allow a wider range of colors to appear. Unfortunately, HDR branding started before a universal standard was put in place. So some early HDR-ready 4K TVs won’t actually be capable of displaying certain HDR content. This kind of problem is always possible when adopting new features as soon as they come to market.

When it comes to future-proofing your TV, make sure you know what you’re paying for.

5. Not buying a sound system

LG Soundbar

A good sound system is vital for quality entertainment | Amazon

Now that TVs are flat as pancakes, they don’t have a whole lot of room for high-quality speakers. So unless you’re going to install your TV in a small space, you’ll probably want to buy a sound system to make your entertainment worth it. Exactly how much money you want to spend is up to you. Some people deck their rooms out with wall-mounted wireless speakers, while others feel comfortable with a simpler solution, like a sound bar. Either way you go, you’re likely to wind up with something that sounds better than your TV’s built-in speakers.

6. Buying an extended warranty

A pile of burning money

Extended warranties are rarely worth the price | NRCC

Buying extended warranties on most items is a bad idea. So unless you have raucous kids who are prone to damaging property, or you live in an area bedeviled by giant earthquakes, you probably don’t need an extended warranty on your TV. Today’s televisions last many years under normal use, so you’re probably better off saving your money.

7. Ignoring ports

The back of an LG television.

Consider what you need to plug into your new TV before buying it | LG

Not everyone has the same setup for their entertainment center, which means not everyone has the same port requirements on their TVs. Before buying a TV, it’s smart to look at what devices you’re going to plug into it to make sure the TV can handle them. For instance, if you have a lot of gaming consoles and set-top boxes, you’ll want to make sure the TV has enough HDMI ports to handle everything. If your sound system requires an optical connection, don’t buy a TV lacking an optical out. Know your needs, and do your homework.

8. Confusing LED and OLED

Samsung TV

LED and OLED are not the same — know the difference | Amazon.com

The two primary display technologies in modern TVs are LED and OLED. In general, LED televisions are brighter, which makes them ideal for use in well-lit rooms. The truth is that TVs labeled as LED are actually LCD TVs with an LED backlight. On the other hand, OLED displays offer better picture quality with greater color accuracy, darker blacks, and reduced image blurring, and they come at a premium.

9. Buying a smart TV if you don’t need one

An Xbox One S, with Xbox One exclusive game Gears of War 4.

Not everyone needs an expensive smart TV | Microsoft

Do you already have a device like an Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One? If so, you probably don’t need a smart TV. What makes a smart TV smart is that it comes with apps for things like streaming services. If you already have a box that can connect you to the streaming services of your choice, then you don’t need to waste money on a smart TV. This is especially something you want to avoid after shenanigans like Samsung cramming advertisements into people’s TVs.

10. Always believing the marketing

Viral Marketing

TV marketing can be very misleading | Multimediamarketing.com

When buying a television, be careful of the language used in its marketing materials. If your TV says it “supports” 1080p, that doesn’t mean it can display images at 1080p. It could be a 720p television that down-samples 1080p programming. The same thing goes for certain televisions that say they support 4K.

Other features that might sound objective often are not. For instance, a TV’s contrast ratio is measured by the manufacturers’ own processes, so there’s no standard to compare between TVs. The best way to avoid being deceived by these kinds of promises is to read trustworthy reviews before purchasing.