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When shopping for a new TV, you'll hear lots of tech terms. But you really only need to answer a few key questions.
Most TVs use liquid crystal display (LCD) technology. Because they have an LED backlight we often refer to them as LED TVs. You'll find a wide range of LED TV screen sizes and prices. LED models are well-suited to sunlit or well-lit rooms, thanks to their bright screens.
In an OLED TV screen, each pixel is its own independently controlled light source. There's no need for a backlight. This gives OLED unmatched contrast and black levels. OLED TVs also present a better picture for viewers who are sitting off to the side of the screen. OLED TVs often make a great choice for dimly-lit rooms, but most people find them bright enough to use in rooms with ambient light, as well.
TVs made for outdoor use are sealed against moisture and humidity. They include built-in heating and cooling systems that allow them to operate flawlessly in extreme temperatures. Their extra bright screens supply a crisp picture in sunlit conditions. Many outdoor TVs include a removable external speaker bar that plays more loudly and clearly than the tiny speakers built into indoor TVs.
Numbers like 1080p and 4K refer to a TV's screen resolution — the more pixels a screen has the more picture detail it can show. A 1080p HDTV contains 2,073,600 pixels. Ultra HD (also known as 4K) displays 8,294,400 total pixels. That's four times the resolution of 1080p.
A few years ago, 4K TVs cost a lot more than 1080p TVs, and there wasn't much 4K content to watch. Now name-brand 4K models are very affordable, and Netflix® and Amazon stream most of their original series in 4K. There are even a few 8K models on the market now.
Many programs available on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are encoded with HDR. Watching those shows on a good HDR-capable TV can make a big difference in picture quality. Picture contrast — the difference between the deepest blacks and the brightest whites — is much improved. And colors will appear more vivid and accurate.
60 frames per second (60Hz) is the normal rate in the U.S. TVs with a refresh rate of 120Hz are great for sports fans because they provide clear, seamless motion.
Most new TVs are "smart," meaning they have built-in Wi-Fi and a selection of apps for internet-based TV. Some are compatible with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. And some models even let you monitor and control a variety of smart home devices and appliances.
Projectors provide the ultimate home theater experience. They make it possible to enjoy images that are much larger than even the biggest TVs offer. You can place a movie projector on a coffee table or a shelf in the back of your room. Or you can get a ceiling-mount bracket.
Projectors contain only the essentials for creating a picture — an imaging chip, a lamp, video processing circuitry, and a lens. Most models don't have a built-in TV tuner, but you will have video inputs for Blu-ray players, satellite receivers or cable boxes, video game consoles, and media streamers like Apple TV® and Roku.
Screens can be fixed-frame or retractable (manual or motorized). If your budget is really tight you can skip the screen and project movies directly onto a wall. That generally looks OK, but a screen delivers a smoother, more consistent image, and helps any projector perform at its best.
Since very few TVs include their own wall-mounting hardware, you'll have to purchase a mount separately. There are several types of wall mounts from which to choose: fixed mount, tilt mount, full-motion (a.k.a. articulating), and ceiling mount.
Using a simple antenna you can start receiving local over-the-air (OTA) TV broadcasts that look as good as or better than cable or satellite TV. Thinking about cutting the cord? OTA broadcasts require no subscription — they're free!
If you live within a few miles of the TV transmitters serving your area, a small indoor antenna may do the job for you. If not, you'll need an outdoor antenna.
HDMI cables connect today's TVs with A/V receivers, cable boxes, media players, and Blu-ray players. They send audio and video over the same cable, simplifying your hookups. Choosing the right HDMI cables can be tricky. Older cables don't support the latest features. The latest HDMI 2.0 cables support 4K TV and HDR (High Dynamic Range).