Help me buy a TV
October 6, 2020 1:21 PM   Subscribe

I need a new TV for the regular TV-related things. I am overwhelmed by options.

I have never purchased a television - I inherited one from my parents that is now about a decade old. I would like to get a new one, but there are many technical specs and wild price variations. I could use guidance.

- I watch streaming TV and play video games on the tv, which means I plug in an apple TV and an Xbox. Sometimes I plug in a Switch.
- I would like to mount it on the wall
- I am thinking 55 - 65 inches? Sure??
- I would like the audio not to suck. Please tell me if I need to buy external speakers for that.
- I do not want whatever weird soap opera super-real thing that many new tvs now seem to have??
- I would like to spend no more than $1,000. Ideally I would like to get it at (Canadian) Costco, but if I have to bite my nose and get it on Prime Day, I will do that as well.

Do you have a tv and love it? Do you know something about tvs? Please help me!
posted by hepta to Technology (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
i'm pretty sure every new tv has 'motion smoothing' but it can be easily turned off.
posted by noloveforned at 1:26 PM on October 6, 2020

We have a Samsung TV, a few years old, and it still works great even after being dropped off it's wall-mount. There was a tiny bit of damage to the bezel, but you have to look for it. Operator error notwithstanding, the wall-mount hardware is pretty easy to install. We lucked out in that the logical place for the TV is between two built-in shelf things, so all the cables from the TV to various thingies go...through the wall behind the TV and out of the walls of one of the shelves, where all our stuff lives (and is hidden from sight). So consider cable/wire management if you want to hang it on the wall.

The sound from the TV is OK, but we added a soundbar to add Big Cinema Sound. To be honest, I'm not sure if the trouble we have hearing/understanding dialogue is the soundbar, us getting older, or both. I got spoiled in our last place - we were able to do 5.1 sound with a separate channel for dialogue and it was great. Our current room precludes this sort of setup (for now).

One bit of advice I can give is to not use any of the built-in apps that come with the TV. Smart TVs these days attempt to justify their low-ish prices by selling viewer data to various and sundry companies. You can minimize this by never connecting your TV to the local wifi or ethernet connection. Keep to your streaming devices and you'll be fine.
posted by jquinby at 1:37 PM on October 6, 2020

As far as connecting stuff to your TV is concerned. You'll want to make sure you have enough HDMI ports. Most, if not all, TVs will come with 3+ but it looks like you'd want one with at least 4 (Apple TV, Xbox, Switch and the speakers you'll want to buy).

You'll be able to mount any TV you buy on a wall. Stores tend to overcharge for these, but I'm not sure about Costco. Check how much they cost at and see how Costco compares to it. If you aren't supremely confident in your ability to drill into studs you'll want to have someone else do the mounting for you.

55-65 is a fairly standard size range. I've got a 55" that I'm happy with but with TVs bigger is better all else being equal.

You will want external speakers. You can buy soundbars now that'll replicate a 5.1 or even 7.1/2 setup depending on how much you want to spend. But pretty much anything you get will be better than the speakers on your TV. Something like a soundbar is convenient because one HDMI connection to your TV takes care of it.

I bought my TV 2 years ago. It's a Sony and I'm happy enough with it but I only bought it because I had a lot of Sony points, which made looking for a TV fairly easy as it narrowed my choices. You ought to be happy with any $900 TV you get from Costco as long as it has enough HDMI ports.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:38 PM on October 6, 2020

I don't know how available these are in Canada, but we own multiple TCL Roku TVs because we love the interface and remote control (single remote with volume control on it). There is an AppleTV app for Roku which spares you the second remote shuffle, and the TVs have HDMI and powered USB ports - pretty easily accessible from the side, which matters if you're wall-mounting.

I think the sound is fine on them, though one of our rooms is long and weird so we do use a soundbar that's mounted right behind our sofa instead of the TV sound that bounces down the hallway to the bedrooms extremely clearly.

Counter to the advice above (advice we did definitely follow on other brands of TV with their own mysterious operating systems) we are comfortable using the Roku OS, which is exactly the same on the TV as it is on the Roku stick we use on our projector/for travel.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:39 PM on October 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

A guide.

And a comment: TVs have improved a lot over the past decade. The on-line reviewers are looking at the all the top end TVs, whereas you're coming from a 10-year old model. If you're a typical viewer, what they call "pretty decent" is likely going to look great to you.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:40 PM on October 6, 2020

Consider the effect of off-angle viewing. Many cheap panels now can show color issues when looking at them at a 45 degree angle to the side. This depends heavily on your room configuration, but we had a major issue with this where the reviews were good, and it looked good with straight on viewing, but strong color aberrations were apparent from another view that we were counting on.

We ended up getting a LG IPS panel that didn't suffer from that problem.
posted by demiurge at 1:54 PM on October 6, 2020

Best answer: Honestly just get whichever one at Costco is the right size and right price. They will all have at least pretty ok reviews, Costco generally doesn't stock crap. If it turns out you don't like it, just return it. Costco lets you sit with TVs for 90 days--not as good as their typical return policy but pretty dang good. 3 months is plenty long enough for buyer's regret to kick in.

Odds are great that you will be perfectly satisfied with whatever you get--you are clearly not a tech snob. (It's fine, neither am I, which is why this is how I will buy my next TV.) Costco limits your choices to a small pool of good options and the return policy removes the consequences of making the wrong choice.
posted by phunniemee at 1:59 PM on October 6, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: TCL, TCL, TCL. Last one we got (at Costco) was 65" and under 500. Plenty left over for a nice Vizio soundbar + sub. Still well under 1k.
posted by booooooze at 3:24 PM on October 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Grab an OLED if you can afford it (you probably can't at < $1000).

If you're playing videogames on it you'll likely also want a model with low input lag.

Digital Foundry article on good gaming TVs.
posted by Bangaioh at 3:28 PM on October 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

TV's are becoming commodities now - the feature differences between models at any given price are slight. We just bought a Samsung Q60-series TV (55 inches) and are really happy with it. We don't play games, but it is great for everything else we need it for and the price was right.

I would suggest starting with a price you are willing to pay (an actual price, not just "below $1000" - there's a lot of range in available models/sizes/features between $0 and $1000) then looking at what's available at that price. I would also look to buy a 4K model if you can - you'll see both 4K and 8K (and also no K), but there's very, very little 8K programming now and probably won't be for a while, so if you can get a 4K TV, you'll be as future-proof as you need to be.

The one thing to be aware of is that the motion smoothing you don't want, and that others have mentioned, is called something completely different depending on what brand of TV you buy. On ours, it was buried under a menu called "Picture Clarity Settings", and is called "LED Clear Motion". Super straightforward!

As for sound, ours is...fine. We have a Sonos Playbase that we normally use, but we tried this TV's native sound first just to see how it was, and "fine" is the best descriptor I can muster. If you have the budget for it, a sound bar would be a good addition to a new TV.
posted by pdb at 3:52 PM on October 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

You don't say how big your space is. Best viewing is if you can sit 55" in front of a 55" tv etc.
posted by storybored at 5:09 PM on October 6, 2020

I am also in the market for my first ever tv (look what pandemic life has brought us to!) and I will share my research.

Basically just get the TCL 6-series (55R635 is the 55-inch model number, because it can be confusing if you search “6-series”). Or the Samsung q60 mentioned above, I will be getting whichever has a bigger discount soonest.

Get a sound bar. Here is a list of the best cheap sound bars.

(I am enough of a nerd slash former a/v professional that I have done a ton of reading/asking people about their TVs, but honestly a reason I quit that profession is that I did not care one bit about keeping up with this kind of thing.)

If you are moderately handy, mounting a tv is not hard. Get into a stud and use a level.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 5:20 PM on October 6, 2020

You will need a sound bar or external speakers to get decent sound on any modern flat panel TV. It is simply impossible to wedge decent drivers into the available space.

Personally, I prefer the dumbest possible set, so I'm not a fan of the TCLs which all have Roku built in. If you're going to be using an Apple TV or whatever else for streaming anyway, the Roku built in is useless at best. Also, Roku has started acting like a damn cable company, charging content providers for the privilege of being on the platform, so I wouldn't want to support them even by juicing their theoretical install base.

If you don't need a tuner for over the air TV, Vizio continues to make sets that are an excellent value. They do have some built in streaming stuff, but it isn't part of the main UI you use to set up your HDMI ports, update firmware, etc so it can be completely ignored.

The soap opera effect is caused by overly aggressive motion interpolation, which can be disabled on every set I've seen so far. Different brands call it different things. A native 120hz panel can be useful if you watch movies since it is an exact multiple of 24hz. Local dimming on LCD sets only really matters if you are watching in a dark room, but if that is your usual situation an OLED is the better choice. One thing to note about local dimming is that the number of zones matters. A low zone count will cause noticeable halos around bright objects if you leave it enabled. Happily, you can just turn it off. If you usually use it with the lights on or during the daytime, an LCD is the better choice since tuning the brightness way up on the OLED screen literally wears it out faster and makes it more susceptible to noticeable image retention.

Rtings covers all the relevant information about the various sets, including real world viewing angles, input lag, sound quality from the built in speakers, the prominence of room reflections on the screen, and more. I strongly recommend using the site to narrow down your shopping list. They also have a YouTube channel with head-to-head comparisons and reviews of individual sets.
posted by wierdo at 3:04 AM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

I bought a small TCL with roku built in via amazon to use as a second monitor working from home, and it has been excellent.
posted by slateyness at 8:18 AM on October 7, 2020

Re soundbars. We love our Cambridge Audio one. Reasonable price. Very well made. High end without the price of high end.
posted by terrapin at 9:17 AM on October 7, 2020

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